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.”