The Italian travels to the final race leading the series, and of the four Audi
works drivers, Pirro has the best chance of securing the ALMS drivers`
title. If Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen were to win, with Pirro in
second, it would still be enough for him to take the championship.
Nevertheless, on the eve of the season final, the Italian remains relaxed:
“Of course I´d love to win the ALMS title, especially after winning Le Mans.
But I´m totally happy with my season to now, so it wouldn´t be a
catastrophe if things didn´t work out.“
Whereas three drivers shared the cockpit of each R8 in “Petit Le Mans“
last year, this year Audi Sport North America has put two drivers per car.
“Okay, ten hours is hard work, but it´s still good to stick with the usual
driver pairings,“ believes Frank Biela, who as usual shares the cockpit of
the number 2 Infineon Audi R8 with Emanuele Pirro. Due to the complex
ALMS points system, that grants extra points and allows the exclusion of
the worst result, the German´s chances at the title are purely theoretical.
Whatever the case, in order to have a shot at the title, Rinaldo Capello
and Tom Kristensen in their Infineon Audi R8 with starting number 1
must finish in the top three. “We´ve not given up yet. We´re still going for
the championship,“ says Rinaldo Capello, who won the Road Atlanta
round last year. “Ten hours is very long, anything can happen – even in
the fight for the drivers` title,“ adds Tom Kristensen. “After experiencing
bad luck in the last races it´s now our turn to win.“
Aside from Panoz and Cadillac, the Audi works drivers also face strong
opposition from both Audi customer teams Champion and Johansson.
Unlike the works team, the Champion outfit tested in Road Atlanta last
weekend and in this way possibly gained a slight advantage over its
rivals. “We could have won in Mosport and Laguna Seca,“ believes Andy
Wallace, with his team mate Johnny Herbert adding: “I reckon we can
manage a place on the podium. But the works team will be difficult to
beat particularly because their direct injection system gives them an
advantage over the longer distance.“
Whilst Audi´s customer squads contest the ALMS with a 2000-spec
engine, the Audi Sport North America team brought a V8 twin-turbo
power unit with the new FSI technology to the series mid-season. Not
only does the new technology provide a better throttle response, but
most importantly it lowers fuel consumption.
Stefan Johansson and Patrick Lemarié are also aware of the advantage
held by both Infineon Audi R8 cars, but are nevertheless optimistic: “I´ve
never had much luck in Road Atlanta, but that won´t stop us from trying to
beat the works team,“ says Johansson. “We´ve shown that we can
match the pace of the works team and the Panoz more than once,“
declares Lemarié. “I´m expecting a good result.“