ALMS » 23 July 2001
Capello extends advantage with Sear-ing strategy.
The lone LMP675 entry from Dick Barbour Racing at least made it to the finish, with Didier de Radigues, John Graham and Milka Duno taking 13th spot behind the best of the Cadillacs.
Corvette drivers Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell thus finished fifth overall, and took class honours after an enthralling GTS battle with the Konrad/Team Saleen works entry. In the end, the leading C5-R crew beat Corvette team-mates Andy Pilgrim and Kelly Collins by 5.3secs, but that statistic does little to convey the fight that ensued on track.
Despite its pace in qualifying, the Saleen could not out-run the two yellow Corvettes come raceday. Fellows dogged Terry Borcheller's every move right from the start, before making the most of the American's growing tyre problems to snatch the lead at around one-third distance. Once ahead, the Canadian Sears Point expert gradually pulled away, leaving Borcheller and team-mate Franz Konrad to fend off the advances of the second C5-R.
Once again, tyres played an important part in deciding the outcome of the battle, with the Saleen team's decision to go for the softer of two Goodyear compounds playing into Corvette's hands. With their rubber losing grip in half the time it took Chevrolet's harder compound, the S7R was eventually passed by the Pilgrim/Collins car for second in class, and faded to a 16th place finish, two laps down on the class winners.
The GT category was a story, for the first time, of BMW versus BMW. The ageing Porsche 911GT3s hardly got a look in as the new, and controversial, M3 GTRs romped away with the race, although the Munich works team did not have things all its own way.
For the first time this season, the American Prototype Technology Group got its hands on the latest version of the venerable M3 and showed that it was capable of matching the factory cars every step of the way. Bill Auberlen, a veteran of BMW's prototype campaign, opened out an early advantage, while the other cars shrugged off the advances of the few Porsches able to run with them in the opening stages, but eventually dropped back into the clutches of an evenly matched trio.
The first caution period somehow managed to reverse the BMWs' positions, with Jorg Muller's works car coming out at the head of the pack and Auberlen's co-driver, Niclas Jonsson, running fourth after the first round of driver changes. BMW, by now, had things all their own way, with the best of the Porsches a lap down, and championship aspirant Randy Pobst's Alex Job example plagued by throttle problems that would drop it well down the order.
Just as things looked settled at the head of the pack, however, there was an incident involving one car from either BMW camp. Although the quartet had swapped paint and places throughout, Fredrik Ekblom's works machine forced its way past Hans Stuck's PTG example, dropping the veteran a place in the final order. The Swede was penalised and placed on probation for causing an 'avoidable incident', the stewards' decision dropping him behind Stuck in the final order.
GT victory went to former Formula One and CART driver Lehto and team-mate Jorg Muller, who helped inflict Porsche's first ever defeat in the ALMS class.
The best Stuttgart could manage was fifth in class, and eleventh overall, in the hands of Alex Job's second car, driven by Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr. Britain's Johnny Mowlem, along with new team-mate Timo Bernhard and team owner Michael Petersen finished sixth in class and 14th overall.
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