Practice: Audi drivers on top

The factory Audis stamped their authority on the American Le Mans Series field as they dominated in Wednesday night's opening practice session for Saturday's fifth Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Practice: Audi drivers on top

Last year's race winners Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela put their R8 on top of the time sheets at the head of the 50-car field with a 1m11.499s lap, just 0.07s quicker than the similar Joest-run machine of Rinaldo Capello and Tom Kristensen, who essentially only needs to finish the 10-hour race to secure the ALMS drivers' title.

Both works cars proved over half a second quicker than the privateer Champion 2001-spec R8 of Johnny Herbert and Stefan Johansson, which set a 1m12.038s lap.

However, the factory Cadillacs - which are heading into their last ever race before the Northstar prototype programme is shut down - elected not to run in the session. They have proved to be the Audi's stiffest opposition over the past three ALMS events, with Max Angelelli and JJ Lehto finishing a strong second last weekend in Miami.

The closest challenger to the Audi's in the session proved to be Dyson Racing's new LMP675 class MG-Lola EX257, which lapped just over one second off the pace of the larger LMP900 pacesetters.

The factory Panoz cars, on home ground at Road Atlanta, were not as competitive as expected. The lead car of David Brabham and Jan Magnussen was stymied by power steering problems and was only eighth overall. The sister car led by Bryan Herta set the fifth fastest time, just ahead of the ever-improving factory Riley & Scott driven by rapid Belgian Marc Goossens.

The Prodrive Ferrari 550M of Tomas Enge, Peter Kox and Alain Menu showed a clean pair of heels to the factory Chevrolet Corvettes to head up the GTS class. The duo of Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3-RS cars took the usual positions at the head of the GT class times.

Biela/Pirro Joest Audi R8 (P900) 1m11.499s
Kristensen/Capello Joest Audi R8 (P900) 1m11.569s
Herbert/Johansson Champion Audi R8 (P900) 1m12.038s
Weaver/Leitzinger/Wallace Dyson MG-Lola EX257 P675 1m12.573s
Herta/Auberlen/Jeannette Panoz LMP-1 (P900) 1m12.872s
Matthews/Goossens/Ave Riley & Scott-Elan MkIIIC (P900) 1m13.292s
Field Sr/Dayton/Durand Intersport MG-Lola EX257 (P 675) 1m14.208s
Mgnussen/Brabham/Donohue Panoz LMP-1 (P 900) 1m14.442s
Nielsen/Elgaard IRM Reynard-Zytek 02S (P675) 1m15.285s
Knight/Hawkins/Block KnightHawk MG-Lola EX257 (P675), 1m16.071s

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