Historic diesel win for new Audi on debut
19 March 2006
The all-new diesel-powered Audi R10 made sportscar history by clinching victory in the 54th running of the Sebring 12 Hours, the first car of its kind to win a major sportscar race anywhere in the world.
The Audi Sport North America crew of Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello overcame problems right from the start to win the race from pit-lane after requiring a heat exchanger replacement between warm-up and the race that could not be completed in time for the green flag. It took two hours for the silver machine to get back to the front, but there it remained for more or less the following ten hours.
With other cars in its class, as well as the Porsche LMP2 threat, all subsequently falling foul of problems, the #2 Audi, which featured Kristensen and McNish on the same squad for the first time, eventually won by three laps.
McNish was delighted to have delivered such a perfect start for the R10 and made history thanks to its diesel power. "The whole team should be very proud," the Scot said.
"We have created a little piece of history. In a few years time, people will look back and realise this was a monumental moment, not only in Audi Sport history, but also in motorsport where the first ever Diesel engine won an international race. We all worked very hard for this one. And we will all be celebrating a lot tonight."
It was not all good news for Audi as the #1 R10 fell foul to an overheating issue and together with the heat exchanger replacement on the winning car ahead of the race, it shows the German manufacturer has yet to iron out all of their reliability issues.
Having started from the back with the R10, the Intersport Racing Lola Jon Field, Clint Field and Liz Halliday proved their durability by emerging as the 'best of the rest' in second place and claiming a surprise second LMP2 victory on a weekend where the new Penske Porsche RS Sypders were expected to romp away with the spoils.
Indeed, both the #6 Penske of Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen and Emmanuel Collard and the #7 car of Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Patrick Long had led the way early on, only for a catalogue of problems bringing an unfortunate end to what had been a very competitive debut Sebring outing.
Indeed, Sebring claimed its fair share of victims, with a number of cars from the LMP1 class particularly failing to reach the full 12 hours. Casualties included one of the new Dyson Lolas, courtesy of an engine failure but after outlasting their former Lola EX257s run now by Autocon and Highcroft Racing, they still managed to emerge third in class.
The high attrition rate allowed the GT1 class to share some of the limelight on the podium, with Chevrolet overturning their defeat by Aston Martin in 2005, with a comfortable victory and an impressive third overall.
Reigning champions Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, as well as guest driver Jan Magnussen managed to get the jump on the pole sitting DBR9 of Pedro Lamy, Stephane Sarrazin and Jason Bright, winning by a lap.
"Each time I win a race with Corvette Racing, I always think 'wow, that was a good one'!" said Beretta, who set a new ALMS record with his 25th career win, "It looks like every time we go to a race that we need to win, it is another fantastic victory. The car ran super fast, and we didn't have any problems at all. We just refuelled and put on new tyres - and we got the trophy as a team."
James Weaver, Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace brought the second Dyson Lola home in fifth place to take second in class, just ahead of the second Aston Martin GT1 of Darren Turner, Nicholas Kiesa and Tomas Enge and the second Corvette of Ron Fellows, Johnny O'Connell and Max Papis.
Panoz meanwhile completed a memorable weekend by converting their pole position into a debut GT2 race win for the Esperante GTLM. David Brabham led Scott Maxwell and Sebastian Bourdais to a tight victory, with the second place Flying Lizard's Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek, Jon Fogarty and Marc Lieb merely 30-seconds behind after 320 laps.
Risi Competizione made it three different brands in the top three, with Ralf Kelleners, Anthony Lazzaro and Jaime Melo giving the Ferrari 430GT a successful competition debut, while Tom Kimber-Smith lead Team LNT to an impressive fifth in class.