Road Atlanta: Friday test report

Biela leads close first day of testing for Chevy Grand Prix Of Atlanta BRASELTON, Ga.- Frank Biela quickly showed the rest of the American Le Mans Series field Friday that his heartbreaking result two weeks ago at Le Mans isn't going to slow him...

Biela leads close first day of testing for Chevy Grand Prix Of Atlanta

BRASELTON, Ga.- Frank Biela quickly showed the rest of the American Le Mans Series field Friday that his heartbreaking result two weeks ago at Le Mans isn't going to slow him down.

Biela, driving the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8, set the fast time of the day as practice opened for Sunday's Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta, the second round of the nine-race American Le Mans Series schedule. His bid to win his fourth straight 24 Hours of Le Mans ended when his car ran out of fuel and was stranded on the circuit.

"We worked on the setup and the tires during today's test session," said Biela, who won the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in 2001. "After a couple of changes the car was feeling very good at the end of the session. Of course it feels good to have recorded the fastest time. I'm really looking forward to the race and want to make good my failure at Le Mans with a good result and a flawless race."

Biela, who will co-drive with fellow German Marco Werner, turned a lap of 1:13.041 on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit, barely edging the time of 1:13.149 set by the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto.

Werner, who joined with Biela to win the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March, was in the car for most of the session as he had never driven Road Atlanta before. "The track is really impressive and not easy at all with all this up and down hill sections," he said. "It takes some time to get used to."

The Audi speeds, set near the end of the two-hour session, eclipsed the 1:13.322 set by James Weaver in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG, also the fastest time in the LMP 675 class for smaller Prototypes. Weaver and co-driver Butch Leitzinger were just ahead of the second Dyson car, co-driven by Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, at 1:13.976.

The Panoz LMP01 of JML Team Panoz drivers Max Papis and Olivier Beretta was fifth-fastest at 1:14.316.

Ron Fellows, defending GTS class champion of the American Le Mans Series, set a blazing lap near the end of the session in the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C5-R to lead the GTS class. Fellows' lap of 1:20.940 in the car he will share with Johnny O'Connell beat the 1:21.069 set by Tomas Enge and Peter Kox in the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello.

"We did pretty well and I think we're going to be a lot closer to the Ferraris this weekend than we were at Le Mans," said Fellows. "Not only because this place has a lot more corners, but our guys are really working hard. We've got the chance to get a little more grip and find a better balance before tomorrow; if we do that I'll be happy with our chances."

As was the case in the LMP 900 class, the lap times in the GTS class were very close. The second Prodrive car driven by Danica Patrick, making her ALMS debut, and Jerome Policand was third at 1:21.622, followed by the second Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Kelly Collins at 1:21.662. The Team Olive Garden Ferrari of Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti was fifth at 1:21.688.

The 21-year-old Patrick, a regular in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series, is making her sports car racing debut in a car with nearly twice the horsepower of her regular ride. She only had a brief amount of time in the car during the practice before she pitted with a smoking engine. The Prodrive team repaired the problem and her co-driver was in the car for the rest of the session.

The two Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS cars set the top two speeds in the GT class, but again the times among the top cars were close. The #24 Job car driven by Jorg Bergmeister and Timo Bernhard was the fastest at 1:25.370, with Bergmeister setting the fast time, while the #23 car driven by Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen was second at 1:25.465.

"I'm happy with the lap time, but it's early and we have a lot of things to go through," said Bergmeister. "It's hard to work out everything in a short session. It feels like Le Mans did, very warm and wet."

The Racers Group Porsche of Kevin Buckler and Cort Wagner was third at 1:25.852, followed by the Risi Competizione Ferrari 360 Modena of Ralf Kelleners and Anthony Lazzaro at 1:26.052. Rounding out the top five was J3 Racing Porsche of David Murry and Justin Jackson at 1:26.211.

Eliseo Salazar, making his debut in the JMB Racing USA Ferrari 360, spun and tagged a barrier in turn three during the session, causing minor damage to the car and bringing out the only red flag of the day.

Saturday's schedule calls for two practice sessions and then qualifying to set the starting lineup for Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute timed event. The American Le Mans Series will also have an "Open Paddock" session for fans on Saturday from 11:50 a.m. until 1 p.m., with all drivers available for autographs and the race cars on display.

Sunday's race will be televised live by CBS Sports beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT). The race can also be heard live on the American Le Mans Series Radio Web beginning at 2 p.m. (EDT). The broadcast can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Tomas Enge , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Eliseo Salazar , Max Papis , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , David Murry , Anthony Lazzaro , Sascha Maassen , Kelly Collins , Lucas Luhr , Kevin Buckler , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Peter Kox , Timo Bernhard , Marco Werner , Emanuele Naspetti , Mimmo Schiattarella , Jérome Policand , Justin Jackson , Olivier Beretta , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , Danica Patrick , JJ Lehto , Cort Wagner
Teams Corvette Racing , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing