Biela takes Road Atlanta pole

BRASELTON, Ga. -- Frank Biela captured his sixth pole of the season this afternoon during qualifying for the fifth running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Biela's red-trimmed Joest Racing Audi R8 lapped the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course in...

BRASELTON, Ga. -- Frank Biela captured his sixth pole of the season this afternoon during qualifying for the fifth running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Biela's red-trimmed Joest Racing Audi R8 lapped the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course in 1:10.939, barely edging out his teammate, Tom Kristensen, for the right to lead the 48-car American Le Mans Series field to the green flag.

"During practice, the conditions were constantly changing so it was hard to judge how good the car is," Biela said moments after handing Audi its tenth pole in ten races. "We only had one problem, a little too much understeer, which could be a problem during the race."

James Weaver's Dyson Racing Lola/MG qualified third overall and first in the LMP 675 class, shattering the existing class qualifying record by almost three seconds.

"We thought we could get third quickest," Weaver said. "Anything else would have taken a bit of a miracle. Our first objective tomorrow is to finish. Our second is to try to win the 675 class. The third is to try to get on the overall podium. The fourth thing is not to beaten by a girl."

Johnny Herbert will line up fourth in the Champion Audi, followed by the No. 50 Panoz, the No. 36 Riley & Scott, and the No. 7 Cadillac.

In one of the closest qualifying sessions of the season, the immaculately prepared Prodrive Ferrari of Tomas Enge set the pace in the GTS class for the second time in the last three races, lapping the undulating, natural terrain circuit less than one-tenth of a second quicker than Ron Fellows in the No. 3 Corvette.

"It was a great battle with the Corvette," stated Enge. "The car was brilliant, the tires were brilliant, and I was just focusing on my qualifying. I think this should give us a big boost for the race. If the car stays to the end, and we can avoid any problems while overtaking and being overtaken, we may be able to fight for the victory. It would be a great way to end the season."

"The car felt good and the tires were only decent," GTS class points leader Fellows remarked shortly after this afternoon's 25-minute qualifying session. "The hot track temperatures were not what we expected, and [the tires] kind of went off after the second lap. The weather is going to be a lottery this weekend."

Last year's GTS champion Terry Borcheller qualified third in the No. 26 Konrad Motorsport Saleen S7R, followed closely by the second Corvette of Andy Pilgrim and the No. 84 Graham Nash Motorsport Saleen S7R of Thomas Erdos.

Jorg Bergmeister claimed his first GT class pole of the year in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3 RS, out-qualifying his teammate Sascha Maassen by less than two tenths of a second.

"It's my first pole in the ALMS and I'm really happy," said the tall, lanky German, who won the first ALMS race of his career earlier this season at Road America. "We put a softer tire on the left rear, so I had to push really hard from the beginning because I knew the tire would drop [off] quite quickly. I think we'll have a good set up for the race tomorrow though."

"We're on the front row, that was our goal today," explained GT class championship contender Maassen. "We are in good shape for the race and for the championship, so I hope we continue with the program we have planned and then I'll hopefully be a happy man tomorrow afternoon."

Newly crowned Porsche Cup champion Stephane Ortelli recorded the third fastest lap of the day behind the wheel of the No. 98 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche GT3 RS.

Except for the No. 35 Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Anthony Lazzaro, which qualified within a second of Ortelli, Porsches dominated the rest of the GT grid, claiming 11 of the first 12 starting positions.

Tomorrow's race will take the green flag at 11:30 a.m.

Notes

ALMS will adopt a three-tier points system in 2003, eliminating all driver bonus points. Under the new system, two drivers who share a car that completes at least 70 percent of the distance completed by the winning car will now receive the same amount of points, as long as each driver complies with the minimum and maximum driving limits specified in the supplementary regulations for each event.

"This new system will bring our driving championship competition into consistency with the unique attributes of our series," explained Scott Atherton, President, and Chief Operating Officer of the Panoz Motor Sports Group.

"Our racing has always featured multiple drivers in cars and driver changes during races and most of the teams use the same drivers together all season. They have shared race wins in the past, and they will now share the championships as well."

In addition, the ALMS has entered into an exclusive, multi-year agreement with Infogrames Entertainment, a well known producer and distributor of video games, that will allow the video game company to produce a video game incorporating the cars, teams, drivers, and tracks of the ALMS. Infogrames develops, publishes, and distributes interactive games for all available gaming platforms, including Microsoft, Nintendo, Sega, and Sony.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Tomas Enge , Tom Kristensen , Frank Biela , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Andy Pilgrim , Stéphane Ortelli , Terry Borcheller , Jörg Bergmeister , Alex Job
Teams Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing