7 October 2007
Petit Le Mans 2007: Less than a second for first.
After 1000 miles and 394 laps, it came down to just 0.923secs to decide the outcome of the tenth Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, with Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish putting Audi back at the top of the American Le Mans podium for the first time in a long while.
Capello passed Penske Racing's Romain Dumas at the nine-hour mark and used the torque and power of the Audi R10 TDI to remain ahead of the Frenchman and ensure that Audi remained unbeaten at Petit Le Mans with diesel power. Incredibly, it was the first overall victory for Audi since St Petersburg in March and completed another Audi clean sweep of the premier endurance events at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans.
Capello's drive also confirmed the LMP1 title for himself and McNish, while the Audi Sport North America team racked up its 21st consecutive race win in a largely uncontested class.
The margin of victory was the closest in the race's ten-year history, but that came as little consolation for Dumas and co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Patrick Long as they narrowly missed adding another landmark win in Porsche's impressive season to success in LMP2. The RS Spyder had triumphed overall in the past eight races, and the second place effort at Road Atlanta was enough to confirm Dumas and Bernhard as class champions, after the Frenchman drove the last hour on a single set of tyres and tank of fuel.
That wasn't enough to keep Capello at bay, however, and the Italian made the winning move shortly after a restart with half an hour remaining. The battle wasn't settled until the closing minutes, however, as both Capello and Dumas diced as the wove their way through four classes of cars in the darkness.
Dumas finished eight laps up on the third-placed Dyson Racing Porsche of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith, who recorded their best finish of the season, while third in class - and fourth overall - went to the factory Zytek and its last-minute combination of Jan Charouz, Stefan Mucke and Danny Watts.
With the second Audi having to give up Marco Werner's pole after a last-minute driver change forced it to start at the back, and then losing time due to a collision while running second, the #88 Creation Autosportif entry of Jamie Campbell-Walter, Harold Primat and Christophe Tinseau finished second in LMP1, claiming fifth overall ahead of the second LMP2 Dyson Porsche. The #2 Audi ultimately finished fourth in LMP1, but back in 17th overall.
The second Penske Porsche managed 'only' seventh in the hands of Sascha Maassen, Emmanuel Collard and Ryan Briscoe, coming in ahead of the Highcroft entry, which headed the Acura cars in eighth courtesy of David Brabham, Stefan Johansson and Robbie Kerr. The other Acura entries, run by Andretti Green Racing and Lowe's Fernandez Racing, were classified 24th and 25th after succumbing to an accident and mechanical gremlins respectively.
Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta wrapped up a third straight GT1 championship with class victory in the #4 Corvette C6.R they shared with Max Papis. The trio escaped the carnage that claimed both the #3 sister Corvette and Lista Doran Racing's pole-sitting Maserati MC12 to repeat their Sebring win. The only scary moment came courtesy of a tap from the #2 Audi going through the Esses which sent the Audi off track and into the outside wall, ending its chances.
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