Audi Takes 1-2 At Laguna Seca Season Finale~ many thanks to Scott Jones of Turn2photography for representing Formula 1 blog.com at the race and providing these stunning images and words.
Having already clinched the ALMS driversâ€™ championship, Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr won the final race of the 2008 season. Werner took the lead from teammate Emanuele Pirro on a restart only 26 minutes from the end of the four-hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Luhr and Werner led twice for a total of 31 laps on the way to their sixth overall victory and eighth LMP1 win this season.
The event began with the Patron Acura of David Brabham and Scott Sharp on pole, but the yellow flags started almost immediately in a race that saw twelve caution periods. Though the winding Monterey course favored the lighter, nimbler LMP2 cars as far as lap times, the frequent full course yellows allowed the Audis to use their superior torque to make up places on the courseâ€™s one long section. The R-10s had such an advantage on the straight that they were sometimes able to pass four or five cars on a restart, then defend their positions through the rest of the course.
Several drivers complained about the track conditions, and how cars cutting the corners through a lot of dirt and gravel on the pavement, which made grip suddenly disappear and collisions all too frequent. Many cars were caught out by these conditions, and in addition to the full course yellows, the race saw many cars spin, then rejoin the race under their own power. The pit lane was a busy place as teams worked to repair damaged and missing body parts.
Half of the four-hour race was run under caution, and the slow pace helped the heavier Audis battle against the LMP2 Acuras and Porsches. The R10s qualified a distant ninth and tenth on the grid, over a second behind Brabham in the Patron Acura, but were able to adapt to the conditions and come out on top.
As the sun set, the battle in LMP2 raged on for the manufacturerâ€™s title as the Porsches and Acuras traded positions. The driversâ€™ championship had already been won by Penske Porsche drivers Timo Bernhard and Roland Dumas.
The LMP2 race was won by the Andretti Green Acura, driven by Tony Kanaan and Franck Montagny. The De Ferran Acura driven by Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud took second. But Acura was unable to claim all three podium positions, which it needed to beat Porsche for the title. Dumas and Bernhard took third to clinch championship for Porsche by one point.
In the lonely GT1 class, the #4 Corvette, driven by Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta beat teammates Johnny Oâ€™Connell and Jan Magnussen. The team was optimistic about more competition next season, when Corvette Racing will compete first in GT1 until Le Mans, then in GT2 for the remainder of the ALMS season. Team Manager Doug Fehan said he expects the GT2 Corvettes to enter the class by Mid-Ohio, then compete in GT2 for the entire 2010 season.
The GT2 race was won by Tafel Racingâ€™s Domink Farnbacher and Dirk Muller, who brought their Ferrari home ahead of the Risi Competizione F430 and both Flying Lizard Porches for the fourth time this season. Farnbacher and Muller finished second in the class driversâ€™ competition behind Flying Lizard Motorsportsâ€™ Jorg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler, who finished ninth on the day after extensive repairs in the pits required by an early incident.
The GT2 pole-sitting 911 of Dirk Werner and Bryce Miller finished on the podium, but was disqualified during tech inspection when the car was found to be too low. According to the Farnbacher Loles team, the carâ€™s right front spring perch had loosened during the race and dropped that section of the car to below the minimum clearance. It was a disappointing development for the rookie GT2 team that had brought new competition to the GT2 class.
The 1-2 finish was a fitting end to the 2008 season for Audi. The 2009 ALMS season will begin at Sebring on March 21 and culminate, once again, at Laguna Seca on October 10. Considering this seasonâ€™s fantastic battles between Acura and Porsche, between LMP1 and LMP2 cars, and the new competition in GT2, 2009 should see some fantastic racing at some of the country premiere venues.