The Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx outfit has delivered a crushing victory on the British team's race d?but in the 52nd Sebring 12 Hours.

Frank Biela, Pierre Kaffer and Allan McNish took their R8 to a comfortable five-lap victory, giving the German manufacturer its fifth consecutive Sebring win, Audi UK a maiden international win and the Veloqx team its d?but sports prototype win.

The triumph also makes Biela only the fifth driver to score three overall Sebring victories - joining Motorsports legends Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, Hans Stuck and Olivier Gendebien. He has also become the most winning Prototype driver in ALMS history, with a total of 15 wins.

"This is my third Sebring victory in the last five years while an Audi R8 has now won five times in a row - a fantastic achievement for this sports prototype," said Frank. "This is a perfect way to start off my 2004 season - I hope I can enjoy the same success in DTM and at Le Mans."

For McNish, the 2000 American Le Mans Series champion, Sebring marked an emotional return to sports car racing with a victory after spending an often difficult past three seasons in Formula One, while team-mate Kaffer was also elated after a spectacular event debut.

"Coming back to Audi and scoring this victory is amazing," beamed the Scot. "It's like a great 'home coming' - they are truly fantastic people. I really enjoyed this win, made especially sweet after narrowly missing out here four years ago. This gives the team confidence for Le Mans."

"I cannot believe I have won my d?but race for Audi on my Sebring d?but in my first long distance race - I'm overjoyed," added Kaffer. "I didn't want to take big risks during my stints but the Audi R8 gives a driver, even a prototype 'rookie' like me, amazing confidence."

The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 finished second, driven by JJ Lehto, Marco Werner and Emanuele Pirro. The Champion car had battled the two Audi UK entries until tangling with a lapped car, causing damage that led to a short stay behind the wall. The car roared back to finish second.

The other Audi UK entry driven by Johnny Herbert, Jamie Davies and Guy Smith finished 12 laps down in third place after having to go behind the wall for repairs to a malfunctioning rear end. The car had led some of the race and was solidly in contention prior to the mechanical problem.

O'Connell teamed with Ron Fellows and Max Papis to take the GTS class win in a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, finishing fourth overall and winning the class by 22 laps. "It's amazing," he said. "I've been fortunate to have excellent cars. The C5-R is one of the most important cars in history, and our new Michelin tires made a huge difference."

"Fourth overall is pretty impressive," said Fellows. "Pit stops in the are were flawless. Sebring is a tough race, but we've learned how to win. We were more careful getting out of the pits after the clutch problem on the #4 car. We have to say thanks to Michelin, we couldn't have done this without them. We need them to win Le Mans, it is part of the evolution of the program."

Finishing second in the GTS class was the Barron Connor Racing Ferrari 575 GTC of Danny Sullivan, John Bosch and Thomas Biagi, followed by the ACEMCO Saleen S7R of Terry Borcheller, Johnny Mowlem and David Brabham.

With his victory in the GT class, Sascha Maassen won for the fourth straight year at Sebring and joined former teammate Lucas Luhr and legendary driver Bob Holbert as the only drivers ever to take four straight class wins.

Maassen, who is the most winning driver in the history of the American Le Mans Series, won for the 21st time in ALMS competition. He co-drove with Timo Bernhard in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from Alex Job Racing. The Job team also recorded its fourth straight Sebring win.

"Yes it was four straight, but I would like to mention our teammate Jorg Bergmeister who is not with us," said Maassen of the driver who had been slated to co-drive with Maassen and Bernhard. "We hope he stays well and recovers. During the last practice on Thursday he had a high fever and the decision not to race him was made late. Sebring is the toughest race. I've done it with Lucas (Luhr) before and we said next time we'd do it with three (drivers)."

The other Job entry finished second in the GT class, driven by Romain Dumas, Marc Lieb and Luhr, while finishing third was the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of David Murry and Craig Stanton.

The LMP2 class produced new winners in both the driver and entrant category as Mike Borkowski, John Macaluso and Ian James drove a Lola B2K/40-Nissan to victory for American Spirit Racing. The win was the first in the ALMS for team owner Jon Lewis.

As you come up through the ranks and see all the big races like Sebring, Daytona and Le Mans, it's a thrill to be now a Sebring winner," said James. "This team was born just three weeks ago. Jon deserves this win. We got the car so late we put a fresh engine in at the first of the week. We were crossing our fingers it would last."
Mike Fitzgerald, James Gue and Bill Rand finished second in class in the Rand Racing Lola-Nissan, followed by the Intersport Racing Lola-Judd of Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland.