Audi R8 qualifying at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. SONOMA, Ca. (July 26, 2003) -- The Audi R8 teams of Infineon Team Joest and Team ADT Champion Racing faced a challenging time during the qualifying session today at Infineon Raceway...
Audi R8 qualifying at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California.
SONOMA, Ca. (July 26, 2003) -- The Audi R8 teams of Infineon Team Joest and Team ADT Champion Racing faced a challenging time during the qualifying session today at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. For the first time since the inception of the American Le Mans Series in 1999, a pair of LMP 675 cars from the Dyson Racing Team out qualified the LMP 900 cars.
The rules this year in the LMP 900 class include putting a smaller restrictor in the engine air intake system. This has slowed the R8 cars down by over a second at Infineon Raceway thus putting both Audi's on the second row of the starting grid.
Frank Biela pushed the car hard and qualified the Infineon Team Joest car in third. JJ Lehto's efforts puts the Team ADT Champion car in fourth position.
This 2:45 minute race will be one of the most challenging races of the year. The 2.53 mile course is extremely windy and hilly with no straight-aways. Therefore the drivers never get a chance to rest and find themselves tired much earlier in the race compared to other race tracks.
Infineon Team Joest
Frank Biela: "In qualifying we were as quick as we expected. Maybe it would have been possible to go two tenths quicker, if JJ (Lehto) hadn't made a mistake just in front of me when he went into the dirt. But it would not have been enough to take pole position. This will be a tough race. I don't believe that the MG Lolas will be much faster than us in race trim. But we've already seen at Road Atlanta that it's almost impossible to pass them. They are just so much quicker on the straight. This situation is relatively new to us. The boys do a good job and make life difficult for us. But at the same time this makes it also very interesting."
Marco Werner: "In the ALMS points are awarded only in the classes. That's why our main rival is Champion. Of course it does not look too good if two 675 cars are ahead of the Audi R8 cars. But it doesn't do any harm because they don't take points away from us. You just have to see that these cars have an advantage following the adjustment of the air restrictors for this year. They drive in a different class - and in our class things are going well. Compared to the Champion car we've been almost half a second faster the whole weekend. Things look good for the race. This will be a hot battle with the two 675 cars in front of us and the Champion Audi directly on our tail."
Team ADT Champion Racing
Johnny Herbert: "I wasn't expecting Sears to be a breeze despite winning the last race and that has been the case so far. We endured a frustrating time in qualifying but I'm certain come the race, with a few overnight changes to the car, we'll be on the pace and can add to the Champion team's first and second place finishes in the opening two ALMS races. This is the venue of my ALMS debut and I've finished fourth  and second [last year] here."
JJ Lehto: "I was naturally disappointed to be only fourth quickest in qualifying but although the race is going to be extremely tough, I believe we can achieve another top result. I slightly bettered my time in the closing stages of qualifying but unfortunately it did not gain us a better position. I scored an LMP900 victory here in 1999 and I'll be pushing hard for another -- we must consistently score big points for the championship."
The Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live by NBC Sports on Sunday, June 27 at 4 p.m. (EDT). You can also hear live broadcast of the race (for free) from the American Le Mans Series Radio Web online at www.americanlemans.com.