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Road Record : Mika joins Le Mans bid.

Byline: Bruce Booth

AUDI Sport UK have gone for experience in their bid for honours at this year's Le Mans 24-Hour race in June.

German ace Frank Biela, 38, winner of the last three runnings of the classic, gets his chance to make it an unprecedented four in a row when he teams up with "flying Finn" Mika Salo and Brit Perry McCarthy.

And Biela is optimistic of yet another victory, this time at the wheel of last year's specification Audi R8 owned by Audi UK, the German car makers' Milton Keynes-based British importer.

Biela, who also won the 1996 British Touring Car Championship in an Audi A4 quattro said: "To be racing at Le Mans again in an Audi makes me very happy and I truly believe we have a great chance of victory.

"Superb reliability and performance, in terms of both speed and fuel economy, have allowed me to score three consecutive Le Mans wins. This year's race will be hard and the opposition as ever will be tough, but I'm certain we'll be competitive."

But Le Mans will be a totally new experience for Salo, 36, who retired from Formula One racing at the end of last season, having driven more than 100 Grands Prix for Lotus, Tyrrell, Ferrari, Sauber and Toyota.

He said: "The opportunity to make my Le Mans debut in a car that has won the race three times and with a driver who was victorious in each of those years, was too good to turn down.

"We will start with a very realistic chance of winning."

Brentwood-based McCarthy finished fifth with Biela driving a "factory" Audi R8R in the 1999 Sebring 12-Hours and drove an enclosed Audi Sport UK-entered Audi R8C at Le Mans later the same year.

He raced in British Formula Three and FIA International Formula 3000 before moving to Formula One in 1992.

Next month, Salo and McCarthy head to Florida to meet up with Ulsterman Jonny Kane, who deputises for Biela as they shake down their R8 in the Sebring 12-Hour race, a perfect warm-up for the main event to take place on June 14-15.
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Title Annotation:Road Record
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 14, 2003
Words:356
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