22 August 2005
Pirro, Biela complete hat-trick at Road America.
In a race that featured some of the closest finishes ever seen in three of the four American Le Mans Series classes, Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro completed a notable hat-trick of race wins that helped to extend their still slim championship lead a little further.
Victory for the European pair's #2 Champion Racing Audi was the third in as many races, and the 3.239secs margin of victory in Sunday's Generac 500 was made all the more important as it came over the #20 Dyson Racing Lola of Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson, with main title rivals - and Champion team-mates - JJ Lehto and Marco Werner a further 3.7secs back in third. As a result, Biela and Pirro extended their lead in the LMP1 category to 15 points, with three rounds left.
"We came in with the lead in the championship, and our strategy was to do our best," Pirro said, "But we knew we didn't have to win races to win the championship. What really made me very happy is that, coming here, we were kind of conservative, but we were able to come in and win more points. That's why you could see some tears in my eyes when Frankie crossed the finish line. Just kidding!"
All joking aside, it was a toss-up for most of the day between the two Audis and the two Lolas. The pole-sitting #16 Dyson car of James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger ruined its chances when Weaver went into a gravel trap about an hour into the race, allowing the event to boil down to pit-strategy. However, the #2 team only won in the waning moments, after the #1 car was assessed a penalty.
Pirro and Biela excelled on the high-speed track, and said they expect to do the same thing two weeks from now at Mosport. Another victory would give them an even stronger hold on the championship crown.
"It looks a little better than three races ago, there is no doubt," Biela admitted, "Everyone in our team is very happy. We've had three very good races, and it feels really good looking at the points and thinking of the championship. On the other hand, I think we saw three wins in a row from the #1 car [earlier in the year] and then it ran into trouble, so we have to keep our focus. I hope that everybody knows that we'll try to do a good job. We do have a comfortable lead."
Despite suffering a minor damage in an early-race collision, the #10 Miracle Motorsports Courage of Jeff Bucknum and Chris McMurry took its third LMP2 victory of the season.
McMurry and the #63 GT1 class ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen made contact on the opening lap, causing slight rear-left damage to the Courage. Although mostly cosmetic, it did slow the car down. However, the Miracle team leaved up to its name, gaining a large slice of luck when the #37 Intersport Lola, with Liz Halliday at the wheel, caught fire just shy of the 30-minute mark. Halliday was able to exit the car, but the damage already was done.
"I was coming through Canada corner smelling smoke, then I lost the gears, and next thing I know the guys are radioing me that I'm on fire," Halliday said, "All I was worried about was getting off the track and not causing a seven-car pile-up. I just wanted to stay out of everyone's way."
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