JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert may have won the Petit Le Mans marathon at the weekend, but it wasn't enough for the Finn to prevent the rival Joest squad from snatching the title.

Lehto knew that nothing less than a win would do at Road Atlanta, but he was also relying on the Infineon-backed R8 retiring before 70 per cent of the race distance had been covered, as Frank Biela and Marco Werner needed only to be classified in sixth place to claim the title - and only six cars had entered the LMP900 class...

Driving the ADT Champion Racing Audi, Lehto and Herbert grabbed the lead on lap one, and stayed there throughout, as those around them hit trouble. The Joest car suffered two spins and a battery change, but managed to survive to the end of the race, claiming third place overall and, with it, the ALMS title.

"I needed to win this race to stand any hope of snatching the title," Lehto said afterwards, "We gave it our best shot and Johnny and I achieved the necessary race victory but, in terms of the championship, it wasn't quite enough."

The event was not quite as straightforward for the Champion crew as the margin of eight laps may have suggested, however, with both drivers running into niggling problems during the near ten-hour race distance.

"We had to change a battery during my second stint when the car refused to fire-up, and I had to pit again moments later when the crew noticed the nose had
worked lose," Lehto reported.

"The nose section was changed during my first stint as a precaution because the brake cooling louvres were becoming damaged due to tyre pick-up," Herbert added, "At the end of my second stint, there was a massive hole in the bodywork where the louvre had totally disintegrated again and torn away much of the bodywork over the wheel."

With the Joest Audi spinning on the very lap it need to complete to confirm the title, and the lead Panoz entry not having the pace to live with the Champion car, Herbert admitted that the end of the race was easier than the start.

"I was able to relax and take no risks whatsoever during my second stint - there was no pressure," the Briton revealed, "From a personal point of view, having missed out on victory at Sebring and at Le Mans, to win Petit is very satisfying.

"I'm delighted for Dave Maraj, whose team has shown this year that it can not only match but now regularly beat the hugely respected and successful Joest Audi team."

 

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