There was drama right up until the final half lap in Sunday's American Le Mans Series race at Mid Ohio as factory Audi driver Tom Kristensen ran out of fuel on the last lap to hand victory to his teammate Emanuele Pirro following almost three hours of close fought action.

Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello's brave bid to make just one fuel stop in Sunday's American Le Mans series outing at the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course failed by a matter of a few hundred yards as the Danish driver watched a seven second lead over factory Audi teammates Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela evaporate in the final two laps.

After starting fifth following a spin in qualifying, Capello and Kristensen moved their way up the order steadily in an action packed race that included several full course caution periods and led by a seemingly secure six seconds when the green flag fell for the final time with little more than 20 minutes of racing left on the clock.

Related Articles

However after passing the factory Panoz of Jan Magnussen for second spot, Pirro bravely chased his teammate all the way, forcing Kristensen to run faster than he wanted to as both cars dipped into the 1:14 bracket and towards Biela's pole time from qualifying yesterday.

As the race entered its 11th and final lap the gap between the leaders was down to just two seconds and as the two silver Audi's made their way down Mid Ohio's dog-leg back straight, Kristensen began to splutter and as quick as a flash Pirro was through to score a dramatic win.

Kristensen's worries weren't over there as the Magnussen/David Brabham Panoz was also on the same lap but the Danish driver was suffering with the effects of some slight contact with the charging Pirro in the brutish LMP-1 Roadster and would be unable to challenge. The former Honda British Touring Car driver crawled home six seconds behind Pirro and 18 ahead of Magnussen after another exceptional outing for Don Panoz' Series.

Finishing fourth was the Bryan Herta/Bill Auberlen Panoz some 40 seconds adrift of the winners while James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger brought the trusty Dyson Racing Riley & Scott home in fifth place, two laps down.

The Champion Audi of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson were early race contenders, running second at one point before Herbert lost nine laps following an altercation with a slower Porsche. Despite another spin as they sought to make up time, the Anglo-Swedish duo came home tenth overall and eighth in the LMP900 class.

The LMP675 battle provided a rare highlight largely thanks to the early demise of the previously dominant Intersport Racing Lola, which lost many laps in the early going.

The race came down to a three-way scrap between a trio of cars that all endured mechanical problems of some sort or other during the day with the final nod going to the hard-trying Team Bucknum Racing Pilbeam squad of Jeff Bucknum, Chris McMurry and Brian Willman who made a brave fuel gamble that actually paid off.

GTS was another Corvette walkover after early problems for the lone Ferrari and Saleen and both American Viperracing Viper's. Once again Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows beat teammate Kelly Collins and Andy Pilgrim, this time by a lap as the two yellow C5-R's came home sixth and seventh overall.

The all-Porsche GT class once again provided the fans with race long excitement with up to five cars dicing for the lead during the course of the race.

The pot boiled over finally on lap 77 when Alex Job driver Lucas Luhr made a do-or-die lunge on the inside of the class-leading Peterson Motorsports machine driven by Randy Pobst causing both to retire and bringing out the final caution period of the race.

That left a three-way tussle for class honours between the J3 Racing team of Mike Fitzgerald and Justin Jackson, the second Alex Job Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard and the Racers Group entry of local hero BJ Zacharias and team boss Kevin Buckler.

Fitzgerald led initially but eventually gave way to Zacharias who finally led Bergmeister home by just two seconds to cap off an amazing month for Kevin Buckler's team.