ALMS » 31 December 2000
McNish back to his best to land title.
''I'm privileged to work with a very special team and they all deserve a great deal of praise to work like they do and put the car back together time after time,'' Brabham said afterwards, ''There was a fantastic atmosphere here today from the Aussie fans, and it was great to hear the crowd cheering - not just for us local drivers, but also for the mechanics each time they pushed a car out of the pit garage.''
With both DAMS Cadillacs succumbing to mechanical failures while running solidly, it fell to the leading GTS and GT class runners to complete the top five.
Reigning GTS-class champion Olivier Beretta shared his ORECA Dodge Viper with regular co-drivers Karl Wendlinger and Dominique Dupuy en route to third overall, allowing the Monegasque to wrap up his second consecutive driving title. It was not easy for the team, however, as the reserve crew of Ni Amorim and Jean-Phillipe Belloc pushed them hard all the way.
''I am very happy for this last race with the Viper,'' Beretta revealed afterwards, ''We had no choice but to come here and win because we wanted to finish in the best way possible for the car. It was a hard race, but we had to win.''
The two red-and-white cars were followed across the line by the Porsche 911 GT3-R of German Dirk Muller, who added the class crown to his race win after a tense, come-from-behind, struggle with Dick Barbour team-mate Sascha Maassen. Muller knew that his fellow countryman held the upper hand going into the race but, as problems struck the #51 car that Maassen shared with French veteran Bob Wollek, realised that he only had to finish in the top three in GT to clinch the crown.
Maassen held the early upper hand, but was soon passed by Muller's team-mate Lucas Luhr. While holding second would still have been enough to give him the title, Maassen then ran into problems, picking up a puncture and suspension problems before succumbing to a necessary gearbox change at half-distance, which dropped him off the pace and out of championship contention.
In his place, American Randy Pobst briefly threatened Muller's chances, but was later delayed by a series of niggling problems that afflicted his Petersen/White Lightning entry.
''I really like Adelaide,'' an emotional Muller revealed on the podium, ''It is unbelievable. I can't believe that I am the champion, and I have to say that I couldn't have done it without Lucas - I really love him too, starting from this moment!''
The top ten was rounded out by the second of the three Barbour cars, with fellow GT entries from the PTG BMW team in seventh and tenth. Splitting the two black-and-white cars, Steve Watson partnered Milka Duno and local Ray Lintott to third in GTS and eight overall, one place ahead of the unfortunate #12 Panoz.
As the ALMS continues to go from strength to strength, it three new champions will each move on to pastures new next season. McNish's performances with the Audi have led him to a works Toyota F1 seat, albeit for testing in 2001, while Beretta moves from ORECA's GTS entry to its new prototype assault. Muller also has plans, thought to include either the Schnitzer or PTG BMW GT teams, although he was reluctant to confirm these in Australia.
Don Panoz can be proud of the world he has created.
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