Biela leads the way during night practice at Road Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga. -- Frank Biela led a Joest Racing sweep of the time charts this evening during night practice for the fourth running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Biela's red-trimmed Audi R8 lapped the soaking wet 2.54-mile, 12-turn road ...

BRASELTON, Ga. -- Frank Biela led a Joest Racing sweep of the time charts this evening during night practice for the fourth running of the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Biela's red-trimmed Audi R8 lapped the soaking wet 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course in 1:21.749, more than two seconds ahead of American Le Mans Series championship contender Tom Kristensen. Going into the final race of the season, Kristensen holds a slim three-point lead over his co-driver, Rinaldo Capello, in the chase for the ALMS crown.

Audi's all-conquering R8 has won the last two editions of the Petit Le Mans, and Audi drivers Allan McNish and Emanuele Pirro have captured the last two ALMS driver titles.

The Cadillacs of Emmanuel Collard and Christophe Tinseau set the third and fourth fastest times of the two-hour session, followed closely by Johnny Herbert in the Champion Audi.

Danish sports car veteran Jon Nielsen led the way in the LMP 675 class, turning the sixth quickest lap of the evening in the No. 15 R.N. Motorsports Zytek-powered Reynard 02S. LMP 675 points leader Jon Field posted the eighth fastest time.

Although Road Atlanta is the spiritual home of the star-spangled Panoz roadsters, neither Panoz entry was able to capitalize on the home field advantage. The No. 51 Panoz of Gunnar Jeannette could do no better than seventh overall, while the other Panoz never made it out of the paddock due to damage sustained earlier in the day when David Donohue crashed into the Turn 10 wall.

Tomas Enge's Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello paced the 10-car GTS field, well ahead of the millennium yellow Corvettes.

"It was my first time on the circuit in the wet," Enge said. "I am surprised how well the Michelin [tires] and the car worked in the wet. We set a good time and I am now looking forward to driving more in wet conditions."

The No. 98 Cirtek Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3RS of 2002 Porsche Super Cup champion Stephane Ortelli recorded the fastest time in the GT class

"By coming here late in the year, it gives us a lot to learn and a big gap with the competition," explained the diminutive Frenchman. "We have lots of experience and if we are accurate as possible we will gain on the track what we lost in the year. The rain on the track gave us the gain we have now."

Despite the rainy conditions, Le Mans rules require every driver to run at least three laps during night practice.

All the teams will have one more practice session tomorrow morning before qualifying begins at 1 p.m.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny Herbert , Tomas Enge , Rinaldo Capello , Allan McNish , Frank Biela , Emmanuel Collard , Christophe Tinseau , Stéphane Ortelli , Jon Field , David Donohue , Gunnar Jeannette , Emanuele Pirro