Audi bids for glory on both sides of the Atlantic on Sunday (5 Aug) when the German manufacturer contests races in North America and the Czech Republic. Britain’s Johnny Herbert and Andy Wallace bid for glory in the latest round of the American Le Mans Series at Portland in Oregon while the British-based Johansson Motorsports Audi team compete at Most near Prague for a European Le Mans Series encounter.
Monaco-based Essex ace Herbert (37) and Oxford’s Wallace (40) will be looking to end the winning streak of "factory" Audi driver Rinaldo Capello (37), of Italy, who has won all five ALMS point-scoring races staged to date earning him a six-point lead over Danish co-driver Tom Kristensen (34). Their Sears Point victory earned Audi a record 13th consecutive ALMS victory.
"I’ll be looking to take the fight to the ‘works’ Audis at Portland," confirmed Herbert who finished fourth on his ALMS début at Sears (22 Jul). "It is always going to be a difficult proposition to beat them because not only do they have the best car in the R8, and now featuring the very latest 2001 modifications, but the two cars are run by the Joest team who are legendary in sportscar racing.
"But Andy and I will be pushing really hard especially after our bad luck at Sears. The Champion guys are all so enthusiastic and dedicated and it would be good to reward them with a rostrum finish.
"I believe that with every ALMS race, the Champion Audi will get stronger. I will personally be getting more familiar with the R8, driving with Andy and with the Champion team itself so I firmly believe we’ll be a threat to the Joest team for the remainder of the year - we’re not going to make it easy for them!"
Co-driver Wallace lies fifth in the Drivers’ standings, a title won by Allan McNish last year, having also scored points at Texas and Sebring for the Florida-based "customer" Audi Champion Racing team. Andy remarked: "Although I’ve spent recent years racing in the States, I’ve only previously driven at Portland on one occasion. Johnny and I were robbed of third place at Sears and so we’ll both be up for it at Portland.
"The improved aerodynamics will be a big benefit for the Infineon R8s at Portland not to mention the new direct fuel system (FSI) in terms of performance and economy but we have a very good car in the 2000-spec R8 so we’ll be challenging I’m sure."
Meanwhile Stefan Johansson will be looking to score his maiden European Le Mans Series win courtesy of a change of luck. Having finished fourth on the Gulf Audi’s début at Sebring five months ago and then third at the joint ALMS/ELMS Donington event, the Sussex-based team has been dealt cruel fortune in their last three races.
At Jarama in May, Johansson led the "factory" Audis only for a small stone to lodge itself in the brake calliper causing Johansson to spin off although he eventually recovered after a pit stop to finish fourth. In the Le Mans 24 Hour race the following month, a rare electrical problem caused the car’s retirement. Then in its last race at Estoril in Portugal, the leading Gulf Audi was punted into a spectacular accident when lapping the second-placed car with just 30 minutes remaining in the six-hour race.
"We’ve had lots of luck this year and its all been bad," confirmed Johansson (44) who has never previously raced at Most. "There was substantial damage and carnage to the Audi at Estoril with major suspension and bodywork damage. Hopefully our luck will change for our final ELMS race before we head for the ALMS event at Laguna Seca in early September which will cause us to miss the final ELMS race although it looks like we’ll win the ELMS title anyway."Published 31 July 2001