You are here: Home / @The Apex / Racing / American Le Mans / Audi, Diesel Power Complete Perfect Season

Audi, Diesel Power Complete Perfect Season

Monterey, Calif. - The end of the 2006 American Le Mans Series was about as ideal for Audi as possible. The German marque completed a perfect season Saturday night with a victory in the Monterey Sports Car Championships from Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, their eighth win of the season and the feather in their championship hat.

Diesel power also finished the season unbeaten as the Audi R10 TDI completed its first season of competition 7-0 in the American Le Mans Series, plus a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Saturday's may have been the most challenging though as the Audis withstood a charge from LMP1s of Dyson Racing, Creation and Zytek, along with Porsche and Penske Racing from LMP2. But in the end Audi finished 1-2 with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro coming across the line second.

McNish drove the final 1:17 on the same tires and tank of fuel as Audi displayed the fuel economy of diesel, one of the reasons Audi undertook the landmark program.

"There is no way we could have made that number of laps without the diesel," McNish boasted. "The team gave me all the info I required in terms of distances required to make sure we could get to the end. I'll tell you it was right at the limit."

There was no room for error through the first three hours as the final drive to the finish saw the top six cars on the lead lap. But as the sun went down, Audi's fortunes rose. Spins and late stops by their pursuers widened the gap toward the end.

McNish and Capello clinched the drivers championship at Mosport – the second title for McNish and first for Capello. The R10's performance also completed a chapter in the technological development and products that are commonplace in the Series.

"The first championship I won with Audi was in 1996, which was 10 years ago," Capello said, "and to be here with the R10 is something again for me. I'm 42; it means in the last 10 years I haven't lost my performance."

Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas took victory in LMP2 on Saturday as Luhr and Sascha Maassen shared the drivers championship. "You always have to look forward," said Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Motorsport. "We have some ideas to improve the car and we will try to do our homework over the winter to try to make it even more efficient. This is our target."

The No. 88 Creation-Judd of Harold Primat and Nic Minassian finished third.

In LMP2, Penske Racing's Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr finished the season as they started it – together. Luhr and Romain Dumas piloted their Porsche RS Spyder to a class win Saturday. It was enough to elevate Luhr into a championship tie with Maassen, who finished second with Timo Bernhard in the other RS Spyder.

Luhr gave McNish his toughest challenge late in the race as he stayed within a half second of the Scot. But Luhr got a tad over-aggressive coming out of the final turn and looped the car around on the track. He only lost one position, but Luhr said it did change his mindset.

"First of all, I definitely pushed too much and that's what you get; if you go over your limits you spin," he said. "Luckily I was able to get restarted again. I had a close fight with McNish. He was a little bit quicker than me. I really enjoyed that race. After that spin, you better think about the championship and not about teasing some P1 car. Focus and try too come home with the championship. It was a good year for me all year long and successful end of season."

Liz Halliday, Jon Field and defending class champion Clint Field of Intersport Racing finished third Saturday in their AER-powered Lola.

Maassen and Luhr spent the first six races of the season together before the team split them to give Penske and Porsche the best possible chance for a championship. It obviously worked as the RS Spyders finished 1-2 in the last four Series events. They combined to lead overall for 35 laps Saturday.

"Our perspective was to be safe and be sure we finished," Maassen said. "We wanted to make sure Porsche would have at least one driver champion. Our strategy was thought out well. Even if you plan so many things, sometimes they don't work.

"The plan to finish when we were separated was not Roger (Penske's) plan; it was our plan," Maassen added. "He's a racer and the thing is he sees chances to win overall. Even with smaller car he tries everything. I saw Lucas pushing really hard but I was concerned that something big would happen. It was great to see. I hope we can do something similar next year."

In GT1, Stephane Sarrazin held off the Corvettes of Johnny O'Connell and Olivier Beretta for an Aston Martin Racing victory in the No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 he shared with Pedro Lamy. It was another classic race that saw close racing throughout the four hours. All four cars led at one point.

"It was a difficult race," said Sarrazin, who drove the final stint. "The first hour was very fast, and at the end I was in a bit of trouble in traffic. The last 30 minutes was door-to-door. It was really exciting and a great finish."

Lamy and Sarrazin finished 4.5 seconds ahead of Beretta and Oliver Gavin, who wrapped up their second straight class drivers championship by completing 70 percent of the race. Their result also secured the team championship for Corvette Racing and the manufacturers crown for Corvette. It also gave Michelin the class tire title over Pirelli.

Aston Martin had been running 1-2 up until the 3:15 mark when Tomas Enge had to pit with a flat tire and take on fuel in the No. 007 Aston Martin. That was the opening Corvette needed for its sixth straight championship.

"It was a tough season with a lot of ups and downs," Gavin said. "It's fantastic that this team has come through all of those hurdles. The race was hard, and you never really knew where you were. The strategy for all four cars seemed to be different. It was always entertaining. Olivier drove fantastically. Time just ran out because it would have been great to see Olivier chase down Stephane."

Risi Competizione captured the GT2 win and the team championship Saturday in the Monterey Sports Car Championships. In GT2 Risi Competizione's Mika Salo and Stephane Ortelli won the race but Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing's Jorg Bergmeister walked away with the class championship as the Risi Ferrari got past the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche with 10 minutes remaining. The Ferrari definitely was the class of the field as it overcame a 15-second penalty and Bergmeister winning a race out of pit lane at the 2:43 mark.

"The car was just great. There were no problems at all," Salo said. "The stop-and-go penalty was tough. But we still got past them. After 60 laps, we were still doing the same times we were in qualifying. It was unbelievable."

It marked the end of a back-and-forth battle that seemed to last all race. In the end Salo, Ortelli and Bergmeister all did enough to reach their goals. Bergmeister secured the championship when the Flying Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Wolf Henzler suffered a broken radiator early that knocked them out of contention and ended van Overbeek's title hopes.

"Nobody told me. I was amazed when I found out during the driver change," Bergmeister said. "We had some tough moments this season, and they'll have another chance at the championship.

Maybe I should retire! I've won championships, got married, had a child. It's been a perfect year."

Bergmeister and Patrick Long won three times this season including two of the last four rounds to push the German back into championship contention. Although Long didn't share the championship with Bergmeister (he drove for Penske Racing at Sebring), he still acknowledged the fact that the entire team faced pressure to help Bergmeister to the crown.

"Something about driving for Petersen/White Lightning and with Jorg was that there was never any question about the goal," Long said. "It was to win races and win championships. It's always compromising when you have a championship at stake for another driver. I had to drive the car the best I could. It feels great, and congratulations to Jorg."

Mike Rockenfeller and Marcel Tiemann finished third in the race for Alex Job Racing and its Porsche.