McNish wins in Atlanta

Allan McNish anchored a sixth American Le Mans Series victory of the season for Audi at Road Atlanta on Saturday night. The Scot ended up a clear winner of the Petit Le Mans 1000-mile race with team mates Rinaldo Capello and Michele Alboreto after a topsy-turvy event lasting more than nine hours.

McNish wins in Atlanta

McNish dominated the early running only to see a one-lap lead evaporate during a yellow-flag safety-car period just prior to the five-hour mark. The second Audi R8, driven by Emanuele Pirro, Frank Biela and Tom Kristensen, took the lead before Pirro was clouted from the rear by Panoz driver Jan Magnussen.

The impact damaged the rear diffuser and the team attempted a change at the 250-lap mark. Damaged brackets prevented a new one being fitted and forced the car to run to the end of the race without this aerodynamic aid. Emanuele Pirro said after the end of the race: "It has been difficult to keep the car on the road. The balance was OK, but the lack of downforce meant we were wobbling about all over the place."

The delay dropped Pirro and his co-drivers behind the BMW V12 LMR of JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller. The erstwhile championship leaders remained on the same lap as the McNish Audi until the seventh hour and looked set to finish in second place.

But a mistake from Muller with an hour and a half to go put the V12 LMR in the barriers and a 15-minute stop for repairs restricted the German and Lehto to a distant fifth place. Muller said: "I just spun. It was my mistake, but we had to drive at 100% to try to keep up."

The BMW's off looked like it would allow Audi to cruise to a one-two, but a late-race safety car allowed the number one Panoz, co-driven by David Brabham, back into the equation. The car had run in the top three during the early running, but a clash with a GT class car dropped the car down the field.

Magnussen and Brabham fought back into the top three and the former was gaining hand over fist on Biela in the closing laps, but some cynical team orders for Audi interrupted the Dane's charge. A cruising Capello allowed Biela to pass but then held Magnussen up sufficiently for the German to hang on to second place.

The result means that McNish moves into the lead of the ALMS with only three rounds left to run. "It was an up-and-down race, which is the nature of an event like this," he said. "You never have a race like this without any trouble, but overall we came out on top."

Fourth place was taken by the second Panoz in which German Klaus Graf starred throughout the race, while fifth behind the BMW went to the first of the four Cadillac Northstars in the race. DAMS drivers Eric Bernard and Emanuele Collard had a trouble-free race on the way to equalling the marque's best result of the season.

The battle for GTS class honours was decided only two laps from the end of the race. Chevrolet's Corvettes and the Dodge Vipers swapped positions throughout the 394-lap event, but a stirring drive from Andy Pilgrim after the final yellow-flag period produced the 'Vette's second ALMS victory of the season. The expat Brit, who shared with Kelly Collins and Franck Freon, caught Tommy Archer's Viper and then produced what he called a "now-or-never" manoeuvre to steal the lead into turn one on lap 393.

Chevrolet also claimed third place with a second 'Vette driven, among others, by Ron Fellows, but the fastest car in the class was the Viper crewed by points leaders Olivier Beretta and Karl Wendlinger, as well as Marc Duez. They led early on, but a puncture after a collision with one of the Panoz and then a flat battery restricted them to a distant fourth.

The baby class of the ALMS for GT cars was won by the Dick Barbour Porsche 911 GT3-R of Sascha Maassen and Bob Wollek. Victory was something of a surprise for the drivers who hadn't expected the car to last the race. The engine needed topping up with oil from the opening hour, while Wollek beached the car in the gravel for a couple of laps mid-race.

The race was marred by a mid-race accident in which Bill Auberlen's BMW V12 LMR flipped on the back straight. The American driver emerged unscathed from the dramatic accident - caused when he lost front downforce over the famous hump on this section of track.

Allan McNish now leads the ALMS with 210 points Jorg Muller's 205. The ALMS resumes at Laguna Seca on October 15.

1 Allan McNish/Rinaldo Capello/Michele Alboreto (Audi R8) 394 laps
2 Emanuele Pirro/Frank Biela/Tom Kristensen (Audi R8) 391
3 David Brabham/Jan Magnussen (Panoz Roadster) 391
4 Klaus Graf/Johnny O'Connell/Hiroki Katoh (Panoz Roadster) 389
5 JJ Lehto/Jorg Muller (BMW V12 LMR) 383
6 Eric Bernard/Emmanuel Collard (Cadillac Northstar LMP) 380
7 Max Angelelli/Wayne Taylor/Eric van de Poele (Cadillac Northstar LMP) 372
8 Andy Wallace/Butch Leitzinger/Frank Lagorce (Cadillac Northstar LMP) 359
GTS Andy Pilgrim/Franck Freon/Kelly Collins (Chevrolet Corvette C5-R) 358
GT Sascha Maassen/Bob Wollek (Porsche 911 GT3-R)

Audi first and second at halfway stage

Previous article

Audi first and second at halfway stage

Next article

Terrien wins at Magny-Cours

Terrien wins at Magny-Cours
Load comments
Why the Jaguar E-type remains special at 60 Plus

Why the Jaguar E-type remains special at 60

It’s 60 years since the Jaguar E-type arrived and caused a sensation. As our resident racer Ben Anderson discovered when he got behind the wheel of two special racing versions at Brands Hatch, the thrill of driving them hasn't diminished over time

Jul 31, 2021
The rise of a GT squad responsible for a unique 24-hour racing feat Plus

The rise of a GT squad responsible for a unique 24-hour racing feat

It's a significant achievement to win one 24-hour race in a year, let alone two, and with different manufacturers, but that's exactly what ROWE Racing did in 2020 at the Nurburgring and Spa. This weekend's German classic offers the DTM newcomer a chance of another unique double to add to its growing collection of accolades

Jun 3, 2021
The new threat facing motorsport's greatest success story Plus

The new threat facing motorsport's greatest success story

The manufacturers were unconvinced – and even hostile – when Stephane Ratel launched GT3 in 2006. Now, 15 years on from its debut, they’ve sold more than 2000 cars and counting, but its continued expansion puts the increasingly globalised category at risk of losing its roots

May 25, 2021
The Lamborghini teams plotting to stop a RAM raid on British GT Plus

The Lamborghini teams plotting to stop a RAM raid on British GT

With the Silver pairings that dominated 2020 now banned, Mercedes pair Yelmer Buurman and Ian Loggie could be in the box seat after winning last year's Pro-Am crown. But a swarm of Lamborghinis, with the defending outright champion among them, will ensure they face tough opposition

May 21, 2021
How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations Plus

How McLaren’s GT3 ‘single-seater’ defies expectations

Time in a thoroughbred racer leaves you searching for time in yourself, especially when the rewards for total commitment are so high, as our man discovered at Snetterton

Apr 28, 2021
How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy Plus

How Ferrari's F1 protege became a Mercedes GT prodigy

Raffaele Marciello once appeared to be Ferrari’s next Italian F1 star, but is now under the pay of its German arch-rival in GTs – and he’s very happy with his life

Apr 8, 2021
Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers Plus

Why GTE's future is a conundrum with no easy answers

The convergence between the World Endurance Championship and IMSA over LMDh regulations offers a bright future for sportscar racing, but the imminent demise of IMSA's GT Le Mans class creates wider issues to which no catch-all solution exists

Feb 3, 2021
How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends Plus

How Tandy joined an exclusive club of endurance legends

Victory at last year's Spa 24 Hours meant Nick Tandy had completed the unofficial sextuple crown of the world's six biggest endurance races, becoming the first Briton to do so. Ahead of his fresh start with Corvette Racing, he explains how he did it

Jan 23, 2021