It doesn’t matter if it’s the R8 or R10 TDI. It seems like Audi always finds a way to win in the American Le Mans Series. Friday night’s Lone Star Grand Prix was another example as Alan McNish and Dindo Capello won for the second time this season.
The R8 survived the attrition that claimed its closest competitors to send Allan McNish and Dindo Capello to their second straight victory. After winning in the debut of the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI at Sebring, McNish and Capello completed 143 laps on the 1.69-mile, nine-turn street course at Reliant Park.
“I was surprised how good the car really was in the race,” Capello said. “We could keep pace right behind the Porsche. We have no traction control and were very heavy out of the corners. Now we are in 2006 and this car should not have been as competitive as it was today.”
The rough surface, common for street races, played havoc on Dyson Racing’s two Lolas and Penske Racing’s two Porsche RS Spyders. But the Audi remained steady throughout the two-hour, 45-minute race.
It appeared the race would come down to pit stops between the Audi and the two Porsches. It didn’t come down to that, however, as the reliability of the R8 won out in the end as the Penske cars suffered drivetrain problems late. As a result, the Audi R8 now has won 48 times in the Series since debuting in 2000.
“There were two things that happened today; one, the car got better as the race went on and the grip got better, and two, the team did a great strategy,” McNish said. “I didn’t think it was a great idea when I got in, but as I saw it go on I realized it was spot on. We knew that we pitted in the window with full knowledge that the Porsche would have to pit and we could leap frog in the pits.”
In LMP2, Clint Field nursed the Intersport Racing Lola over the final 20 minutes to claim his second straight win with Liz Halliday. As the Penske Porsches went by the wayside within the last 30 minutes, Field kept the car under power to win for the 14th time in his career. Halliday picked up her fifth career Series win, which ties her with Milka Duno for the most victories by a female driver in the American Le Mans Series.
“(Late in the race) I came down the straight and it made a wicked noise and I lost power but I knew what the problem was because we had the same problem earlier in the week,” Field said. “Then I passed the yellow Porsche and I thought this is too good to be true. We came in and they safety tied it back together and it held.”
Alex Job Racing won a terrific GT2 battle as Mike Rockenfeller and Klaus Graf earned a hard-fought victory in what is becoming the class to watch in the Series. Coming from the back of the field, Rockenfeller and Graf posted a one-lap win in their No. 23 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. It was the first victory in the Series for each and the 37th in the Series for Job (50th overall).
Rockenfeller had to start from the back after Graf flat-spotted the tires after a spin in qualifying. A solid, consistent run was more than enough for the two Germans to make up time.
“We knew after qualifying that we had a pretty good car,” Rockenfeller said. “I could push from the beginning and I tried to stay calm. I didn’t want to push. Getting points after a tough race at Sebring was good.”
Rockenfeller and Graf made just one stop on the night, as did the second-place No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek, the new class points leader, and Wolf Henzler. Risi Competizione’s No. 62 Ferrari F430GT was third in its hometown race.
“The Alex Job Racing Porsche was as good as you can make it,” Graf said. “Our car really worked well. The Michelin tires were fantastic, and we just had to maintain our lead.”