Despite admitting that the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit did not suit its LMP1 class R10 TDi, Audi lived up to its claim that it would be better in the final race of the ALMS season that it had shown in qualifying, claiming a 1-2 result with Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr edging team-mates Emanuele Pirro and Christijan Albers to the flag.

The new LMP1 champions ended their season in fitting style after Werner passed Pirro on a restart with 26 minutes left, eventually leading the Italian veteran - in his last ALMS event for Audi - home by 1.941secs. It was Werner-Luhr tandem's sixth overall victory of the season, and the eighth in class.

In a race punctuated by no fewer than twelve safety car appearances - the highest figure all season - which meant that 46 of the 145 laps were run at a reduced pace, both Audis moved up from row five by taking advantage of the enormous torque of the TDI engine. Luhr needed only 37 laps to fight his way from tenth to first but, because he then had to pit for fuel under green flag conditions, the #2 car lost a lap and dropped, temporarily, back to twelfth position.

That seemed to play into the hands of rookie Albers and Pirro, with the Italian taking the lead on lap 89 with a spectacular move. The veteran then defended his advantage until the final caution period when, with no team orders - or sentiment - in play, Werner scythed past him at the restart, having fought his way back to the front. With just over 20 minutes to the end of the race, the German was able to remain in front, eventually crossing the line 1.941secs ahead of a tearful Pirro.

"This was a great finale, with a superb victory for Audi at the end of a very good season," head of Audi motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich commented, "This season, we certainly have not always been the fastest in qualifying but, with hard work, a very good strategy, a great squad and a really good race pace, we've always been able to turn things around. The races this year have been very exciting until the very end, and we've seen motorsport at its best all season."

Corsa Motorsports duo Stefan Johansson and Johnny Mowlem survived to the end of the race this time to finish third in class in their Zytek 07S, but were only eleventh overall as the leading LMP2 runners maintained their performance advantage over all bar the Audis.

Tony Kanaan and Franck Montagny scored Andretti Green Racing's second class victory in three races with a tense 0.054secs win over fellow Acura team de Ferran Motorsports. Kanaan and Simon Pagenaud, who teamed with Gil de Ferran, exchanged the lead twice within the span of a lap with 15 minutes left as two ARX-01bs finished first and second for the third time this year.

"This place is special for me," admitted IndyCar Series star Kanaan, "I won my first US race here in Indy Lights in 1996, but today's race was one of my favourites. The battle with Simon was as good as anything I have done in IndyCar racing. He raced clean and we swapped positions several times.

"I love driving these prototype cars and winning today was a thrill for me. Franck and I seemed to have a real bond in driving together - we got along tremendously and to win here was great."

The 1-2 result wasn't enough, however, for Acura to wrestle the LMP2 manufacturer championship away from Porsche, as the German marque took the title by just a single point, thanks to a third-place finish for two-time champions Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. The Penske Racing duo headed team-mates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves and the two Dyson Porsches across the line, after overall and LMP2 polesitter Patron Highcroft Racing ran into mechanical problems and the similar Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura faded to an eventual ninth. The third Penske Porsche completed the top ten ahead of Corsa's LMP1 entry.

Corvette Racing's Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin successfully defended their GT1 victory from last season with a comfortable 12.858secs win over team-mates Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. It was the third win of the season for the Beretta/Gavin duo, who ceded their class championship to O'Connell and Magnussen.

As with the prototype classes, track temperatures some 30 degrees cooler than during practice and qualifying made tyre management critical for the GT entries, and the GT1 class, like the overall result, was decided on one of the many restarts as, after the eleventh yellow flag, Beretta passed O'Connell on the front straight to take the lead with 45 minutes remaining, becoming the first driver in ALMS history to reach 40 career wins, which now include five at Laguna Seca.

"With all the victories I have, I was lucky to drive for a good team and to have very good team-mates," Beretta admitted, "I was not alone. I didn't want to lose today. I knew this was the last chance [to win in 2008], and I was thinking about the restart on cold tyres and driving like I was in the wet. I put the power down and everything went okay. I could have spun because I put the power down very early, but the car stayed on the track and I managed to overtake Johnny."

Tafel Racing closed out the GT2 season with victory for Dirk Muller and Dominik Farnbacher, the Ferrari F430 GT pairing winning for the fourth time as they beat the similarly-mounted Risi Competizione tandem of Jaime Melo and Mika Salo by 5.648secs.

The result was enough to confirm Muller and Farnbacher as second in the class championship behind Flying Lizard Motorsports' J?rg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler, but was not enough to help Ferrari overcome Porsche's comfortable 15-point lead in the manufacturers' championship.

Although the Prancing Horse swept the top two places at Laguna, fourth place - behind the Milner/Hand Panoz Esperante - for Flying Lizard Motorsports' Patrick Pilet and Johannes van Overbeek was enough to seal the title 220 - 215.

Dirk Werner and Bryce Miller had originally been classified third on the road in the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, but the car was excluded at post-race tech for a ride height violation due to a broken right front spring.

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment