BRASELTON, Ga. (June 29, 2003) - After a thrilling practice, Frank Biela and Marco Werner will start the second round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Road Atlanta from second position on the grid in their Infineon Team Joest Audi R8.
BRASELTON, Ga. (June 29, 2003) - After a thrilling practice, Frank Biela and Marco Werner will start the second round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) at Road Atlanta from second position on the grid in their Infineon Team Joest Audi R8. Biela missed pole position by just 0.005 seconds which was captured by James Weaver's MG Lola with a time set during the second free practice session. After practice, the organizers surprisingly decided to scrap the following qualifying session due to rain and replace it by another free practice. Simultaneously they decided to use the lap times from all Saturday's practice sessions for the starting grid.
Since the Infineon Team Joest had concentrated on the race setup during the free practice, Biela and Werner found themselves in an unprecedented third position. However, in the additional 20-minute practice, which was initially scheduled as qualifying, Frank Biela made the almost impossible possible on a still damp track. While taking the checkered flag, he improved to second on the grid confirming that Infineon Team Joest is the one to beat at Road Atlanta. During Friday's test session, Biela had recorded the fastest time of the whole weekend with a time of 1:13.041. Marco Werner was fastest in Saturday morning's wet practice session despite driving the Audi R8 in the rain for the first time and the track of Road Atlanta being new to him.
Team ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto starts the second round of the American Le Mans Series from third place on the 35-car grid at Road Atlanta.
Lehto set a lap time of 1:13.826 around the undulating 2.54-mile, 12-corner course in Georgia. Grid positions were taken by the fastest time set by each car in any session today after officials cancelled the official qualifying session due to heavy rain.
Herbert, 39 last Wednesday, and Lehto are driving together for the first time. Florida-based Champion Racing has finished third (Herbert/Wallace) and second (Herbert/Johansson) in ALMS races at Road Atlanta over the past two years with its "privateer" Audi R8.
INFINEON TEAM JOEST
Frank Biela: "In such a long race the position on the grid is not so decisive. However, I still prefer to start from the front instead from the second row. In the end, on the damp track, I did the best out of the situation I could. But I really can't follow the decision of the stewards. If you cancel qualifying because of the conditions being too dangerous, you can't schedule a free practice session at the same time. At the end, I almost took the pole position, but the track was still quite wet in some places. It was not a nice feeling to drive through the water of turn 1 in 5th gear."
Marco Werner: "Apart from the controversial decision of the stewards, practice went very well for us. I did not know what to expect here and I was a little skeptical. The track is really not easy. You can easily make mistakes here. There are many blind sections and it is difficult to find the braking points. Every lap of experience is worth gold, that's where the other drivers have an advantage. But things were going well both in dry and wet conditions. My lap times are okay. I'm looking forward to the race."
Ralf Juttner (Technical Director): "I can't understand the decision of the stewards at all. Maybe it was the only possibility to prevent Frank from taking another pole position. At the end he still almost did it. Of course it's better to start from the front row than from the second row on the grid, but today we had the speed to take pole position. The car was running well here from the very beginning, the drivers feel comfortable. We were using very old tires during the last free practice session and tried some things on the car. Unfortunately, it was decided only afterwards that the free practice would count as qualifying. Despite that, we are happy with our performance and are optimistic for Sunday."
TEAM ADT CHAMPION RACING
Johnny Herbert: "It would be really nice to win after finishing second and third here for the past two years - and Champion deserves an ALMS victory. It has taken me time to reacclimatize to the Audi after two races in a Bentley. The seat does not 'hug' me as tightly while the steering wheel on the Audi is much smaller."
JJ Lehto: "Canceling qualifying was a ridiculous decision. If the track is wet during the session, then it's wet for all of us - it could rain for the race so what is the problem? We now start third which is extremely disappointing after Frank Biela knocked us off the front row in the third practice at the end."
The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta will be televised live by CBS Sports on Sunday from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm EST. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage available online each time the ALMS cars are on the track at Road Atlanta, including practice, qualifying and the race. The Radio Web is free of charge and can be accessed at www.americanlemans.com.