27 Sep -
Florida-based Team ADT Champion Racing
scored an immensely popular and exciting third American Le Mans Series
victory of the season when Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto steered their
Audi R8 to a “home” victory on the streets of Miami.
Lehto started the 165-minute race from
pole-position, the first time this year the Pompano Beach team had
captured an “outright” pole*. Marco Werner, a mere 0.039secs slower
than Lehto in Friday afternoon’s shortened qualifying session,
completed the front row in the Joest-run Audi R8 he shared with fellow
championship leader Frank Biela.
In cloudy but humid (88°F) conditions,
the early action was also hot on the 1.12-mile temporary street course
in the “downtown” Bayside area of Miami. Lehto and Werner set a
searing pace, darting through the 36-car field together, before the
first full course caution period after 17-minutes brought a brief
respite to the Audi duel for five minutes.
Some controlled but aggressive driving
earned Lehto a 13-secs lead over Werner with 40mins on the clock as
the race went full course yellow again. The David Saelens/Olivier
Beretta Panoz was already 33-secs down on the “Flying Finn” in third
place with the two Lola MGs of Butch Leitzinger/James Weaver and Andy
Wallace/Chris Wallace a distant fourth and fifth.
Under the second full course yellow, Lehto
dived for the pits (on 43 mins) with co-driver Herbert resuming in
third place having re-fuelled and now with new tires although a brief
flash fire caused some anxious moments as JJ strapped Johnny in to the
The race was back on after this 18-min
caution period while Werner eventually pitted after 82-mins (79 laps)
with a 27.8-secs lead over second-placed Herbert. The Joest Audi
resumed with Biela now at the wheel, 39.5-secs behind new leader
Herbert moments before the race went full course yellow for a third
time on 87mins for 11-mins and then for a fourth time on 100-mins for
With exactly an hour to run the race went
“green” once again, Herbert and Biela now nose to tail on the track.
Johnny, driving fast while also attempting to conserve precious fuel,
extended his advantage to 12.5-secs with 45-mins to run and to
17.3-secs with 30-mins to the checker.
A fifth full course yellow brought the
race to a thrilling climax and with 13-mins to run Herbert’s lead was
20-secs over Biela with rain clouds threatening and darkness
approaching. Johnny, trying to juggle speed and conserving fuel
simultaneously, held a 15-secs lead over Biela with seven minutes to
run and as rain began to fall, delicately threaded his way through the
traffic to record a worthy 40.6-secs victory over the Joest Audi.
The Miami result means that Lehto and
Team ADT Champion Racing still have a mathematical chance of claiming
the Driver’s and Teams’ ALMS titles in the final round of the
nine-race series, the 1,000-mile “Petit Le Mans” race at Road Atlanta
(18 Oct) - the Georgia track that witnessed Champion’s maiden ALMS
victory three months ago.
The points margin in each category is
down to 14-points and with 26-points on offer to the Atlanta winner, a
thrilling finale is set to be staged.
* Team ADT
Champion Racing registered a LMP900 “class pole” at Mosport (Lehto)
this year but started from third place on the grid. The only other
“outright pole” previously recorded by the team was at Sears Point
(Tom Kristensen) in 2002.
“The pit-stop was a
little nerve-wracking when some fuel caught fire momentarily which
delayed JJ strapping me in. It also caused me to get a little hot! In
terms of the car, it ran perfectly without any problems. Obviously we
had to save fuel whenever possible and we just made it.”
“The track was very slippery at the start but I didn’t have any real
problems. It’s been perfect weekend for Team ADT Champion Racing. We
started from outright pole-position for the first time this season,
won our ‘local’ race, set the fastest race lap and have moved closer
in the championship. We were on the pace from the start and deserved
our third win of the season - perfect!”
2003 America Le Mans Series – Driver’s
Standings (after 8 races)
1= Frank Biela
(D)/Marco Werner (D), 151
3 JJ Lehto
4 Johnny Herbert