22 September 2002
Pirro/Biela go wire to wire.
Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela led every lap en route to victory in the American Le Mans Series Monterey Sports Car Championships event Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Pirro, from Italy, battled fellow Audi R8 driver Tom Kristensen during the first half of the race, but Germany's Biela had clear sailing after taking over the car for his stint. The second Audi fell out of contention due to a broken suspension piece shortly after Kristensen yielded the car to co-driver Rinaldo Capello.
The Pirro/Biela Audi Sport North America car finished 25.799 seconds ahead of the Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson in the two-hour, 45-minute timed event on the 2.238-mile circuit. JJ Lehto and Max Angelelli finished third, one lap back, in a Cadillac Northstar LMP 02.
The win was sweet redemption for Pirro's high-speed crash in the last round at Mosport and even though they were never headed throughout the 112 lap race, Biela was kept on his toes during the final 45 minutes of the race by a hard charging Johnny Herbert.
''It was a perfect race for me,'' said Pirro, who teamed with Biela to win last year's ALMS event at the track as well. ''I thank God the set-up (on the car) did not go away. I was confident of being in control of the situation, and I was not worried.''
''For the last 30 minutes I was worried about everything, but finally made it,'' said Biela. ''We had a good car that was well-balanced, but in the back of my mind the bad luck we have had in past races this year was there, so I was needing better luck.''
Behind the leading three Kristensen and Capello recovered to fourth with Jan Magnussen and David Brabham in the strangely out-of-sorts Panoz fifth. Bryan Herta and Bill Auberlen fought bravely for the final podium place into the closing stages in the second Panoz before fading to sixth.
Claudia Huertgen of Germany teamed with Steve Knight of Castle Rock, Col., and Chad Block of York, Penn., to win an excellent LMP 675 class battle for smaller Prototypes. Driving a Lola EX257-MG, they beat the Riley & Scott Lola-MG driven by James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger by 32 seconds with the Intersport Lola-MG of Jon Field and Rick Sutherland two laps back and ninth overall.
The win was the first this season for the KnightHawk team, which won two events in the LMP 675 class last year. ''This is better than apple pie at mom's place,'' said Knight, co-owner of the team. ''We've worked so hard with this MG Lola and now we have a win with it.''
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