SEBRING, Fla. -- Team Veloqx's Frank Biela, Allan McNish and
Pierre Kaffer drove to victory Saturday night in the 12 Hours of
Sebring, giving Audi its fifth straight victory in the event.
Biela handed over to Kaffer with a little more than 90 minutes
left in the race and Kaffer went on to win by five laps.
Audi tied Porsche for the most consecutive wins by a
manufacturer. Audi has dominated the American Le Mans Series,
winning four drivers and manufacturer titles in five years.
The win also is Biela's third, tying him with Mario Andretti,
Phil Hill, Hans Stuck and Olivier Gendebien.
Kaffer held a 5.7-second advantage over Guy Smith at the halfway
point, even though Kaffer was forced to pit and repair minor body
damage after a tire-rubbing incident between his LMP 1-class Audi
and a GT class Porsche.
The Veloqx team needed only 20 seconds to replace the entire
rear-body work on Kaffer's car, but the delay was enough to allow
Smith to take a short-lived lead. Kaffer needed only a few laps to
close the gap and overtake Smith for the top spot overall.
The pole-starting Audi of the ADT-Champion team ran into trouble
early in the race when defending series and race champion Marco
Werner guessed wrong when trying to overtake two backmarker GT
``One overtook the other and I followed the first one, and then
the other came from the outside and hit me from the rear,'' said
Werner, who was driving with a broken finger and two torn tendons
in his left hand.
Werner was the beneficiary last season driving for Team Joest
when ADT-Champion driver Emanuele Pirro developed cramps an hour
from the finish and had to pit, handing the race to Werner and
This year, the contact with the Porsches put Werner behind the
wall for extensive repairs, which gave Biela and the Veloqx Audi
too much of a cushion.
Not that Werner, Pirro and JJ Lehto, who put the ADT-Champion
Audi on the pole, didn't try.
Lehto even got into some NASCAR-style bumping and rubbing with
McNish when the two were fighting for position through one of the
17 turns on the 3.7-mile circuit. McNish relented, and Lehto got a
lap back, but it was not enough.
In the other classes, Johnny O'Connell and teammates Ron Fellows
and Max Papis continued Corvette's dominance in GTS and finished
fourth overall. The win makes O'Connell the first driver to have
six class wins at Sebring.
Sascha Maassen teamed with Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard
for the class win in GT and finished eighth overall.
John Macaluso and teammates Ian James and Mike Borkowski
finished 23rd overall and survived to win the LMP 2 class, which
saw four of its seven entries fail to finish.
In all, 13 of the 44 entries dropped out.