Le Mans, June 15, 2003
A “privateer” American motor race team scored a fabulous rostrum result in
the 24 Hours of Le Mans today (SUN). On only Florida-based Champion
Racing’s second appearance in the annual sportscar endurance race,
Emanuele Pirro, JJ Lehto and Stefan Johansson steered their Team ADT
Champion Racing Audi R8 to a fine third place in France.
While two ‘factory’ entered Bentley coupes finished first and second for
Britain in the round-the-clock race, the privateer Champion Racing Audi
outfit from Pompano Beach (FL) netted a magnificent result for America.
The American Le Mans Series front-runners started the race at 4pm on
Saturday afternoon (local), sixth on the 49-car grid. Pirro, chasing a fourth
consecutive Le Mans triumph, together with Lehto and Johansson, also
previous Le Mans victors, were in contention for honors throughout.
A puncture after two hours required an unscheduled pit-stop while a battery
change, a spin in to a gravel trap this morning (SUN) and a further battery
change with a little over an hour remaining, were the only other time-
consuming moments for the ADT sponsored Audi.
The Champion Audi was the highest-placed finisher of three “customer”
2002-spec R8s that started the 71st 24 Hours of Le Mans - earning Pirro
and the German car manufacturer a fifth consecutive Le Mans rostrum
finish. Although running in 2002-specification, all three Audis were 60hp
down on power compared to last year’s Le Mans race dominating “factory”
R8s due to organizer imposed rule changes regarding the air restrictor size.
Team ADT Champion Racing, having finished second in the opening 2003
ALMS race at Sebring in March, resumes its title challenge in Atlanta on 29
June with Britain’s Johnny Herbert and Lehto at the wheel.
“It’s an amazing feeling for me to be on the winners’ rostrum for a fifth
consecutive year here at Le Mans. We did the best job possible in the
circumstances and for a privateer team to climb on to the podium here is an
“It turned out to be a 24 hour sprint race, we chased the Bentleys but they
had no problems. I spun on oil on Sunday morning. The nose of the Audi
went into the gravel and bounced into the tire barriers but thankfully it
caused no damage. “
“I was cautious in my opening stint, and did not have the most ideal tire on
my night stint but thoroughly enjoyed my last drive. Dave Maraj’s team did
everything humanly possibly – they were incredibly well-prepared.”
Brad Kettler, Champion Racing’s Technical Director
“My crew did a fantastic job, each and every one of them. It was a little tense
in the closing stages with some starter issues which required us to change
the battery but apart from the that, our Audi ran like clockwork.”
Dave Maraj, Champion Racing’s Team Owner
“I am so proud of my team. We experienced some minor problems but
conquered them and ran a perfect strategy. We may not have been the
outright race winners but my ‘private’ team ran the best-placed Audi.”
Rod Bymaster, Audi Sport North America’s Motorsport Manager
“An all-round stellar job - Dave’s team gave a perfect performance and
could have done no better. The Bentleys were just too strong.“