ALMS » 30 October 2000
Second enough as roulette gives McNish the crown.
With the rest of the field also stopping around him, McNish was able to retain second place behind the Panoz as the order sorted itself out, and would hold station right through until the second round of stops. These came slightly earlier than expected, around lap 70, when the #3 Corvette C5-R hit the wall hard in T1, scattering debris across the circuit.
Both leaders opted to make their mandatory driver change at this point, not wanting to risk the fact that there may not be another yellow for the rest of the race, and it was the Audi crew that got its new man out in front. Rinaldo Capello rejoined the race behind the pace car, but in front of both Jorg Muller's BMW and David Brabham in the Panoz, which had now dropped to third in class.
The new order did not last for long, as both Muller and Brabham got by the Audi at the restart, but even this change was not the last in an eventful couple of laps. Indeed, Capello's slip back to third probably went as far as cementing McNish's title as anything else, as the Italian was able to avoid the worst of a turn nine melee that changed the face of the race.
Brabham and Muller came off worse in an incident that involved almost all of the remaining prototype runners, and sidelined the #2 Panoz with suspension damage. Brabham returned to pit-lane minus his rear wing, having been hit by an unsighted Johansson-Matthews Reynard, while Muller trailed fluid back to his stall after holing a radiator. Capello took to the grass to avoid the wreckage, marginally increasing the damage to his diffuser, but still managing to hold second place - behind new leader Emanuele Pirro.
The veteran Italian had only just taken over from Biela when the incident occurred but, being further back even than Capello, managed to avoid it completely, and rolled into a comfortable lead and looked to have the race in his pocket within minutes of taking over.
Capello then gave his crew - and the spectating McNish - a slight flutter when he turned in a succession of slow laps, but it appeared that he was only trying to establish the state of the diffuser damage before committing himself to the pursuit of Pirro.
From that point - lap 92 - on, however, the event turned into another Audi demonstration run. Knowing that a top three finish would suffice for his team-mate, Capello made sure that he did nothing stupid, and kept the car out of the clutches of the Auberlen/Gounon BMW that now held third place.
Only the ever-present threat of rain, that loomed over the nearby air base without hitting the circuit until all cars were in Victory Lane, looked likely to interrupt the party, as Pirro motored onto a race win, and Capello brought the yellow-hued R8R back in a safe second.
Third eventually went to the Gounon car, a result made all the more remarkable by the fact that the crew had opted to change tyres on the grid, taking a penalty that moved it back to the rear of the prototype qualifiers. A good start, followed by some good fortune as those around them disappeared, elevated the #43 car into a top five spot very early on and, despite having to pit under green more than anyone else after an out-of-sequence stop, it was well placed to take advantage of the lap 83 scuffle.
It headed home another car that enjoyed a change of fortune in the land of the gambler, as Gabriele Rafanelli's troubled Lola registered a fourth-place finish after a relatively easy run. The green-and-red Olive garden car yo-yo'ed about the prototype order in the early stages but, with its main rivals sidelined or delayed by the accident, was able to cruise home despite having had to pit very early on following a brush with the #2 Panoz that produced two penalty flags.
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