Biela puts heartbreak of Le Mans behind him, prepares for Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta
BRASELTON, Ga. (June 17, 2003) -- Frank Biela of Germany has been one of the most successful professional sports car racers in the world over the past few years, but the 38-year-old Audi Prototype driver experienced a frustrating disappointment in the recent running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Being the professional driver that he is, Biela knows that he will have to race on, and he will have the opportunity to do so when the American Le Mans Series season resumes with the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta June 27-29.
The race will be held at one of Biela's favorite tracks only two weeks after his dream of winning the world's greatest endurance race for the fourth consecutive year came grinding to a halt due to an empty fuel tank. But the Le Mans difficulty will surely still be on his mind as he returns to Infineon Team Joest for the event at Road Atlanta.
While running third less than two hours into the Le Mans race, Biela was stranded on the long Le Mans circuit when his car ran out of fuel. Scheduled to pit on the previous lap, Biela had found his path into the pits blocked by another car and had to try to go all the way around the 8.625-mile track to pit again. He didn't make it, the car coming to a stop a long distance from the pits. Under the rules of Le Mans, he could receive no assistance back to the pits and the car had to be retired, but only after Biela had valiantly tried to drive using the starter motor.
"I'm deeply sorry for the team," said Biela, who was driving in a one-race arrangement for the Audi Sport UK team. "I'm extremely disappointed."
Biela will return to American Le Mans Series competition as the series point leader, having led Infineon Team Joest to victory in the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March. The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, a new event this year, will be round two of the ALMS schedule and Biela will co-drive with fellow German Marco Werner in the two-hour, 45-minute timed event.
"Road Atlanta is just a fantastic circuit," said Biela, who won the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 2001 while driving for the Audi factory team. "It's a challenging circuit and that makes it more interesting. Everybody likes to go there and it's one of the nicest circuits."
Biela compared Road Atlanta to the legendary Nordschleife road racing circuit in Germany, a 26-kilometer long track that carves its way through varied terrain. Biela recently drove an Audi R8 Prototype on a demonstration lap around the Nordschleife.
"Road Atlanta is completely different from the other circuits in the ALMS," said Biela. "Probably not everybody in America knows about the Nordschleife, but going to Road Atlanta reminds me of that circuit because it's up and down and through the forests and woods, a really nice place."
Biela is very wary of the last sequence of turns at Road Atlanta, which includes a chicane, a climb up a hill and then a fast, full-speed downhill to a right-hand turn. During the Petit Le Mans two years ago, Biela spun down the hill after collecting excess rubber on his tires, but recovered and went on to win.
"The fast right-hander downhill stands out," said Biela. "You go out of the chicane, you're watching up in the sky, and then suddenly things fall down and you go into the fast right-hander. You have to know the line because you cannot see it."
Road Atlanta is the only track holding two races for the American Le Mans Series in 2003, with the sixth annual Petit Le Mans to be run Oct. 16-18. The track is offering a special two-event ticket discount, as well as individual tickets to both events. Ticket information is available online at www.roadatlanta.com or by calling 1-800-849-RACE (7223).
The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta will be televised live in North America by CBS Sports, with same-day delayed coverage in Europe by Eurosport. In addition, the American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have full coverage of the race, as well as practice and qualifying sessions, online at www.americanlemans.com.