Lehto qualified fourth fastest behind James
Weaver/Butch Leitzinger (MG Lola), Andy Wallace/Chris Dyson (MG Lola)
and Frank Biela/Marco Werner (Joest Audi) but dived past Biela as the
light went green entering Turn 1.
By the fifth lap, the leading quartet of
Leitzinger, Wallace, Lehto and Biela started lapping backmarkers
around the hilly 2.53-mile, 12-turn track and the “Flying Finn” took
full advantage to slice past Wallace in to second place.
After 30-minutes Leitzinger led Lehto by less
than a second but with 54-minutes on the clock, a full course caution
cancelled out Lehto’s 3.4-secs advantage over third-place Biela who
had gained a position when Wallace made a scheduled early pit-stop.
Leitzinger, Lehto and Biela each used the
11-minute caution period to make their first pit-stops, all three cars
changing drivers and tires and adding fuel. Werner exited the pits
first, with Herbert now at the wheel of the second-placed Champion
Audi R8 - delayed slightly when a tire ‘gun’ jammed - and Weaver
When the race resumed, Werner was 6.1-secs ahead
of Herbert although a lap later Weaver had demoted Johnny down to
third. But another full course yellow after 82-minutes cancelled out
Werner’s 10.6-secs lead over Weaver with Herbert a further 8.8-secs
back in third.
Leader Werner pitted during this 6-minute
caution to change a deflating rear tire to hand Weaver the lead with
Herbert second and the David Saelens/Benjamin Leuenberger (Panoz),
third. But Herbert, having been passed by the Panoz at the re-start,
almost immediately pitted himself with a tire problem.
Herbert resumed in fifth place, and slipped off
the lead lap, but moved up to fourth with an hour to run. Weaver led
Werner by 20-secs, with the Bill Auberlen/Didier Theys (MG Dallara)
35-secs ahead of Herbert in third.
A third caution period, with just 45-minutes
remaining, and another moments later, allowed Herbert’s Audi to
vitally get back on to the lead lap and to stop for new tires. With
22-minutes remaining at the re-start, Weaver demoted Werner to second
place within a lap and third-placed Auberlen was 21-secs ahead of
the corresponding Sears race 14 months ago, Herbert drove a storming
final 30-minutes to finish a close second and the Englishman
reproduced this form to just snatch third-place by going around the
outside of Auberlen at the final hairpin turn on the last lap.
Weaver took the checker 3.708-secs ahead of Werner with Herbert a
further 36-secs adrift.
The result earns Florida-based Champion Racing a
third consecutive 2003 ALMS podium result. The
next round of the ALMS is staged at Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, Canada,
next Sunday (3 Aug).
2003 America Le
Mans Series – Driver’s Standings (after 3 races)
Biela (Joest Audi) / Marco Werner (Joest Audi), 57
3 JJ Lehto
(Champion Audi), 53
4 Johnny Herbert (Champion Audi), 50
Champion Racing 2003 ALMS Formguide (Audi R8)
Rd 1: Sebring
(15 March) 12 Hours
- Qualified: 2nd (1:49.355). Race: 2nd
Rd 2: Atlanta
(29 June) 2hr 45mins
– Qualified: 3rd (1:13.826). Race: 1st
Rd 3: Sears
Point (27 July) 2hr 45mins
– Qualified: 4th (1:24.562). Race: 3rd