- August 02, 1964
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Almost every racing driver dreams about winning the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans race, and Frank Biela managed to do it no less than five times, establishing himself as one of the legends of motorsports.
He won at Le Mans three times in a row from 2000 to 2002, sharing an Audi R8 with Tom Kristensen and Emanuele Pirro. Biela's next period of domination at Le Mans came in 2006 and 2007 when he won a race in an Audi R10 TDI together with Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner.
Late start of a racing career
Frank Biela was born on August 2, 1964, in the city of Neuss in the North-Rhine Westphalia. Interestingly, Biela started his racing career pretty late, when he was 17 years old, but the interest in the sport was sparked much sooner in his life.
In 1983, he had competed in the German karting championship and took the 4th place before moving to Formula Ford 1600 in the following year, again finishing 4th. In 1985, Frank made a small step forward, taking the 3rd place. The year of 1986 brought further progress as Biela finished the Formula Ford 2000 season as a runner-up.
In 1987, alongside other well-known names like Bernd Schneider and Manuel Reuter, Frank Biela became a member of the Ford Youngster Team program. He had competed in the German Formula 3 and DTM series until 1989, scoring a 3rd place in Formula 3 in 1988. At the end of 1989, Biela left the open-wheel racing and focused solely on sportscar racing. That year, he also finished 2nd in the famous Bathurst 1000 race in Australia, repeating the same result again in 1997.
A long and successful cooperation between Frank Biela and Audi
Since 1990, Biela has raced almost exclusively in Audi cars. After finishing 10th in DTM that year, Biela became the series champion in 1991, driving Audi V8 quattro. He couldn’t defend his DTM title in 1991 with the same car, but for the first time he entered the 24 hours of Nurburgring race and finished 3rd, driving a Porsche. Biela also appeared as a guest in the French Supertouring Championship that same year.
In 1993, Biela became the only non-French driver who won the title in the French Supertouring. He also debuted in the 24 hours of Spa, again with Porsche works team. During 1994, Frank competed only in DTM series and finished the season as a vice-champion driving Audi 80, while in the following year he was 3rd in the series behind the wheel of Audi A4 quattro. In 1995, the Audi driver also won the World Touring cars race at Circuit Paul Ricard.
Video - Fatal accident at AVUS
Sadly, the year of 1995 was marked by one tragic event. During the ADAC Super Tourenwagen Cup race at legendary AVUS circuit in Berling, Biela’s Audi struck into Kieth O’dor’s car which stopped in the middle of the track after having an accident. The crash was really hard and O’dor died later that day in the hospital.
Excellent results in various competitions
In 1996, Audi had entered the British Touring Car Championship which was another opportunity for Biela to show what he is capable of. He won the title in his first attempt, being absolutely dominant throughout most of the season. That year was crowned with another triumph – at the famous Guia Race of Macau.
The German driver couldn’t defend his BTCC title in 1997. Due to the new rule of ballast penalty for all four-wheel-drive cars, Audi wasn’t as superior as in the previous years, but Biela still managed to finish the season as a vice-champion, losing to the Swiss Alain Menu. Audi returned to DTM in 1998 but that year was one to forget after he had finished 14th in the championship.
Debut at Le Mans and three consecutive wins
Finally, in 1999, Frank Biela debuted in the race which made him famous. On his debut in 24 Hours of Le Mans, Audi R8R with the drivers line-up of Biela, Didier Theys, and Emanuele Pirro finished 3rd, which was an announcement for the domination that will come in the following years.
Sharing the seat of Audi R8 with Pirro and Tom Kristensen, Biela triumphed at Le Mans three time in a row – 2000, 2001 and 2002. In 2000, they also won 12 hours of Sebring while in the following year finished as the runner-ups in one of the most prestigious endurance races in the US. In 2001, he also won Petit Le Mans and was named ADAC Motorsport Driver of the Year.
Complete domination over the tracks in the US
In 2003, Frank Biela won 12 hours of Sebring for the second time and together with Marco Werner was crowned as the American Le Mans Series champion. He repeated victory at Sebring in 2004 driving for Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx but had an unsuccessful return to DTM in which he failed to earn a single point out from 11 races, driving for Team Joest.
Driving for the American team ADT Champion Racing in 2005, Biela finished 3rd in 24 Hours of Le Mans but won the title in the ALMS alongside Emanuele Pirro.
Another two victories at Le Mans
Frank confirmed his world class again in 2006 when he won 24 hours of Le Mans for the fourth time. Driving Team Joest’s Audi R10 TDI with a diesel engine, alongside Pirro and Werner, they scored one of the most impressive wins at Circuit de la Sarthe. They defended their crown at Le Mans in 2007 but also won 12 hours of Sebring.
After achieving so many victories, the legendary German slightly reduced his racing duties. He stayed with Audi as a development driver and started to run in the German VLN championship at Nurburgring. He won three titles in the series (2009, 2011 and 2012) and also won 24 hours of Nurburgring in the same years – twice driving Audi R8 LMS and once in the seat of Audi TT RRS.
Classic cars are his passion
Undoubtedly, Frank Biela is a true legend of motorsport and one of the most successful drivers in the history of endurance racing. Away from his duties on the track, Frank was always a great fan of old classic vehicles and, as he said once, Jaguar E-Type he had seen as a kid in Dusseldorf was the car of his dreams.
Photo: audi-mediacenter.com flickr.com audi-motorsport-blog.blogspot.com championracing.net auto-motor-und-sport.de