Once Again It’s Audi At The Petit

The build up to the Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6 lived to its billing as Audi was succesful in defending the onslaught of the Peugeot team. Peugeot came to the U.S. for one thing, defeat Audi. It was going to be difficult for Peugeot with one car and then wrecking that car last week, Sunday with Pedro Lamy behind the wheel made it that much tougher. In all the practice sessions both were very close. It was going to be a 10-hour sprint race.

The biggest problem I could see was that the traffic was going to play a big part in the outcome. However, one with big championship implication turned out to be a solo crash. Highcroft Racing’s shunt in their Acura ARX-01b with Scott Sharp was a big blow for their title shot. They had to rebuild the car from the ground up after he went off in turn one.

The Penske Porsche team brought three cars for the Petit along with IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe piloting the third car. The big talk this weekend was Castroneves going to have to appear in Federal Court Friday to face charges of tax evasion. Due to his passport being revoked, he’ll not be able to race in the non-points IndyCar race in Australia. Image if that race was paying points?

There is also a peristant rumor that Team Penske is not returning to ALMS Series. No one is talking, but the scuttlebutt is that Team Penske could be looking at the Grand-AM Series. NASCAR is looking for more teams to support it and Penske has the ability to.

I spoke with Audi drivers and newly crowned champions Lucas Luhr and Marco Werner who both were confident Audi was up to the challenge. They felt traffic was going to play a factor in the outcome and Lucas said we feel having 2 cars we will have an advantage.

This was Christian Klien’s first time to the track and he learned the track via his X-Box 360. He said it was a lot harder then the game, the elevation change was really tricky and the traffic was diffacult.

The race did not start off well for Audi driver, Allan McNish when he crashed on the grid formation lap. The team got him out two behind the field and after a 2 hour and 45 minute stint he got them on the lead lap. From then on, they basically ran down the Peugeot and along with co-divers, Dindo Capello and Emanuele Pirro ran away at the end for the impressive win in P1 and the hat trick. McNish finished 4.512 seconds ahead of the Peugeot of Klien and the Peugeot 908

“This race belongs to the team,” McNish said. “To get 16-17 people from both crews on that and get it repaired when I thought we were out, they did something I didn’t think was possible. No one in our team does the work to finish second. There’s no question in my mind that when we got in the position at the end that I was going to do everything I could do to win this race. If it took us to the top step, then it was just desserts for the team.

“I got a run on Christian out of Turn 5 and he got caught up in traffic,” McNish said of the winning pass. “You get one opportunity to overtake and you have to take it. I was able to dive in at seven and he couldn’t get a clean line to pass me on the straight.”

For the P2 class it was all Team Penske as they finsihed 1-2-3 with IndyCar drivers Castroneves and Briscoe taking the win. It was Helio’s first win at the Petit and he is the first Indy 500 winner to win this event. “I have to thank Roger and Tim for letting me be in the car,” said Castroneves, who won in his second Series start. “These guys did an incredible job. Timo and Romain did a great job, and Ryan was awesome. This is a very challenging track and very difficult. It turned out to be a great race for all three cars.”

GT1 saw the Corvette team of Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and ageless Ron Fellows win by six laps. “It’s a very special win because we won the championship,” said Magnussen, who won his first title. “The race today was hard between the two cars. We were pushing hard on the track and in the pits and everywhere. In the first half of the race we had to push like crazy to stay ahead of the No. 4 car. It was difficult in the daytime and in the nighttime.”

In GT2, Jamie Melo and Mika Salo who also won their class at the 24 Hours of LeMans won another jewel by winning Petit, The Risi Ferrari F430 GT fought a hard battle against Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Joerg Bergmeister and his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. It was Joerg’s third championship.

It was really hard,” Melo said of the race. “To win Le Mans and Petit Le Mans is great for the whole team. It was a very difficult race. We had to move to the back of the field at one point and we had to push hard to get back on top. The car was working very well and comfortable to drive. It made it easier for us to do it.”

Saw Nigel Mansell at Road Atlanta, Mansell has been at most of the Toyota Atlantic Champsionship races as his two son’s are driving. Nigel did hace a test earlier this year could be in a car next year. He really likes the racing in the ALMS and the World Champion would be great addition to the field.

Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6
Road Atlanta, Braselton, Ga.
Saturday’s results
1. (2) Allan McNish, Scotland; Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Emanuele Pirro, Italy; Audi AG R10/TDI (1, P1), 394.
2. (1) Nicolas Minassian, France; Stephane Sarrazin, France; Christian Klien, Austria; Peugeot 908 (2, P1), 394.
3. (3) Marco Werner, Germany; Lucas Luhr, Germany; Audi AG R10/TDI (3, P1), 394.
4. (4) Ryan Briscoe, Australia; Helio Castroneves, Brazil; Porsche RS Spyder (1, P2), 394.
5. (5) Timo Bernhard, Germany; Romain Dumas, France; Porsche RS Spyder (2, P2), 394.
6. (6) Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Sascha Maassen, Germany; Emmanuel Collard, France; Porsche RS Spyder (3, P2), 392.
7. (14) Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Andy Lally, New York, NY; Marino Franchitti, Scotland; Porsche RS Spyder (4, P2), 391.
8. (8) Gil de Ferran, Brazil; Scott Dixon, New Zealand; Simon Pagenaud, France; Acura ARX-01B (5, P2), 388.
9. (13) Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, England; Porsche RS Spyder (6, P2), 384.
10. (20) Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Ron Fellows, Canada; Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Corvette C6.R (1, GT1), 365.
11. (21) Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Max Papis, Italy; Oliver Gavin, England; Corvette C6.R (2, GT1), 359.
12. (22) Jaime Melo, Brazil; Mika Salo, Finland; Ferrari F430 GT (1, GT2), 358.
13. (25) Joerg Bergmeister, Germany; Marc Lieb, Germany; Wolf Henzler, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (2, GT2), 358.
14. (9) Danny Watts, UK; Olivier Pla, France; Ginetta Zytek 07S (4, P1), 355.
15. (24) Dirk Mueller, Germany; Dominik Farnbacher, Germany; Ferrari F430 GT (3, GT2), 355.
16. (7) Tony Kanaan, Brazil; Franck Montagny, Brignoles France; Marco Andretti, Nazareth, PA; Acura ARX-01B (7, P2), 347.
17. (27) Nic Jonsson, Sweden; Tracy Krohn, Houston, TX; Eric van de Poele, Belgium; Ferrari F430 GT (4, GT2), 346.
18. (26) Pierre Kaffer, Germany; Ben Aucott, England; Stephane Daoudi, France; Ferrari 430 GT (5, GT2), 344.
19. (35) Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Lonnie Pechnik, Pacific Grove, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (6, GT2), 339.
20. (36) Alex Figge, Hollywood, CA; Pierre Ehret, Santa Rosa, CA; Jim Tafel, Alpharetta, GA; Ferrari F430 GT (7, GT2), 331.
21. (38) Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Patrick Pilet, France; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (8, GT2), 311.
22. (29) Jonny Cocker, UK; Darren Turner, England; Paul Drayson, London, UK; Aston Martin Vantage (9, GT2), 294, Mechanical.
23. (33) Nicky Pastorelli, Netherlands; Francisco Pastorelli, Netherlands; Marc Basseng, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (10, GT2), 291.
24. (32) Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, GA; Andy Pilgrim, Del Ray Beach, FL; Tim Pappas, Boston, MA; Doran Ford GT-R (11, GT2), 291.
25. (30) Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Andreas Wirth, Germany; Panoz Esperante Ford (12, GT2), 282.
26. (11) Luis Diaz, Mexico; Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Michel Jourdain, Mexico; Acura ARX-01B (8, P2), 281, Contact.
27. (34) Joel Feinberg, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Chris Hall, Daytona, FL; Dodge Viper Comp Coupe (13, GT2), 280.
28. (23) Dirk Werner, Germany; Bryce Miller, Hoboken, NJ; Joerg Hardt, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (14, GT2), 277, Drive shaft.
29. (31) David Murry, Cumming, GA; Andrea Robertson, Ray, MI; David Robertson, Ray, MI; Doran Ford GT-R (15, GT2), 263, Engine.
30. (18) Ryan Lewis, UK; Luke Hines, England; Georges Forgeois, New York, NY; Lola B07-17 Judd (5, P1), 237, Accident.
31. (10) Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Richard Berry, Evergreen, CO; Lola B06/10 AER (6, P1), 160.
32. (16) Stephen Simpson, South Africa; Jamie Campbell-Walter, England; Harold Primat, Switzerland; Creation CA 07 AIM (7, P1), 138.
33. (37) Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Tony Burgess, Canada; Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; Lola B06-10 AER (8, P1), 122, Accident.
34. (19) Stuart Hall, England; Dean Stirling, England; Liz Halliday, Rancho Santa Fe, CA; Creation CA 07 AIM (9, P1), 113.
35. (17) Johnny Mowlem, England; Gunnar Jeannette, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Stefan Johansson, Sweden; Zytek 07S (10, P1), 73, Accident.
36. (28) Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, CA; Marc Goosens, Belgium; Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, TX; Chevrolet Riley Corvette C6 (16, GT2), 37, Mechanical.
37. (12) Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; David Brabham, Australia; Dario Franchitti, Scotland; Acura ARX-01B (9, P2), 16, Mechanical.
38. (15) Ben Devlin, England; Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, FL; Lola B07 46 Mazda (10, P2), 0, DNS.

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