San Fransisco, July 14, 2001
Six weeks after the convincing double victory for Audi at the Le Mans
24 Hour race, the Team Audi Sport North America now faces its
next challenge in America: With the "Grand Prix of Sonoma" in
California´s Sears Point on 22 July 2001, the American Le Mans
Series (ALMS) enters a hot phase. Seven rounds in three months –
all in North America – are left on the calendar before the 2001
ALMS champion can be confirmed at the end of October.
The Audi team sets off on the long trip to California with good
memories. "It was exactly one year ago in Sears Point that our
winning streak began with the R8," explains team director Reinhold
Joest. Since then, Audi has secured 13 consecutive wins with the
successful racing sportscar. "Of course we are keen to continue
this impressive run of successes," says Head of Audi Sport Dr
Wolfgang Ullrich. "But, Panoz will be putting the pressure on
because they are again racing with their proven car. I am also
curious how the modified Cadillac will perform on the short circuit."
The Team Audi Sport North America starts in Sears Point with both
the Infineon Audi R8 vehicles that contested the Le Mans race.
Despite having covered a distance of more than 2,500 miles, both
Le Mans engines will be used again. "Because of the rain the
distance covered in Le Mans was significantly less than we had
anticipated," explains Dr Ullrich. "We have checked the engines
and everything is in top order."
The direct fuel injection (FSI), which proved its worth with the
double win in Le Mans, will now also be used in the US races. For
a race like in Sears Point with a duration of only 2:45 hours the
reduction of fuel consumption through this new Audi technology is
not as decisive as for a long distance race. Still, it allows the team
a more flexible pit strategy.
From the Sears Point race on, both Infineon Audi R8 cars will also
compete in the ALMS with the new aerodynamics that were first
used successfully in Le Mans. “On the track at Sears Point you
need mainly downforce,“ says Head of Audi Sport Dr Ullrich. “Above
all, with our new aerodynamics we improved the drag coefficient
without affecting the downforce.“
The Audi drivers unanimously describe the 2.52 mile circuit
situated near San Francisco as challenging and very interesting.
ALMS points´ leader Rinaldo Capello says: “Sears Point is without
doubt one of the most difficult tracks of the season.“ The Italian has
already won four rounds this year and in 2000 climbed to the top of
the podium in Sears Point. “That was my first success with the R8
and the beginning of our winning streak last year. I hope it works
again this time.“
Capello shares the cockpit of the number one Infineon Audi R8 with
Tom Kristensen, who competes for the first time in Sears Point.
“Most of the circuits this year are new territory for me,“ says the
Dane. “But by now that hasn´t been a problem.“
The number two Infineon Audi R8 is piloted by Frank Biela and
Emanuele Pirro. “After our Le Mans win we now need a victory in
the American Le Mans Series, otherwise the fight for the title is
going to be really tough for Emanuele and me,“ declares Frank
Biela. “We´ve had enough of second place...“
“Last year things didn´t go at all well for us in Sears Point, because
we hadn´t found the right set-up,“ recalls Emanuele Pirro. “Still, I
like the circuit, even though it´s not without danger.“
For the Audi Sport North America squad, tough competition comes
not only from Panoz and Cadillac, but also from the own customer
outfit, Champion Racing. Ex F1 driver Johnny Herbert shares the
cockpit of the 2000-spec Audi R8 with Andy Wallace.