Fort Worth, Texas -- The season opener of the 2001 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) has Audi continuing the successes of last year; The ...
Fort Worth, Texas -- The season opener of the 2001 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) has Audi continuing the successes of last year; The #1 Infineon R8 will start the race from pole position. During the exciting 20 minutes of qualifying, Frank Biela put the #2 R8 on pole, Rinaldo Capello in the companion R8 set the second fastest time. But the pole time of Biela was nullified by the officials afterwards because the diffuser was 152mm high; Sportscar regulations only allow it to be 150mm. According to the rules, the #2 R8 will start the race from the back of the field.
Although it was the first qualifying session of the year, it seems quite clear that Audi faces a big challenge in defending its titles in the ALMS; First position changed again and again until Biela and Capello drove their fastest times on their very last laps. Besides the newly designed Panoz, the team also has to contend with the privateer Audi R8 being campaigned by the Champion team.
While the drivers suffered from cruel heat during last year's race at Texas Motor Speedway, they face completely different conditions this time. With cold and rainy weather the track conditions change from minute-to-minute.
The first round of the American Le Mans Series starts on Sunday, 1:00 p.m. local time and runs over a distance of two hours and forty-five minutes. Frank Biela (#2) and Rinaldo Capello (#1) will start the race in the two Infineon Audi R8s.
Frank Biela (#2), "The decision of the officials is disappointing because pole position would have been a very good start to the season. However, those are the rules. It definitely gives the team extra motivation to get us back to the front."
Emanuele Pirro (#2), "I am happy with the way the car is working and with our speed today. We have to accept that because the of two millimeters we have to start from the back of the field - maybe we now have to win by two millimeters."
Rinaldo Capello (#1), "I'm satisfied with my time. Yesterday I drove just two laps, so I did my first fast lap under dry conditions during qualifying. I made some small mistakes, but I doubt I could have reached Frank."
Tom Kristensen (#1), "Of course we hoped for pole position, but we wanted to earn it by our speed. I would have liked to do some more laps on this circuit before the start of the race, but now I will learn during the race. Our competitors are very strong, so we will have to give our very best."
Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, Head of Audi Sport, "We respect the ruling of the Sportscar officials on the #2 car. We are looking forward to watching Frank and Emanuele fight their way through the field tomorrow. Today qualifying was difficult because the conditions were always changing. The more you drove the faster you could go. At the very end everybody improved his time and it seems as if we caught the conditions just right. As we expected, the new Panoz is very fast."
Reinhold Joest, Team Director, Audi Sport North America, "I am content with our performance today although I'm disappointed by the result of scrutineering. But of course we honor their decision. To be on pole at the season opener is a great feeling. Now the race is going to be very exciting; Frank and Emanuele now have an extra challenge to prove that they have the fastest car on the track."