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Porsche Scores Upset Victory Over More Powerful Audi At Road America

October 11, 2007, Elkhart Lake, WI ? The Road America course is built for horsepower, which in theory should favor the powerful Audi R10 TDI Diesel. The Audis run the picturesque four-mile circuit over a second faster than their main rival the Roger Penske led Porsche RS Spyder team. However, that?s why they run the race. For fans at the Generac 500 American LeMans Series race, heat, rain and controversy ruled.

Overcast, Muggy conditions were prevalent at the start of the four-hour race. The #3 Corvette of Jan Magussen started from pit lane due to taking on fuel and the #15 Lowe?s Acura started from the back of the field for a rules infraction.

The green flag waved and the two silver Audi diesels (Allan McNish #1 and Marco Werner #2) jumped into the lead with the yellow Porsches in pursuit. The excitement started off right away when the #73 Porsche GT3 RSR of Dominik Farnbacher and the #54 Porsche GT3 of Terry Borcheller touched and both ended in the turn one kitty litter. Both needed to be pulled out, thus causing a full-course caution. The scrum actually started when the #15 Lowe?s Fernandez Racing Acura of Luis Diaz dived into the turn on the inside trying to make a three-wide pass and touched one of the Porsches.

After a four-lap caution the Audi?s took control and the #15 Acura was issued a stop and go penalty for rough driving.

At the 3:19 to go mark the #45 Porsche GT3 RSR of Johannes van Overbeek went off at turn 14, earlier van Overbeek had made contact with the #62 Ferrari 430 GT at Canada corner (turn 12). The #45 immediately went to the pits for tires and repairs as the #62 Ferrari continued on.

The Porsche team meteorologist proclaimed shortly after the start of the race that rain was 31 minutes away.

While in the lead, Allan McNish (#1 Audi) made an emergency pit stop when he shredded the tire off of the left rear of his car. The carcass of the tire left the car shortly after the ?kink? just before Canada corner. Luckily, McNish had slowed the car and kept control, meanwhile teammate Marco Werner in the #2 Audi took advantage and the lead.

As the skies darkened at the 2:53 left to go mark, the two Audi?s remained in the lead. Several cars started to make regular pit stops, staying on slicks. Both Audi?s diced with each other it was McNish in the #1 Audi who ended up back in the lead.

At the 2:50 left mark, Oliver Gavin in the #4 factory Corvette led in GT1 with Joey Hand in the #22 Panoz Esparante leading GT2 class.

The rains came and it was a heavy rain at roughly the 2:45 left to go mark. A full course caution came out not only for the drivers, but because of lightning, the corner workers were called from their stations to seek shelter. Apparently, there was much discussion between track management and the sanctioning body regarding the length of the caution period.

After a 65-minute caution period the race resumed at the 1:30 left mark. Even though it had stopped raining, the track surface was wet. Most, if not all cars on track were equipped with rain tires. Rooster tails were heavy at several areas of the track. Overall the #1 Audi R10 led with the #6 Porsche Spyder in second ahead of the #2 Audi R10.

It was pit strategy that changed everything, the Penske crew elected to take fuel only with 40 minutes left while the two diesel-powered Audis took fuel and tires in the final hour.

Romain Dumas in the #7 Porsche Spyder spent just under three hours of the four hour race behind the wheel and pitted from the overall lead after passing Emanuele Pirro (who ad taken over from Werner) in the #2 Audi R10 on the cars’ in-laps. He handed the lead to Bernhard as the #7 Porsche Spyder kept the overall lead by beating Pirro out of the pits. Bernhard fell to third as the Audis built on their lead and re-took the lead before the final pit sequence.

Pirro and the #2 Audi R10 pitted first and took fuel and tires with Bernhard coming in for fuel only two minutes later. Shortly thereafter, the #1 Audi R10 with Capello made a stop with 33 minutes remaining, which handed the lead back to Bernhard. Capello?s stop with tires added 17 seconds to stop.

