Washington DC: Qualifying summary

Biela wins Washington pole; drivers predict hot, physical race in inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 20, 2002) - Three-time Le Mans winner Frank Biela won the pole Saturday for Sunday's American Le Mans...

Biela wins Washington pole; drivers predict hot, physical race in inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. (July 20, 2002) - Three-time Le Mans winner Frank Biela won the pole Saturday for Sunday's American Le Mans Series inaugural Cadillac Grand Prix of Washington, D.C. The German driver then predicted a race that may be more physically demanding than the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The two-hour, 45-minute race will be held on a 1.661-mile, seven turn temporary racing circuit constructed in what had been a parking lot for RFK Stadium. Temperatures on race day are expected to be above 90 degrees with muggy conditions.

"It's hard to compare this race to Le Mans, but this may be our most difficult race of the season," said Biela, who will co-drive an Audi R8 Prototype with Emanuele Pirro of Italy. "At Le Mans, you have long straights that you can relax for a moment, but you can never rest on this circuit because it is so short. The heat will also be a factor. You will work very hard in the car for your driving stint and then you will be ready to get out."

Biela's lap of 1:03.287 (94.484 mph) just edged the 1:03.312 turned by Rinaldo Capello in the second Audi factory team car. Capello and co-driver Tom Kristensen won the most recent American Le Mans Series event two weeks ago at Elkhart Lake, Wis.

The track is surrounded by walls on both sides, as opposed to the natural-terrain road courses the series normally runs on. "The race will come down to a strategy of staying off the walls," said Biela.

Jon Field of Dublin, Ohio, led qualifying in the LMP 675 class for smaller Prototypes for his third consecutive pole in the class. However, the bad luck he has experienced since winning class in the 12 Hours of Sebring in March continued when a broken suspension part sent him crashing into the turn one wall and tire barrier during the qualifying session. "The car is hurt pretty badly," he said of his Lola EX 257-AER MG. "The wreck got to the tub and Lola doesn't have any spares. Hopefully another team will help us and we'll be able to race." He is scheduled to co-drive with his won, Clint.

Ron Fellows of Canada led qualifying for the GTS class in a Chevrolet Corvette C5-R, continuing his sweep of qualifying in all five ALMS races held this year. He and co-driver Johnny O'Connell will seek their fourth win of the season.

"This is not a typical street circuit," said Fellows. "It's more of a road course with turns that have longer radius. The setup we came here with that we expected to work didn't work at all, so we went to a more normal setup."

Sascha Maassen of Germany won his third pole of the season in the GT class in a Porsche 911 GT3 RS. He and co-driver Lucas Luhr have won two of the four ALMS races held this season.

"Some of my biggest success has been on street circuits (in Europe)," he said. "For a street circuit, this is wide and very good. The braking for turn one will be very exciting."

The race will start at 12 noon (EST), with live television coverage by NBC Sports beginning at 1 p.m. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Frank Biela , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Jon Field , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Emanuele Pirro