Laguna Seca: Pirro, Biela all the way

Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela scored their second American Le Mans Series win of the year at Laguna Seca on Sunday, their first since Mid-Ohio, five races ago.

Laguna Seca: Pirro, Biela all the way

After qualifying the Joest Racing Audi R8 on the pole, the pair enjoyed an essentially trouble-free race to win by nearly 26 seconds from the Champion Audi of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson. JJ Lehto and Max Angelelli brought their Cadillac Northstar home third.

"It was a perfect race for me," said Pirro afterward. "I was concerned about the set-up and careful of the tyres early, but the car was well balanced." His only real concern came when he pitted to hand over to Biela near the end of the first hour of the two hour and 45 minute contest. A full-course yellow had just come out to allow Ron Fellows' Corvette to be towed out of the gravel trap at Turn Four where it had ended up after contact with Angelelli, but Pirro was ruled to have entered the pits before their closure.

This time it was the yellow Audi of Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello that had the bad luck, as contact with a slower car broke a rear toe link and forced an unscheduled stop for repairs that dropped the car from second to eighth in class. Capello battled back and had the Cadillac in sight at the finish, but was forced to settle for fourth.

Herbert's runner-up position moved him four points closer to championship leader Kristensen.

A flurry of mid-race full-course yellows scrambled the strategies of many teams, including Cadillac, and opened the door for others too. One team that benefited was the Knighthawk LMP675 MG/Lola of Chad Block, Claudia Huertgen and co-owner Steve Knight which collected its first victory of the year.

As expected, one of the afternoon's best races took place in the GTS category, where F3000 champion Tomas Enge and Peter Kox took the Prodrive Ferrari Maranello 550 to victory as both of the usually dominant Corvettes hit trouble. "I was really pushing from the beginning," said Enge, "because we wanted to outrace everyone in our class. We had some unfinished business from Le Mans, and we took care of it today."

Their task was made a bit easier because the lead Corvette of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell was knocked into the Turn Four gravel trap by Angelelli's Cadillac. Fellows was eventually towed out and returned to the pits to hand over to O'Connell, but no sooner had Johnny rejoined than the car burst into flames and he dove for cover on the exit of the Corkscrew. These were the yellows that determined the race.

Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maasen teamed for their fifth win of the year in the GT class, driving their Alex Job Porsche.

Emanuele Pirro/Frank Biela Audi R8 LMP 900 112 laps 2h46m08.915s
Johnny Herbert/Stefan Johansson Audi R8 LMP 900 +25.799s
Max Angelelli/JJ Lehto Cadillac Northstar LMP 900 111
Tom Kristensen/Rinaldo Capello Audi R8 LMP 900 111
David Brabham/Jan Magnussen Panoz LMP-1 LMP 900 110
Bill Auberlen/Bryan Herta Panoz LMP-1 LMP 900 110
Chad Block/Steve Knight/Claudia Huertgen Lola EX257-MG LMP 675 109
James Weaver/Butch Leitzinger Lola EX257-MG LMP 675 108
Jon Field/Rick Sutherland Lola EX257-MG LMP 675 106
Clint Field/Mark Neuhaus Lola B2K10-Judd LMP 900 105

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