Finishing second in the streets of Miami, allowed Infineon Team Joest to tighten its vice-like grip on the LMP 900 title in the American Le Mans Series.

Frank Biela and Marco Werner go into the final race at Road Atlanta next month with a 14-point lead over Miami race winner JJ Lehto, meaning that a sixth place finish at the tough Petit Le Mans season finale would be enough for Team Joest to clinch the crown.

As expected, the Miami street race was one of the toughest of the season, starting under enormous heat, but finished in the rain. Accidents and collisions caused five caution periods, and 35 of the total of 157 laps were run behind the safety car. This eventually decided the result, with the Joest team choosing to stick to its conservative strategy of refuelling at half-distance, while title rivals Champion Racing opted to risk a top-up during a caution period just 45 minutes into the race. Because of the unusually large number of caution periods, the eventual winners were able to complete the remaining two hours without another stop.

"With the championship on our minds, we chose a careful strategy taking no risks and, under normal circumstances, Johnny Herbert would have had to pit once more for fuel," explained technical director Ralf J?ttner, "Thanks to the many yellows, however, he made it to the end. Champion was a little bit lucky, but they also did a very good race. The most important thing is that we now go into the final race with a 14-point lead."

Biela admitted that he had not enjoyed the event but, in the light of the numerous incidents that littered its near three-hour duration, was relieved to have made it to the finish.

"I am not totally happy with our race but, from the championship point of view, we had no other choice - we could not afford a retirement," he said, "It was important for us to finish the race, and we managed to do so, making another big step towards the championship. The Champion Team was very strong here but, we had the championship too much on our minds to beat them."

Team-mate Werner took the opposite view, having benefited from being behind the wheel before many of the yellows flew.

"I enjoyed the race, especially the fight with JJ at the beginning," he explained, "In traffic, however, it became too hot for me.

"Champion took very high risks, and it would have been silly making a mistake while trying to match their pace. Of course, we would have preferred scoring another victory, but we did not have to. On the contrary, Champion had nothing to lose - and that's why it was the right decision [for us] to reduce the pace."

 

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