Miami, March 6, 2003
Team ADT Champion Racing has an added incentive for winning the
opening round of the American Le Mans Series at Sebring on Saturday (15
March). Champion Racing, of Pompano Beach, began its motorsport
activities at the 3.77-mile Florida track almost 10 years ago and a maiden
ALMS victory, achieved on “home soil” in one of the world’s toughest and
most prestigious endurance sportscar races, would be sweet reward for the
burgeoning South Florida team.
Former Sebring race winners Stefan Johansson, JJ Lehto and Emanuele
Pirro will bid for glory in the 51st 12 Hours of Sebring at the wheel of
Champion Racing’s updated 2002-specification Audi R8 - a type of car that
has won the corresponding Sebring race for the past three years.
The ADT Champion Audi finished second in last year’s gruelling Sebring
race, one of seven top-three placings the well-drilled outfit achieved in the
10-race ALMS series, which comfortably earned them the IMSA Cup for
For Team Owner Dave Maraj, victory in the historic Sebring race would taste
sweet and justly reward his hard-working race team that has quickly gained
worldwide recognition in motorsport circles.
“Champion Racing entered its first races at Daytona and Sebring in 1994
and so to achieve a top result would be a thrill,” commented Mr Maraj. “We
want to win every race but obviously a victory at Sebring would be very
“We’ve an excellent driver line-up and the Audi has been ultra-successful
over the past three years but in a race lasting 12 hours, with a field of 60
cars including two similar Audis and two new Bentleys, means it’s going to
be very tough.”
Monaco-based Lehto (37), of Finland, won the Sebring race outright in 1999,
and will drive for Team ADT Champion Racing in all 10-rounds of this year’s
ALMS. Having raced for BMW and Cadillac in recent seasons, JJ is relishing
the prospect of his first season with Champion and of driving an Audi.
“We’re up against two other Audi R8s, both in a similar 2002-specification
configuration, so we’re level in terms of Audi equipment,” confirmed Lehto. “I
was really impressed with the Audi R8 when I drove it for the first time last
month. The grip level is amazing, the engine strong and responsive - it’s the
total package. I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to chase the Audis but
now I’m in one, the others will have to do the chasing!”
Italy’s 2000 Sebring winner Pirro (41) has driven for the “factory” Audi Sport
team at Sebring since 1999, the 2001 ALMS champion joins Champion for
Sebring and the Le Mans 24 hours in June.
Emanuele commented: “I didn’t get to test the car at Moroso with Stefan and
JJ last month because I had to get back to Italy but having looked around
Champion’s raceshop, I returned to Europe knowing that the team’s
commitment is total. I won the Sebring race in 2000 and have finished
second and fifth over the past two years but feel very confident we can be on
the podium again.”
Johansson (46) raced most of last season with Team ADT Champion
Racing but as Team Principal of the new American Spirit Champcar team,
the Swedish veteran will limit his Champion race program to Sebring, Le
Mans and Atlanta.
“I think we’ve a great chance of victory especially now that all of the Audi R8s
competing will start off on an equal footing in terms of specification,” said
Johansson, a Sebring winner in 1984 and ‘97. “Champion’s driver
combination is very strong and I’m really looking forward to Sebring which is
one of my all-time favorite races.”
Over 60 cars have entered the race which starts at 10.30am on Saturday
with drivers from North and South America plus Europe. Like the Michelin-
shod Champion Audi R8, sponsored for a second consecutive year by
security service company ADT, most cars will have three drivers who will
rotate stints during the grinding 12-hour endurance event.