ALMS » 08 September 2003
Biela, Werner edge closer to title with Laguna win
The Infineon Team Joest pairing of Frank Biela and Marco Werner took an important step towards retaining the team's American Le Mans Series titles by taking a dominant win in Sunday's Fry's Electronics Sports Car Championships event at Laguna Seca.
Biela scored an overall win for the third consecutive year at the 2.238-mile circuit, while co-driver Werner won on his first appearance at the track. It was the fourth overall win for the duo in seven ALMS races this year and placed them in command of the race for the LMP 900 class drivers' championship after their chief rivals ran into problems.
"One of our goals at the start of the season was to win the championship," said Biela, who drove for the former works Audi team the past three seasons, "The team won the championship the past three years, and this year maybe it's my turn - and Marco's turn - to win the drivers' championship."
James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger finished second overall, but won the LMP 675 class in the Dyson Racing Lola EX257-MG. Other than the winning Audi, the Dyson entry was the only car to lead the race and finished on the lead lap, albeit a minute and 22secs behind the winner.
"We just got beaten today," said Leitzinger, who just managed to bring the Dyson entry home on the lead lap, crossing the line seconds in front of the winning Audi, "It was a constant battle out there with traffic, but we really didn't have anything for the Audi today. It's nice to get the class win, but we're really after the overall win."
Finishing third overall and second in P900 was the Panoz LMP01 of Olivier Beretta and David Saelens and JML team Panoz, while the ADT Champion Racing Audi R8 of JJ Lehto and Johnny Herbert finished third in P900 and fourth overall.
"I am really thrilled for all the team, because getting four podium finishes in a row is great achievement," Beretta beamed, "Everything really went to plan. Our fuel economy was perfect and Michelin's contribution to our performance can't be underestimated. We now have our sights set on making five podiums in a row at Miami."
The result was a bad one for Lehto, who had harboured hopes of adding to the Champion team's Road America victory and place himself firmly in the title battle.
"We could have done without this today, as it does us no favours in terms of the championship," the Finn sighed, "We really needed to beat the Joest Audi today but, while they had a faultless race, we lost over eight minutes changing the rear section.
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