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Lime Rock: Audi R8 goes out with a win

2 July 2006

Audi's 'Grand Old Girl' went out just like she came in - a winner in the American Le Mans Series. Allan McNish drove past Romain Dumas with 30 minutes left as the Scot and Rinaldo Capello won the New England Grand Prix on Saturday at Lime Rock Park.

McNish and Capello were winners by 11.812 seconds over the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. It marked the 48th overall victory for the Audi R8 in the ALMS and the 50th class win for the most successful race car in series history.

The R8 will be replaced starting in two weeks at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park by two diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs, which won at both Sebring and Le Mans earlier this year. But for one more day, the R8 took center stage.

"I'm not an emotional person; my wife can attest to that," McNish said. "But I had tears in my eyes coming out of the last corner, and I tapped the hood because she (the R8) has done anything I've ever asked of her. She even saved my life at Le Mans. We're looking forward to the R10 TDI but it's still hard to say goodbye because she has been so much a part of my career. It was the only fitting end the R8 should have."

After running steady in the early part, McNish took advantage of traffic coming into the final turn and went three-wide with one of the Aston Martins and the Porsche of Dumas at the 2:15 mark. That was all McNish needed as he pulled away late.

"After warm-up this morning, we weren't that happy because it wasn't as good as it should have been," Capello said. "The team decided to make some changes. What surprised me was after four or five laps, like in Houston, I found out I could keep up and catch the Porsche, we found we could push the car and it was very easy to drive. That's what made the R8 so wonderful for the last six or seven years."

Dumas and Bernhard, the pole-sitting duo, finished second overall and first in LMP2 for their second straight class win. The sister car of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, which pitted early to replace the front nose, finished second in class.

The Porsches never trailed in LMP2 and led overall for 68 laps.

"I caught an LMP2 car for what seemed to be 20 laps and followed him even with the blue flag so I lost all of my gap," Dumas said about McNish's pass. "Then Allan caught me and eventually got right around. The Aston got into me and I got caught breaking and he was breaking late. If you look at the Aston and the Corvette they have the power similar to us coming out of the slower corners, so the advantage went to the P1 where they had the torque to get back up. I am happy. Hats off to Dindo, Allan and the Audi team."

Third was the class championship-leading duo of Clint Field and Liz Halliday in the Intersport Racing Lola. Their advantage over Maassen and Luhr has decreased slightly which Bernhard and Dumas continue to gain ground in the critical July stretch.

"Our goal is the class win not the overall so we held back," Bernhard said. "The first two races were a little bit of bad luck, and we lost some ground. Now were fighting back. We've got some victories and we want to show we are competitive. We are a good team and it's really fun to drive with them."

Aston Martin Racing captured its first GT1 win of the season as Pedro Lamy in the #009 Aston Martin DBR9 beat Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell across the line by 0.033 seconds in one of the closest finishes in series history. Sarrazin and Lamy gave Aston Martin its first win the in series since Sebring last year and snapped Corvette Racing's 12-race win streak dating back to last year's Grand Prix of Atlanta.

"I tried to control the distance I had left," Lamy said. "We had big problems with the engine having a little less power than normal. The tyres were going a bit off, as well because we were pushing hard. It was on the limit. But I think I could have managed (another lap)."

Unlike Mid-Ohio and other races, the winning DBR9 benefited from a caution period with an hour to go. Sarrazin, running second at the time, pitted just as the yellow flag came out and handed the car over to Lamy. A fierce battle ensued between the two Aston Martins and the #3 Corvette with Lamy passing Darren Turner in the sister DBR9, which finished third, for the lead with 15 minutes left. O'Connell followed closely and ran just out of time and track.

"We had luck go our way," Sarrazin said. "The pit stop was the key, so now things are perfect. It was good for us. The car was quicker than the Corvettes, and in the end Pedro was ahead. It is a great win."

Missing was the #4 entry of Oliver Beretta and Oliver Gavin, winners of the previous eight series races. The car was damaged in an early-race incident with the #20 Dyson Racing Lola that left the Corvette stuck in the mud near the rear of the track.

In GT2, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing completed a sensational week by winning its first race of the season. Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long drove the new #31 to victory over Johannes van Overbeek and Wolf Henzler in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche.

The Petersen/White Lightning crew turned a Porsche Cup car it acquired on Monday into a class-winning entry after the team's first car was destroyed at Le Mans.

"They had to strip it down, make sure it was race ready and add a lot of new bits and pieces," Long said. "If they had told me that was a new car, I wouldn't have known it. I can't say enough about them. There were chances we weren't going to come to this race, much less win it. It's amazing how good it feels to be winners again."

As has been the case in GT2 all season, it wasn't easy. Bergmeister inherited the lead when the #61 Risi Competizione Ferrari crashed in Turn 9 at the 36-minute mark. Shortly thereafter Bergmeister handed off the car to Long, who drove much of his stint with a malfunctioning cooling suit. Fortunately for him, the caution flag came out at just the right time and the team benefited the same way as the Aston Martin.

"There were some marshals standing out at pit in making sure we didn't come in too early," Long said. "I waited for the team to let me know when I could come in, and it was the lap we had planned."

The next race for the ALMS is the Grand Prix of Utah, on July 15 at the new Miller Motorsports Park in Salt Lake City.


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