Audi's 'Grand Old Girl' went out just like she came in - a winner in the American Le Mans Series. Allan McNish drove past Romain Dumas with 30 minutes left as the Scot and Rinaldo Capello won the New England Grand Prix on Saturday at Lime Rock Park.
McNish and Capello were winners by 11.812 seconds over the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. It marked the 48th overall victory for the Audi R8 in the ALMS and the 50th class win for the most successful race car in series history.
The R8 will be replaced starting in two weeks at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsports Park by two diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs, which won at both Sebring and Le Mans earlier this year. But for one more day, the R8 took center stage.
"I'm not an emotional person; my wife can attest to that," McNish said. "But I had tears in my eyes coming out of the last corner, and I tapped the hood because she (the R8) has done anything I've ever asked of her. She even saved my life at Le Mans. We're looking forward to the R10 TDI but it's still hard to say goodbye because she has been so much a part of my career. It was the only fitting end the R8 should have."
After running steady in the early part, McNish took advantage of traffic coming into the final turn and went three-wide with one of the Aston Martins and the Porsche of Dumas at the 2:15 mark. That was all McNish needed as he pulled away late.
"After warm-up this morning, we weren't that happy because it wasn't as good as it should have been," Capello said. "The team decided to make some changes. What surprised me was after four or five laps, like in Houston, I found out I could keep up and catch the Porsche, we found we could push the car and it was very easy to drive. That's what made the R8 so wonderful for the last six or seven years."
Dumas and Bernhard, the pole-sitting duo, finished second overall and first in LMP2 for their second straight class win. The sister car of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, which pitted early to replace the front nose, finished second in class.
The Porsches never trailed in LMP2 and led overall for 68 laps.
"I caught an LMP2 car for what seemed to be 20 laps and followed him even with the blue flag so I lost all of my gap," Dumas said about McNish's pass. "Then Allan caught me and eventually got right around. The Aston got into me and I got caught breaking and he was breaking late. If you look at the Aston and the Corvette they have the power similar to us coming out of the slower corners, so the advantage went to the P1 where they had the torque to get back up. I am happy. Hats off to Dindo, Allan and the Audi team."
Third was the class championship-leading duo of Clint Field and Liz Halliday in the Intersport Racing Lola. Their advantage over Maassen and Luhr has decreased slightly which Bernhard and Dumas continue to gain ground in the critical July stretch.