25 August 2003
Lehto and Herbert win Road America 500.
JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert scored their second American Le Mans Series win of the season Sunday by driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 to a one-lap win in the Road America 500 presented by the Chicago Tribune.
Their car led 51 of the 79 laps run in the two-hour, 45-minute timed sports car race on the 4.048-mile track. Herbert took the lead on lap 29 by passing the polesitting Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 of Marco Werner and the car never lost the lead again.
Werner and co-driver Frank Biela fell out of contention due to a problem with the starter box on their car, but still managed to finish third in the LMP 900 class to allow the two to maintain their lead in the series driver standings. Butch Leitzinger, who led the first six laps in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG, crashed after tangling with the Panoz LMP01 driven by David Saelens.
"It [the win] is something we really needed," said Lehto. "Joest had a big problem and lost a lot of laps, and still finished third. I was expecting them to finish fifth because there were a lot of prototypes ahead of them. But in the end they still finished third.
"But we were able to catch the points a little, and we're closer now. The fight is on. It will be a tough fight the next three races, these last three races we have to win all the time basically. We learned a lot about the car at Mosport. The car is getting better and better and the team is getting better and better. If you want to win championships, you need to everything 110 percent."
Herbert was in the car in the first stint and saw the action unfolding when Leitzinger and Werner battled in the early laps, with Herbert close behind. "At the end of the first lap I went straight to the lean (fuel) map, so I was sitting there twiddling my thumbs, watching them in front of me," he said. "If I could keep pace, that was absolutely fine. If there weren't many cautions, we knew it would be tight on fuel. I wanted to save as much as I could, because the race would only be won later one. Obviously, they (Joest and Dyson) had their problems and it made our race easier after that. But it was important for us to win today, we had to win."
Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson finished second overall and won the LMP 675 class in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG, while Olivier Beretta and David Saelens finished third overall and second in LMP 900. Dyson had difficulty getting his car started at the beginning of the event and had to start at the rear.
"We couldn't get the car started at the beginning, it bogged down on pit lane," said Dyson. "Then once we started racing, the balance wasn't good until half a tank was burned off. This finish is great for the points, and being second overall is great considering how the day started. We're pretty close to being competitive. It's a little car and you have to look after it. The name of the game is the championship and keeping the nose clean."
Jan Magnussen made a last-lap pass of Corvette driver Johnny O'Connell to win the GTS class for the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello team with co-driver David Brabham. O'Connell and Ron Fellows finished second in a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R. It was the second straight ALMS race in which the GTS class was decided in the closing moments, but in the most recent race it was O'Connell on the winning end.
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