Audi has secured another win in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta after Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro secured victory in the 2008 event - despite starting the race two laps down.

McNish had suffered a spin on a reconnaissance lap little more than an hour before the scheduled start, which left the Audi team with work to do to get the R10 TDi ready to race. Unfortunately, the field had already started when the Audi was ready to hit the track, although the loss of time was minimised to two laps when an early caution flew after the Lola of Ryan Lewis ground to a halt on track.

The Scot took the Audi onto the lead lap during his first stint of the race and after solid stints from both Capello and Pirro, it was McNish who was back onboard for the run to the flag - taking the lead from Christian Klien in the Peugeot with 40 minutes left to run and taking the flag by less than five seconds to maintain Audi's unbeaten Petit Le Mans record.

"This race belongs to the team," McNish said. "To get 16-17 people from both crews on that and get it repaired when I thought we were out, they did something I didn't think was possible. No one in our team does the work to finish second. There's no question in my mind that when we got in the position at the end that I was going to do everything I could do to win this race. If it took us to the top step, then it was just desserts for the team.

"I got a run on Christian out of turn five and he got caught up in traffic. You get one opportunity to overtake and you have to take it. I was able to dive in at seven and he couldn't get a clean line to pass me on the straight."

McNish and Capello became the first drivers to win at Petit Le Mans for three consecutive years. Audi's Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr, newly crowned LMP1 champions, finished third.

Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe won in LMP2 for Penske Motorsports in their Porsche RS Spyder, with Castroneves becoming the first driver to win both Petit Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. He finished 21 seconds ahead of Penske team-mates Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, who won their second straight drivers championship.

"I have to thank Roger and Tim for letting me be in the car," said Castroneves, who won in his second series start. "These guys did an incredible job. Timo and Romain did a great job, and Ryan was awesome. This is a very challenging track and very difficult. It turned out to be a great race for all three cars."

Penske swept the Petit P2 podium with Sascha Maassen, Patrick Long and Emmanuel Collard finishing third. The victory also gave Penske its third straight team championship in class.

"The year was very special," Dumas said. "It is an honour to win this championship again. From my point of view, this is the biggest moment for me with Porsche and the RS Spyder. The competition with Acura has not been easy. A lot of people were thinking before this race, 'What is happening with Penske?' We worked very hard during the month to increase the level of the car."

Bernhard and Dumas benefitted from an early retirement of the Patr?n Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b. After having the car being completely rebuilt following a crash Thursday, Scott Sharp spun the car coming out of Turn 10B and smacked a concrete wall, damaging the rear end beyond repair.

"I felt bad for them but it was only one hour into the race," Bernhard said. "There was a long race ahead of us and the same could happen to us. With the traffic here, sometimes you need some luck. I really wanted to try to stay focused and bring this home."

The race proved to be nothing short of a disaster for Acura, with the Lowe's Fernandez and AGR cars also crashing out - the latter in a scary looking shunt late on after Franck Montagny was left with nowhere to go following an accident between two other cars.

Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Ron Fellows won in GT1 for Corvette Racing by six laps to take their second endurance victory of the season. They also won in class at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The win Saturday gave O'Connell and Magnussen the class championship with their eighth victory.

"It's a very special win because we won the championship," said Magnussen, who won his first title. "The race today was hard between the two cars. We were pushing hard on the track and in the pits and everywhere. In the first half of the race we had to push like crazy to stay ahead of the No. 4 car. It was difficult in the daytime and in the night time."

Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis finished second in class. The two Corvettes exchanged the lead twice in the pits before misfortune again befell the #4 car. A malfunctioning throttle linkage left Gavin crawling around the track before the six-hour mark. It was eerily similar to Sebring where the trio lost laps to a broken driveshaft early on.

Jaime Melo and Mika Salo followed their GT2 endurance victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with another hard-fought endurance win in their Ferrari F430 GT. Salo finished just 2.317 seconds ahead of Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister and his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The result with Marc Lieb was enough for Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler to wrap up the class championship. Tafel Racing's Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher placed third in their Ferrari.

"It was really hard," Melo said of the race. "To win Le Mans and Petit Le Mans is great for the whole team. It was a very difficult race. We had to move to the back of the field at one point and we had to push hard to get back on top. The car was working very well and comfortable to drive. It made it easier for us to do it."

Henzler and Bergmeister have finished on the GT2 podium in every event this year except St. Petersburg in March. Four class victories helped give Bergmeister his third championship and Henzler his first. Flying Lizard also won its first team championship.

"This is unbelievable," Henzler said. "I can't describe it. Flying Lizard has tried for so many years. With the support of Joerg, the team and Porsche, we never had any issue throughout the year."

Bergmeister also won championships in 2005 and 2006 with Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing.

"It's the first time for the Lizards, so it is like a first time," Bergmeister said. "The team was really ready to win the championship. To have it both the team and driver makes it doubly special."

In the debut of the Green Challenge, the Penske entry of Long, Maassen and Collard were the prototype winners. In the GT category, the Corvette of O'Connell, Magnussen and Fellows were victorious for General Motors. The cars had the best scores for overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment