Laguna Seca: Friday test report

Biela Sets Fast Time as American Le Mans Series Tests at Laguna MONTEREY, Calif. - Seeking his third consecutive American Le Mans Series win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Frank Biela started the quest on a positive note Friday by setting the...

Biela Sets Fast Time as American Le Mans Series Tests at Laguna

MONTEREY, Calif. - Seeking his third consecutive American Le Mans Series win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Frank Biela started the quest on a positive note Friday by setting the fast time of the day in an unofficial test session for Sunday's Fry's Electronics Sports Car Championships event.

Biela, driving the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8 that he will share with Marco Werner, turned a lap of 1:16.593 on the 2.238-mile circuit. The lap was the fastest overall among the 35 cars that recorded times in the session as well as the leading time in the LMP 900 class.

Biela and Werner, from Germany, lead the American Le Mans Series driver point standings in the LMP 900 class and have taken overall wins in three of the six ALMS races held this season.

"Of course it's always nice being the fastest," said Biela. "But it's still early. The car was not bad, and the time quite good. But we were not completely happy with the handling of the R8 today. From my point of view there are still many things we need to improve. But at Laguna Seca it is always difficult to find a good setup because the track usually is very slippery - as it was the case today."

Biela won the annual ALMS event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2001 and 2002 while driving for the former factory Audi team with co-driver Emanuele Pirro.

The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert was second-fastest both overall and in the LMP 900 class Friday with a time of 1:17.633. The duo took the overall win in the most recent ALMS race at Road America.

James Weaver set the fastest time in the LMP 675 class for smaller Prototypes with a lap of 1:18.248 in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG he will share with Butch Leitzinger. The time was third-fastest overall.

The Panoz LMP01 of JML Team Panoz, driven by Olivier Beretta and David Saelens, was fourth overall and third in LMP 900 at 1:18.619, while the other Dyson Lola-MG of Andy Wallace and Chris Dyson was fifth overall and second in P675 at 1:18.922.

Running the third-fastest lap in the LMP 675 class was the Team Bucknum/Dark Dog Pilbeam MP91 of Bryan Willman, Chris McMurry and Jeff Bucknum at 1:19.747. The time was sixth-fastest overall.

Oliver Gavin, making his first appearance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, set the fast time of the session in the GTS class with a lap of 1:23.202 in the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R he will co-drive with Kelly Collins. The Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello of Jan Magnussen and David Brabham was second at 1:23.405, just ahead of the other Prodrive Ferrari of Tomas Enge and Peter Kox at 1:23.859.

The factory Corvette team has never won at Monterey, the only track on the current ALMS schedule that the team has not scored a victory on. Last year the Prodrive Ferrari took its first win in the ALMS in the Laguna event, with Kox and Enge victorious.

"We've struggled with grip at this track in the past but the boys at Goodyear have given us a new package as of a few races ago that should be pretty competitive," said Gavin. "Grip is terribly important at this track and you're constantly fighting to find the that edge where you can drive your line. This track has always thrown a few surprises at the team and we expect it will be another tough battle."

Leading the GT class was the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, which was clocked at 1:27.744. The other Job Porsche of Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister was second-fastest at 1:27.777, followed by the White Lightning/Petersen Motorsports Porsche of Johnny Mowlem and Craig Stanton at 1:27.958.

"Next to Road America, this is my favorite track in the United States," said Luhr, who set the fast time. "It is a very technical track which I like. You don't have to be brave, just technical to drive fast and flat out here. The times are good so far but we're really struggling with understeer right now and will continue to set up the car until we get it near perfect. My co-driver Sascha didn't have as much time in the car as I did this time so I was doing most of the setup."

FIRST ALMS RACE: Making his debut in American Le Mans Series competition this weekend is 21-year-old Burt Frisselle of Kihei, Haw., who is driving a Porsche 911 GT3 RS in the GT class for Inline Cunningham Racing.

Frisselle only started racing cars in 2000 but won the 2002 Formula Dodge national championship and earned a ride in the Barber Dodge Pro Series for 2003. He was a recipient of the 2003 Barber-Champ Car Scholarship.

Prior to 2000, Frisselle had never raced go karts competitively, but attributes his quick learning curve to years of snowmobiling on the vast trails of northern New England and southern Quebec, as well as a lifelong passion for auto racing.

The Inline Cunningham team made its debut on the ALMS in the event held earlier this year at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Frisselle's co-driver this weekend is Oswaldo Negri.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE: Official practice begins Saturday, with two one-hour sessions scheduled prior to the 2:25 p.m. (PDT) beginning of qualifying. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have coverage of qualifying online at www.americanlemans.com. ALMS drivers will sign autographs from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the ALMS paddock area.

Sunday's race begins at 12 noon and will be broadcast by the Radio Web. NBC Sports will have coverage from 4-6 p.m. (EDT).

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Kelly Collins , Lucas Luhr , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Peter Kox , Timo Bernhard , Marco Werner , Burt Frisselle , Chris McMurry , Bryan Willman , Johnny Mowlem , Craig Stanton , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Olivier Beretta , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing