SONOMA, Calif. - On a day that saw unofficial track records set in two classes, Frank Biela set the fast time Friday as American Le Mans Series teams had their first day of testing for Sunday's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon ...
SONOMA, Calif. - On a day that saw unofficial track records set in two classes, Frank Biela set the fast time Friday as American Le Mans Series teams had their first day of testing for Sunday's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.
Biela, driving an Audi R8 Prototype from the Infineon Team Joest stable, turned the 2.53-mile circuit at 1:24.319, fastest of the cars that participated in the two-hour, 30-minute testing session. Official practice begins Saturday morning with qualifying for Sunday's race to be held Saturday afternoon. Unofficial track records were set in both the LMP 675 and GT classes.
With the fastest time overall and in the LMP 900 class, Biela and fellow German Marco Werner will co-drive the Audi as they seek their second American Le Mans Series win of 2003. They started the season by winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, then finished second in the event last month at Road Atlanta.
"We worked on the setup of the car today, which is so crucial here," said Biela. "This track is really exhausting because there is no straight at all. It will be a very tough race."
James Weaver of England, driving the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG, was second-fastest in Friday's test session, only .421 second behind Biela, and the fastest car in the LMP 675 class. His lap of 1:24.740 unofficially broke the track class record of 1:25.319 that was set last year by Jon Field. Weaver will co-drive with Butch Leitzinger of State College, Pa., in the Dyson entry and is expected to challenge for the overall race win.
"This will be the first time for us running here with this car," said Weaver. "We are actually pretty well off in this event. The car is advantageous on a track with extreme elevation changes. This should really be an event we can show what we have."
The ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of Johnny Herbert and JJ Lehto was third-fastest on Friday at 1:24.823. Herbert and Lehto won the most recent ALMS event at Road Atlanta. The second Dyson Racing entry, driven by Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, was fourth overall at 1:25.385, followed by the Intersport Lola EX257-MG of Jon Field and Duncan Dayton at 1:26.205.
One of the hottest battles of the weekend will be in the GTS class, with the two-car factory Corvette team fighting the two Ferrari 550 Maranello entries from Prodrive Racing and the Team Olive Garden Ferrari. Ron Fellows, driving for Corvette, set the standard for the day at in a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R he will share with Johnny O'Connell with a lap of 1:31.861.
"We have the new cars here, the ones we ran at Le Mans," said Fellows, from Canada. "We've done some testing since the last race and we can see where it's getting better in a lot of areas. The Ferraris are fast and they have some good drivers and we know it will be a battle on Sunday."
Fellows' time beat the 1:33.094 posted by Peter Kox and Tomas Enge in one of the Prodrive Ferraris. David Brabham and Jan Magnussen, overall winners of the ALMS event last year while driving Prototypes for the former Panoz team, are making their first start for Prodrive this weekend and were third at 1:33.265.
In the GT class, Sascha Maassen set an unofficial track record of 1:36.011 in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS that he will share with fellow German driver Lucas Luhr. The other Job car driven by Timo Bernhard and Jorg Bergmeister was second at 1:36.406.
"I feel really comfortable in the car at this circuit," said Maassen, co-champion of the GT class last year with Luhr and the oldest of the Job drivers at 33. "The car is really good, we are just working on the handling and that is it. I didn't know I now have the fast lap for the circuit, but that is good news. I guess the 'old guy' can still be fast with young teammates."
The two-hour, 45-minute race will start at noon (PDT) on Sunday, July 27, and will be broadcast live by the American Le Mans Series Radio Web online at www.americanlemans.com. NBC Sports will have live television coverage in North America beginning at 4 p.m. (EDT).
Ticket information is available online at www.infineonraceway.com or by calling the Infineon Raceway ticket office at 1-800-870-RACE.