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Audi snatch win in ALMS thriller.

The dominant Audi Sport North America outfit continued their dominance of the American Le Mans Series with another 1-2 result in the Leather Centre Grand Prix of Texas at the Texas Motor Speedway but they were run extremely close by both factory Panoz' in what was a thrilling 2hr 45min race.

Rinaldo Capello an Tom Kristensen came home with just seven and a half seconds to spare over their Audi Sport North America team-mates Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro in the opening round of the 2001 American Le Mans Series at he 2.324-mile combined oval/road course at the Texas Motor Speedway as the top four LMP900 machines came home less than 40 seconds apart in a race where fortunes swayed between Audi and their factory rivals Panoz.

It was pole-sitter Capello who shot into an early lead ahead of Klaus Graf in last years Panoz Roadster S as Jan Magnussen in the howling new Four litre Panoz LMP07 dropped to third ahead of Andy Wallace in the Champion Racing Audi R8 and the top quartet stayed in close contact for the first 15 laps.

However it was the stunning progress of Frank Biela from 22nd and last one the grid that really captured the imagination as the former BTCC Champion scythed his way through the mid-field men, losing just twelve seconds on the leaders en-route to fifth place, ahead of the Jay Cochran/Richard Dean Panoz, on lap Four!

It took the German driver another 20 laps to pass Wallace for third, by which time Capello had opened up a six second lead over Magnussen and ten seconds in front the plucky Graf who now had his mirrors full of the second factory Audi R8. Biela didn't have to try and work his way past the two Panoz' for on lap 32, after just 42 minutes of racing, Magnussen brought the LMP07 down-pit lane for its first scheduled fuel and tyres stop with Graf following him in two laps later.

The obvious thirst of the American machines compared to their German rivals was a major concern for the Panoz team and both Magnussen and Graf stayed aboard, Graf electing to stay on the same set of Michelins in an effort to negate the disadvantage to the Audi's.

It wasn't until lap 37 when Capello finally rolled onto pit-road leaving Biela leading as the finale of a stunning last-to-first drive. Wallace also assumed top spot for a lap when Biela pitted but the pace of the German driver was such that he led Capello and Graf when the pit-stop shuffle worked itself out.

When the caution flag waved just past the one-hour mark, Audi elected to bring Biela and Capello in for their driver changes leaving Pirro and Kristensen behind the wheel until the end while Magnussen gave up the controls of the Panoz in favour of David Brabham. Graf stayed out and therefore moved into the lead when the green flag fell on lap 50 and the German superbly staved off the close attentions of Pirro for a full eight laps until finally surrendering his position.

Another caution flag on the 100 minute mark for Kelly Collins' nasty bump with the wall in Turn Four of the oval course finally brought Graf in for a driver change and a new set of tyres with Gualter Salles aiming to run the final one hour and five minutes on a single tank of fuel. The caution period also saved Pirro from losing a stack of time when he came together with the No.44 American Viper Racing Chrysler Viper of Joe Ellis and Tom Weickardt on the in-field section causing a harmless spin.



Related Pictures

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Rinaldo Capello - Audi R8R
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