With eight minutes remaining, Capello (#1) passed Audi teammate Emanuelle Pirro for second place. As the two diced for position, leader and eventual winner Timo Bernard in the #7 Porsche was able to build some comfort in his lead. The quicker Capello (#1) was held up for a bit by his teammate, letting the Porsche who runs in the P2 category score an upset victory. The Audi is visibly quicker than the Porsche RS Spyder on the long straights at Road America. With three laps to go Bernard?s lead was only 2.6 seconds, hover with the Audi?s jousting with each other the lead went back to 4 seconds on the white flag lap. With the Audi?s wrestling for position, they failed to win their sixth straight.

Bernard led the final 17 laps to win in P2 as well as taking the overall win. Bernard was a bit surprised by what happened late in the race, “The handling of the car was very good and we had a very good setup for the race. It was safe to drive the car and we could attack. When you overtook offline, the tires didn’t have too much pickup. For us we didn’t think it was necessary to change tires. We were in safe mode. The goal was never to win overall. But at the end it paid off.”

Dumas enjoyed watching the Audi?s squabble, “We were faster in the pit which made a difference, I thought yesterday that there was a small percentage of winning. And at the start I didn’t think there was much more of a chance. The rain helped us a lot. Timo was perfect and when the Audis played together that helped us.”

Capello was surprised that the Porsches did not take on tires on the final pit stop, “When I started on slicks was not so easy because in a few parts the track was still damp,” he added. “With our torque, it’s easy to make a mistake under acceleration. After a couple of laps I felt comfortable and that we could push. I was surprised that when they called me in that the Porsches were so far ahead of us. They didn’t change their tires and that was the only way they had to be so far in front of us.”

Chris McMurray in the #12 Autocon Motorsports Creation-Judd crashed in the kink on the last lap ending up against the inside wall. McMurray escaped injury.

In GT1, Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin won their fourth race comfortably with a one-lap victory over their Corvette Racing teammates Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen. The Beretta-Gavin duo have won seven of eight races this season. Beretta added some drama with a late spin. The Doran Racing Maserati MC12 of Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard finished third in class in their debut.

Jaime Melo and Mika Salo won their first race since the Houston round in the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT. The Ferrari went the final 68 minutes on a single tank of fuel and set of tires to beat Tom Milner, Ralf Kelleners and Graham Rahal?s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR by 1.156 seconds. Melo said it was pit strategy that won it for the Risi team, “I don’t know if we could have done two more laps. I was managing the situation compared with (Kelleners). I did about 27 laps saving fuel. It’s difficult to drive the car very slow and concentrate. It was close but also I think they were doing the same. I couldn’t push harder than I was. One more lap could have made a difference.”

The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Mobil 1 presents Grand Prix of Mosport from Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. The race will start at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 26 and will be broadcast live on SPEED. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA’s Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

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Steve Zautke, a Milwaukee, WI native, was raised in the sport of auto racing. His father, Bill, was a movie photographer that shot racing footage at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1960’s and 1970’s Steve’s first professional job in racing was as an Emergency Medical Technician at tracks such as Angell Park and Hales Corners Speedway (1988-1991). Steve has also worked for the Milwaukee Mile as videographer, in media relations and historian (1993-2011). Steve also has worked as a reporter for Racing Information Systems (RIS) and has written features for ‘Vintage Oval Racing’ and ‘Victory Lane’ magazines. Most recently, Steve has written a book on Road America for Arcadia Publishing. ( http://www.amazon.com/Road-America-Nascar-Library-Collection/dp/1467111457 ) Steve co-hosts “Sparky’s Final Inspection” a motorsports-based radio show with hosts, Steve “Sparky” Fifer and “NASCAR Girl” Summer Santana on Sports Radio 1250AM in Milwaukee and is also available on the internet at www.Sportradio1250.com. A member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee, Steve follows all types of racing from the dirt tracks to Formula One.