Speeds picking up at Laguna Two years ago, Audi’s Dindo Capello held the American Le Mans Series qualifying record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a mark he originally set in the 2000 season. But the last two seasons have seen record-breaking runs in qualifying that shattered Capello’s time of 1:15.028 set in an Audi R8 in September of 2000.
First came Tom Chilton in 2005. The young Brit piloted a factory Zytek prototype around the circuit in 1:14.185, nearly a full second quicker and more than one mph faster. Last year, Stefan Johansson recorded his first overall Series pole position – quite appropriately in another Zytek - with a run that was almost a half-second better than Chilton’s from a year earlier at 1:13.731.
“In 2000, we had a lot of horsepower - 610 hp,” said Capello, a two-time race winner and fast qualifier at the Monterey circuit with Audi. “In 2005, the R8 had just 520 hp and also more weight. The new LMP1 cars like our Audi R10 TDI now have about 650 hp. This allows us to go as fast as in 2000 or even faster thanks to the more modern chassis and the incredible torque of the TDI engine. Of course also the tires improved and we have the traction control which we did not have with the R8.”
Last year’s race saw Capello and Allan McNish cap their P1 championship season by leading a 1-2 finish for Audi that saw McNish drive the final 1:17 on a single set of tires and tank of diesel. With an 81-liter tank this year due to ACO regulations, repeating that performance is highly unlikely. Still, Capello knows Audi has a few tricks up its sleeves to put its two diesel-powered prototypes in contention when the final laps begin approaching Saturday.
“The key to being successful at Laguna Seca will be the same as always: You have to be fast and you need a bit of luck with the caution periods,” said Capello, who already has wrapped up a second straight P1 crown with McNish. Our biggest handicap is a smaller fuel tank. If there are no caution periods we may have one pit stop more than the Porsches or Acuras.”
The final round of the 2007 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The four-hour race is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. PT on Saturday, October 20. SPEED will air the race live from 5:30 to 10 p.m. ET. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.
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