Determined not to allow Panoz a second straight street course success, the American Le Mans Audi steamroller blasted into action at the tight Trois Rivieres circuit on Saturday as the German marque swept all three-podium positions.
Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello won Saturday's inaugural three-hour ALMS Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres from a lowly 20th position on the starting grid after making a late-race tire change that gave their Audi R8 the speed needed to win.
The final caution period of the three-hour race occurred when Kevin Allen crashed his Dodge Viper in turn one with 55 minutes remaining. Capello, who was driving and running second at the time, pitted and took on four tires, while the Audi of Frank Biela only added fuel and therefore maintained the lead. However, the new tires enabled Capello to catch and pass Biela, and then cruise to a 17.802-second margin of victory.
''The new tires were definitely the key to victory,'' said Capello, from Italy, who won for the third time in six ALMS races this season. ''We lost the race at Washington (two weeks ago) because we didn't change tires under the yellow flag, so it was a lesson learned.''
Kristensen, from Denmark, maintained the ALMS point lead with his second win of the season. The car started near the back of the grid on the 1.52-mile street circuit after not being able to post a fast qualifying lap on Friday. ''To win from that far back on the grid on a circuit this small is a tribute to our team,'' said Kristensen.
Finishing third behind Biela and co-driver Emanuele Pirro were Stefan Johansson and Johnny Herbert, giving Audis a sweep of the top three. The Champion squad had an eventful time of things as Johnny Herbert found out to his cost in the very first turn. Braking early to avoid any carnage amongst the front-runners, Herbert was punted around by the fast-starting LMP675-class Knighthawk Racing MG-Lola EX257 of Chad Block.
Although the MG was out on the spot, Herbert was able to continue back to the pits as the race went under caution and get the rear bodywork replaced without losing a lap. However, despite scything his way through the field, a couple of small, yet costly errors cost the team any hope of victory.
Bryan Herta and Bill Auberlen finished fourth in the highest placed Panoz LMP-1 after Washington winners David Brabham and Jan Magnussen were slowed with a variety of difficulties.
The Washington winners gave the factory Audi duo a real run for their money in the opening hour before Jan Magnussen was forced behind the wall with a small electrical failure that kept the car stalling in the pits and then David Brabham had an uncharacteristic off in turn one. Despite losing some 12 laps to the leaders, the ex Formula One duo hung on for sixth place overall.