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Latest ALMS/Grand-Am News and Comntary

Weaver awarded pole at Road Atlanta
as rain washes out qualifying
June 28, 2003

BRASELTON, Ga. - James Weaver was awarded the top starting position for Sunday's American Le Mans Series Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta after Saturday's qualifying was canceled due to wet track conditions at Road Atlanta.

The starting lineup for the race was determined by practice speeds that were posted during three sessions held during the day and Weaver set the fastest lap of 1:13.748 (123.990 mph) in the Dyson Racing Lola-MG. Weaver will co-drive with Butch Leitzinger in Sunday's two-hour, 45-minute sports car race.

Frank Biela and Marco Werner will start second in the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8, with Biela turning a 1:13.753 lap at the end of the final practice session to almost beat Weaver's time. JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert will start third in the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8.

Weaver set the fastest time in the LMP 675 class, as well as overall, while Biela's time was the fastest among LMP 900 cars. Although Weaver's speed will not count as an official American Le Mans Series pole position because an actual qualifying session was net held, he and team owner Rob Dyson were thrilled at setting the top speed of the day with the smaller, less-powerful LMP 675 car.

"Our chances are as good as everyone else," said Weaver, from England. "This is a cool car, easy to drive, with less physical effort but with serious g-forces. Our tires are exceptional; we should do well in traffic and on takeoff compared to the Audis."

"This is a big reward for the crew," said Dyson, who is fielding a two-car team of the Lola-MG machines. "Everyone pulled together. Even though it doesn't count as a pole, today we've gone faster than everybody."

Biela was one of several drivers unhappy that the qualifying session was scratched. His Audi had been fastest in the Saturday morning session and in Friday's testing. "Normally we would have gotten the pole," he said. "But none of us knew what happened to qualification."

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 theirselves in an unrepresentative 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 chequered 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 so far with 1m 13.041s. 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.

The race at Road Atlanta starts at 3 p.m. local time (2100 CET) and runs over 2:45 hours. CBS will televise the race live in the USA. Marco Werner is scheduled to start the Infineon Team Joest Audi R8.

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 sceptical. The track is really not easy. You can easily make mistakes here. There are many blind sections, 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 Jüttner (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 tyres 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.”

Ron Fellows had the fastest practice time in the GTS class in the Chevrolet Corvette C5-R that he will share with Johnny O'Connell as the intense Corvette vs. Ferrari rivalry in the GTS class continues. The Corvette team is seeking revenge after losing to the Prodrive Ferrari 550 Maranello in the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago.

"We've been pretty well set up since we've been here," said Fellows, the 2002 ALMS GTS class driving champion. "It's satisfying to have the fastest speed because of who we are racing against. The Ferraris, all three of them, are very tough competitors."

The second Corvette Racing machine of Kelly Collins and Oliver Gavin will start second in the class, with the Team Olive Garden Ferrari of Mimmo Schiattarella and Emanuele Naspetti third. The two Prodrive Ferraris will be fourth and fifth in the GTS class, the top five separated by less than a second.

"I am disappointed not to be able to take part in a competitive (qualifying) session," said Tomas Enge, who co-drove with Peter Kox in Prodrive's winning Le Mans car. "We were working on different setups this afternoon, getting ready for qualifying, and now we don't have that opportunity. We are here to compete; that's what we want to do."

Danica Patrick of Roscoe, Ill., rising young American racing star, will make her American Le Mans Series debut in the second Prodrive Ferrari, co-driving with Jerome Policand. "I'm used to driving my street car in the rain since I lived in London for three years, but this is the first time I've driven this Ferrari in traffic and in the rain," said Patrick. "I had two clean laps at the end and I'm getting used to the car."

Timo Bernhard was the fastest in the GT class in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS that he will share with Jorg Bergmeister, turning a lap of 1:24.323. The second Job Porsche co-driven by Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen was clocked at 1:24.591 and will start second in class.

"We went out right after the start of the practice session to test our race setup," said Bernhard. "I didn't know the times would count for pole. I know others are not happy, but our crew did a great job to prepare the Porsche."

Because an actual qualifying session was not held, no pole positions were earned by drivers or teams and the awarded starting spots will not count in series totals or records.

The Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta starts at 3 p.m. (EDT) and will be televised live by CBS Sports starting at 4 p.m. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at

The starting lineup showing drivers, hometown or country, type car (class), lap time and lap speed in miles per hour:

James Weaver, England, and Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Lola EX257/AER MG (P675), 1:13.748, 123.990
Frank Biela, Germany, and Marco Werner, Germany; Audi R8 (P900), 1:13.753, 123.981

Johnny Herbert, England, and JJ Lehto, Finland; Audi R-8 (P900), 1:13.826, 123.859

Didier Theys, Belgium, and Eric van de Poele, Belgium; Dallara MG (P900), 1:14.304, 123.062

Andy Wallace, England, and Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Lola EX257/AER MG (P675), 1:14.448, 122.824

Olivier Beretta, Monaco, and Max Papis, Italy; Panoz LMP01/EPP (P900), 1:15.666, 120.847

Jon Field, Dublin, OH, and Duncan Dayton, North Salem, NY; Lola EX257/AER MG (P675), 1:16.079, 120.191

Gunnar Jeannette, Palm Beach Gardens, FL, and David Saelens,Belgium; Panoz LMP01/EPP (P900), 1:16.245, 119.929

Clint Field,Dublin, OH, and Michael Durand, Wayland, MA; Lola B2K10/MG (P900), 1:19.212, 115.437
Michael Lewis, San Diego, CA, and Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, CA; R&S MK IIIC/Lincoln (P900), 1:19.614, 114.854

Ron Fellows,Canada, and Johnny O'Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (GTS), 1:20.917, 113.005

Oliver Gavin, England, and Kelly Collins, Corona Del Mar, CA; Chevrolet Corvette C5-R (GTS), 1:21.320, 112.445

Emanuelle Naspetti, Italy, and Mimmo Schiattarella, Italy; Ferrari 550 Maranello (GTS), 1:21.326, 112.436

Tomas Enge, Czech Republic, and Peter Kox, The Netherlands; Ferrari 550 Maranello (GTS), 1:21.428, 112.296

Jerome Policand, France, and Danica Patrick, Roscoe, IL; Ferrari 550 Maranello (GTS), 1:21.863, 111.699

Jean-Philippe Belloc, France, and Tom Weickardt,Whitefish Bay, WI; Dodge Viper GTS-R (GTS), 1:22.044, 111.452

Jeff Bucknum, Lake Havasu City, AZ; Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; and Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Pilbeam MP91/Willman 6/1EX (P675), 1:23.150, 109.970

Timo Bernhard, Germany, and Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:24.323, 108.440
Sascha Maassen, Germany, and Lucas Luhr, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:24.591, 108.097
Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, GA, and Ralf Kelleners, Germany; Ferrari 360 Modena (GT), 1:25.594, 106.830
Spencer Pumpelly, Washington, DC, and Andy Lally, New York, NY; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:26.467, 105.751
Kevin Buckler, Sonoma, CA, and Cort Wagner, Pacific Palisades, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:26.578, 105.616
Leo Hindery, New York, N.Y., and Peter Baron, Deerfield Beach, FL; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:26.873, 105.257
Shane Lewis, Jupiter, FL, and Andrew Davis, Lilburn, GA; Ferrari 360 Modena (GT), 1:27.263, 104.787
Robin Liddell, Scotland, and Alex Davison, Australia; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:27.373, 104.655
John Burke, Rumson, N.J., and Joe Blacker, Ellicott City, MD; Pilbeam MP84/Nissan (P675), 1:27.407, 104.614
Chris Gleason, Johnstown, PA, and Marc Bunting, Monkton, MD; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:27.418, 104.601
Melanie Paterson, Canada, and Jason Workman, Gainesville, GA; Lola B2K40-Nissan (P675), 1:27.583, 104.404
Jay Policastro, Latrobe, PA, and Joe Policastro, Latrobe, PA; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:27.903, 104.024
Joe Foster, Lawrenceville, GA, Rick Skelton, Atlanta, GA, and Brad Nyberg, Houston, TX; Panoz Esperante GT-LM/Elan (GT), 1:28.457, 103.372
Stephan Gregoire, Carmel, Ind., and Eliseo Salazar, Chile; Ferrari 360 Modena (GT), 1:28.530, 103.287
Vic Rice,San Rafael, CA, and Piers Masarati, England; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:28.600, 103.205
Jim Downing, Atlanta, GA, and Howard Katz, New York, NY; WR-Mazda (P675), 1:28.738, 103.045
Justin Jackson, Buford, GA, and David Murry, Cumming, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:28.937, 102.814
Michael Schrom, Ghent, NY, and Pierre Ehret, Santa Rosa, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:28.074, 102.656
Philip Collin, Park Ridge, IL, and Tony Burgess, Canada; Porsche 911 GT3 RS (GT), 1:28.452, 102.222.

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