Dyson Lola takes controversial pole

A confusing afternoon at the Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta, the second round of this year's American Le Mans Series, resulted in James Weaver earning pole position by virtue of turning in the fastest time of the day in Rob Dyson's Thetford Lola/MG - the first occasion that an LMP675 machine will start first for an ALMS race

Dyson Lola takes controversial pole

With rain arriving just as official qualifying was set to begin, ALMS officials decided to cancel the session and set the field for tomorrow's Chevy Grand Prix of Atlanta at Road Atlanta on the basis of practice times from any of Saturday's three timed practice periods. Since both the opening morning session and the scheduled qualifying session were wet, it meant the middle session, run in the dry during the hour just prior to the scheduled qualifying, turned out to be the one that really counted.

Not many people were happy with the decision, regardless of where they ended up, as some teams did not concentrate on setting competitive times, instead spending the hour fine-tuning their chassis setups.

What it all meant was that Weaver's quickest lap of 1m13.748s stood up for the pole. He did, however, need to withstand one final assault, as the last few minutes of the day's final session turned into a dramatic shootout. Both Audis and the two Dyson Lolas headed out onto an ever-drying track, and on the final lap of the day, Frank Biela was able to crank off a 1m13.753s in the Infineon/Joest Audi R8, but fell short of Weaver's best by a slim 0.005sec!

Weaver, though happy, was mystified. "I can't understand why they did it. The track would have been the same for everyone, but I'll take what I'm given and be happy with it. In the past, the same kind of thing has worked against me."

Biela's comments were terse: "Normally, we would have gotten the pole, but none of us knew what happened to qualification."

Ron Fellows will start first in the GTS class, after the Veloqx Prodrive Ferrari squad opted to work on set-up rather than speed in the practice sessions.

"We didn't go for any times as we were working on set-ups. We think we [all] should have gone out in [the rain], as it would have been the same for everyone."

Timo Bernhard claimed the GTS class pole, although he was similarly confused with the cancellation of qualifying. "Sure, I set the time, but I did not know it was qualifying. I think we could have gone quicker. We are up to speed, and will be ready tomorrow."

Weaver/Leitzinger Lola EX257 LMP675 1m13.748s
Biela/Werner Audi R8 LMP900 1m13.7532
Lehto/Herbert Audi R8 LMP900 1m13.826s
Theys/van de Poele Dallara MG LMP900 1m14.304s
Wallace/Dyson Lola EX257 LMP675 1m14.448s
Papis/Beretta Panoz LMP01 LMP900 1m15.666s

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