Road Atlanta: Qualifying report

Biela wins pole for Petit Le Mans; Weaver qualifies third in LMP 675. BRASELTON, Ga. (October 11, 2002) -- Since his car had been the fastest in all practice sessions, it was no surprise that Frank Biela placed his Audi R8 on the pole for the ...

Biela wins pole for Petit Le Mans; Weaver qualifies third in LMP 675.

BRASELTON, Ga. (October 11, 2002) -- Since his car had been the fastest in all practice sessions, it was no surprise that Frank Biela placed his Audi R8 on the pole for the American Le Mans Series season finale in Friday's qualifying session at Road Atlanta.

But the biggest surprise in qualifying for Saturday's Audi presents Petit Le Mans was the performance of James Weaver, who was third-fastest while driving Dyson Racing's LMP 675 Lola EX257-MG. The smaller, less-powerful Prototype led its class and outqualified all but two of the powerful LMP 900 machines.

Biela, winning the pole for the second consecutive race on the American Le Mans Series, turned the 2.54-mile circuit in a non-record time of 1:10.939. He and co-driver Emanuele Pirro are the defending champion of the event and Biela still has a mathematical chance of overtaking fellow Audi driver Tom Kristensen for the series championship.

"Our engineer came up with the plan to get the qualifying point in case something happens to the other car," said Biela. "During practice, conditions were constantly changing so it was hard to judge how well we were doing. We only had one problem: a little too much understeer, which could be a problem during the race. One important thing is that our car is always pretty reliable."

Kristensen qualified second at a very close 1:11.070 in a car he will share with Rinaldo Capello. Weaver, who will co-drive with Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace, timed in at 1:11.883.

"We thought we could get third quickest," said Weaver. "Anything better than that would have taken a bit of a miracle. This is a fabulous little car. It's very, very fast."

The Champion Audi of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson will start fourth in the 1,000-mile (or 10-hour) event, with the Panoz LMP-1 of David Brabham, Jan Magnussen and David Donohue to start fifth. The Panoz team worked all night to repair the car after a mechanical failure sent Donohue into a barrier in Thursday's practice.

In the GTS class, the Prodrive Ferrari piloted by Tomas Enge led the way with a lap of 1:19.069, barely beating the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R of Ron Fellows. The Ferrari was the first non-Corvette to win in the ALMS this season.

"The pole will give the team a big boost for the race," said Enge, who will co-drive with Peter Kox and Alain Menu in the Ferrari 550 Maranello. "We know it will be hard against the Corvettes because they are two and we are alone. A win would be a really good way to end the season."

Fellows, who won the first six poles of the season in the GTS class, has now been beaten four consecutive times in qualifying and still stands one pole short of owning the series record for the most poles in any class.

"The car felt good and the tires were only decent," said Fellows, who can win the GTS class driver title in Saturday's race. "The hot track temperatures were not what we expected and kinda went off after the second lap. The weather is going to be a lottery this weekend."

In the GT class, Alex Job Racing driver Jorg Bergmeister won the first pole of his brief ALMS career with a lap of 1:23.922 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS he will share with Timo Bernhard and Marc Lieb. The other Job machine, to be co-driven by Sascha Maassen an Lucas Luhr, was second at 1:24.068, followed by the Cirtek Motorsport Porsche of Stephane Ortelli and Christophe Bouchut.

"It's my first pole and I'm really happy," said Bergmeister. "Thank you to the team because they did a great job. I was just pushing as hard as I could."

The race starts at 11:30 a.m. (EDT) and will be televised live by the SPEED Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Johnny Herbert , Tomas Enge , David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Rinaldo Capello , Jan Magnussen , Frank Biela , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Stéphane Ortelli , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , David Donohue , Jörg Bergmeister , Peter Kox , Timo Bernhard , Christophe Bouchut , Marc Lieb , Alex Job , Alain Menu , Emanuele Pirro
Teams Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing