The American Le Mans Series races on virtually all of North America's finest road circuits but possibly its finest race yet took place in a car park as Panoz 'Spirit of America' duo Jan Magnussen and David Brabham overcame the fierce challenge of the factory Audi team to record a stunning victory in a race where the gap between the top three cars rarely exceeded five seconds.
In the first major automobile race held in Washington in more than 80 years, it was appropriate that an American-made car painted in a stars and stripes motif came home the winner. More importantly was the manner in which that victory was achieved as Brabham and Magnussen engaged in a no holds barred, race long fist-fight with both factory Audi's
Magnussen and Brabham used pit strategy and hard driving to win the inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. Driving their trusty Panoz LMP-1 Prototype, Magnussen was the star of the show, passing both factory Audi's on two separate occasions and eventually crossing the line after 140 intense laps of racing with a scant 0.766-second lead over Tom Kristensen with Emanuele Pirro just four seconds back in third.
The two-hour, 45-minute sports car endurance race was held on a 1.661-mile, seven turn temporary racing circuit constructed on what had been a parking lot for RFK Stadium. The race was run under brutally hot and humid conditions, with temperatures above 100 degrees F on the track.
The winning move for the Panoz team came under the race's final full-course caution, which occurred with just under an hour left in the race. The team elected to give up the lead and change tires on the car in addition to adding fuel, and also chose to make a driver change and put Magnussen back into the car for Brabham. Magnussen had driven the first 55 minutes and thought he was finished for the day. During their pit stop, the two Audis took on fuel only.
''When that caution came out, we thought it would be a good idea for Jan to get back in because he had had a chance to rest,'' said Brabham. ''We also had the chance to put new tires on the car.''
''The tires made a big difference,'' said Magnussen, who was seven seconds behind the two Audis when the race was restarted but caught and passed both of them.
''Kristensen was able to stay close, but I was able to get far enough away with just a few laps left and I knew he couldn't make a move.''
Earlier in the race, Magnussen had mercilessly harried pole sitter Frank Biela and Kristensen's partner Rinaldo Capello for the lead before passing both when Capello made contact with the Champion Audi of Stefan Johansson who was just about to go a lap down. That allowed Magnussen to dive through and take the lead but as he did so, he sustained a puncture and had to pit. Luckily the caution flag flew at that moment and he was able to make his stop and hand over to Brabham without losing the lead.