Miami: Third win for Herbert and Lehto
Former grand prix racers Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto scored their third American Le Mans Series win of the season Saturday by driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 to victory in Grand Prix Americas presented by Sportsbook.com on the Miami downtown street circuit.
The win was extra sweet for Champion team owner Dave Maraj, who bases the team in nearby Pompano Beach. The winning car finished 40.642-seconds ahead of the runner-up Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 of Frank Biela and Marco Werner. With their second-place finish, Biela and Werner moved closer to winning the LMP 900 class driving title for the 2003 season, with only Lehto having any chance of unseating them in the season-ending Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta next month.
The first and second placed Audis ran the two-hour, 45-minute race on one fuel stop, each team planning its race strategy on the high likelihood of numerous yellow-flag laps on the tight 1.15-mile street circuit. Only 36 of the 157 race laps were run under caution, but the yellows were spaced far enough apart for the strategies to work.
"We did plan it that way, and it worked in our favour," said Herbert, who drove nearly two hours of the race. "We still had to save fuel the last part of the race, we had to back off a bit. It was perfect for us. We had some fuel in the end, I got the final warning light about one lap from the finish."
The Panoz LMP01 of Olivier Beretta and David Saelens finished third in the LMP 900 class for JML Team Panoz. The Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace won the LMP 675 class, taking the lead near the end of the race after the other Dyson Lola, driven by James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger, experienced a drivetrain problem while leading the class. Weaver and Leitzinger still finished second in class, two laps behind Dyson and Wallace. The cars had battled among themselves for a great portion of the race, with the veteran Wallace raving about the track afterward.
"Its really good fun to drive here, even though it seems crazy sometimes," he said. "I enjoy street circuits and I like this track. It keeps you awake, that's for sure." Dyson's win, coupled with the fourth-place class finish of nearest challengers Duncan Dayton and Jon Field, moved him closer to winning the LMP 675 class driving championship.
It was a great day for Ferrari as cars from the Italian manufacturer swept the top three spots in the GTS class, the first time that has happened in ALMS history. The Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello of David Brabham and Darren Turner took the class win, with the other Prodrive entry of Tomas Enge and Peter Kox 1.778sec behind in second place. The Team Olive Garden Ferrari of Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti finished third. The win was the third straight for Brabham in the GTS class, while Turner, who was substituting for Jan Magnussen as Brabham's team-mate, scored his first career ALMS win.
"It was my first street race and I really liked it," said Turner, who won in only his second ALMS start. "It seemed that the traffic really worked well for me during my stint. Winning is great!"
Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell finished fourth in class after a multitude of problems during the race but locked up the GTS class driving title for the season.
Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr won the GT class in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS, Maassen's 20th win in ALMS competition and an early 34th birthday present for the German driver. The race had boiled down to a battle between the two Job cars, and Maassen and Luhr won after Jorg Bergmeister clipped a wall while leading Luhr near the end of the race.
"Our team car lost the rear end and crashed, which threw the win away," said Luhr. "I was right behind him when he crashed and I couldn't believe it. Then I had to be careful to keep from crashing. I had a hard time [in the rain] at the end keeping the car on the track."
Finishing second in the GT class was the Risi Competzione Ferrari 360 Modena of Anthony Lazzaro and Ralf Kelleners, with third going to the PK Sport Porsche of Robin Liddell and Alex Caffi.
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