AUDI DIESEL POWER ON POLE IN NORTH AMERICAN RETURN TOOELE, Utah (July 14, 2006) -- Frank Biela certainly knows how to make a dramatic return. In his first American Le Mans Series race since Sebring, Biela put this Audi R10 TDI...
AUDI DIESEL POWER ON POLE IN NORTH AMERICAN RETURN
TOOELE, Utah (July 14, 2006) -- Frank Biela certainly knows how to make a dramatic return. In his first American Le Mans Series race since Sebring, Biela put this Audi R10 TDI on the pole for the Utah Grand Prix, knocking teammate Allan McNish from the top spot on his final lap.
The reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans champion posted a lap of 2:21.554, good enough for the pole by 0.209 seconds. Audi diesel power will fill the front row with McNish and Dindo Capello starting second for the first Series race at the new Miller Motorsports Park.
"It feels good putting the R10 on the pole after missing a couple of rounds," said Biela, who will drive with Emanuele Pirro. "The guys did a great job here. It's the same crew we had last year, so they know what they are doing. We are very happy to be together again and put it on pole."
Third in class and overall was the first of Dyson Racing's AER-powered Lola B06/10s. Butch Leitzinger was less than a second arrears of the Audis, the closest a Dyson prototype has been to the top all weekend.
Friday afternoon's practice session was the first time the two Audi diesels sat atop of the time sheets, taking over from Penske Racing and its Porsche RS Spyders. Biela apparently was a very quick study, bettering McNish's time in the afternoon practice by nearly a full second.
"It's a challenge out here, very difficult to get used to," Biela said. "You'll find something every time you go around. I think you have to concentrate more every lap than usual. It might be easy for the young guns but you can still learn more every time you go out. It's going to be a tough race, no doubt."
Penske's two Porsches qualified fourth and fifth overall with Lucas Luhr taking the P2 pole. His best lap of 2:23.387 nipped Timo Bernhard by 0.073 seconds. Saturday will be the fourth time in five races that the two RS Spyders will start 1-2 in class. Luhr and Sascha Maassen, however, are looking for their first win since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca at the end of 2005.
Starting third in class will be the championship-leading Intersport Racing Lola of Clint Field and Liz Halliday. The pairing started the season with wins at Sebring and Houston and has earned points at each race this season. But Luhr and Maassen are only 5 points back, and a victory would cut the deficit to at least 1 point.
"We tested for two days and it helped, but when we tested here we had so many problems and we were scared for the race weekend," Luhr said. "But we showed up and all the problems we had had disappeared. So that's good we got the problems out for the race weekend.
"It's a new track; really challenging for us drivers," he added. "There are a lot of quick corners and slow corners, all in combinations. It's not easy. It takes a little bit more laps than normal to get the tires up to temp, but once you're set it's really enjoyable."
Tomas Enge captured his second GT1 pole position of the season in Aston Martin Racing's No. 007 Aston Martin DBR9 with a time of 2:34.953, the lowest time of the weekend in GT1 by a fairly impressive margin. Enge had posted the quickest time of the one-hour practice session immediately before qualifying, and he obviously has come to grips with the new venue.
"I said in the first session that I would need a co-driver," Enge said. "It took five laps to know exactly how the lines are and where you should brake. The track has improved so much that you have seen the track times go down three seconds. Today, I didn't make as many mistakes."
Stephane Sarrazin, the quickest driver in the first two track sessions Thursday and Friday, qualified second in class at 2:35.330. It gave Aston Martin the top two positions for the first time since the season-opener at Sebring. Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy won two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park in the No. 009. That's something Enge, who hasn't won in the Series since 2003, is eager to experience once again.
"There were some small mistakes and you can always go faster," he said. "We wanted to do one lap and save the tires for the race. It's hard to put down anything special when the track is so hot. I have to knock on my watches or the wood. It looks very, very positive for the race."
They still will have to deal with Corvette Racing's two Corvette C6.Rs, which will start right behind their rivals. The No. 3 of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell was the first of the yellow Corvettes on Friday, just 0.2 seconds ahead of the sister entry of Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin.
In GT2, Jamie Melo won his second class pole of the season for Risi Competizione. The Ferrari F430GT turned in a lap of 2:44.024 to beat out the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister by more than a second.
"I like the track very much. For our car, it is very good," said Melo, who will team with Mika Salo. "We are fast in the slower parts. We found a very good setup from the first session, and we have kept improving. The team has done a very good job after Lime Rock. I'm very happy to have done this. Tomorrow should be a very good race."
The Ferrari has been the quickest GT2 car all week at Miller, and Friday is no different. The bright red entry has shown similar speed at each Series round but continues to look for its first win of the season.
"The Porsches are quicker on acceleration," Melo said. "We just have to be careful at the beginning. For sure it will be a very difficult race. If you go off the line, it will be difficult to keep the line. It should be very, very exciting. "
The Utah Grand Prix, the fifth round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series, is set for 6 p.m. MDT on Saturday, July 15 at the new Miller Motorsports Park just outside of Salt Lake City. CBS will broadcast the race from 2 to 4 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 16. MotorsTV will broadcast the race in Europe from 6:30 to 9:30 CET on Sunday, July 16. American Le Mans Radio will provide live coverage on americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.