St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Salt Lake City, and now Lime Rock, Connecticut. Those are the four GT2 victories in a row reeled off by the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR so far in the 2009 American Le Mans Series.
But while the driving team of Patrick Long (USA) and Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) have made it look easy on the final results sheet, it has been anything but a walk in the park on the race track.
“If you just look at the final results from the last four races, it looks like we are running away with the GT2 championship, but the reality is that each race has been a struggle, and today was no exception. We ran as fast as we could during qualifying, yet the Ferrari grabbed the pole, and the BMWs were strong. We made a differential adjustment after qualifying, and it didn’t feel better during the final warm-up, but it was the right move as our Flying Lizard Porsche was perfect. The pass I made on Kaffer (62 Ferrari) was the result of hard, clean racing by both of us. I knew my car was faster, but, at this track, you have to pick your spots,” said Long, who, along with Bergmeister, lead the GT2 championship points with 100, while the Kaffer/Melo Ferrari combo has 75 points.
“Through great pit work and strategy – plus Patrick’s strong stint, we gained a good lead over the Ferrari, and it was my job to manage the lead, save gas, and bring the car home in first place. Every lap here is a little different with traffic, and there is no chance to relax. I credit my success here at Lime Rock – four wins in four years – to being with the right codrivers and right teams,” said Bergmeister, who won the GT2 championship with Patrick in 2005 in a Porsche.
Long passed the Ferrari about 25 minutes into the two-hour, 45-minute event, and the Porsche maintained the lead for the rest of the event. The Ferrari lost a lap when it was caught speeding in the pit lane (a stop-and-go penalty, and the leading BMW competitor early in the race, the Milner/Mueller E92 M3, broke a half-shaft. The other BMW, the Hand/Auberlen car, finished third.
Fourth was the #87 Bryce Miller (USA)/Wolf Henzler (Germany) Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which had to overcome a loose driver seat at the start of the race which put the car back into seventh place at the end of the first lap.
“I don’t think I locked down my seat properly on the pre-grid and it moved back on its track enough to make things challenging. It is hard to be pleased with my race performance because I was struggling to reach the steering wheel. Wolf is a champion and [he] did a superb job restoring our car to a respectable position after my seating dilemma. I just can’t help to wonder what the result would otherwise have been. It really is a shame and I feel bad about it,” said Miller, who helped Farnbacher Loles win the Rolex Grand-Am GT championship in 2007.
Henzler was also disappointed with the finish, even though a fourth-place finish among this competitive field is respectable.
“We finished fourth which was the best we could do today. Our car was really good, was very fast. Unfortunately, Bryce had a problem with the seat and couldn¹t do the lap times he was capable of running. And then there was a spin and we had to pit under green, which lost us more time. It was a tough day,” said Henzler, who left the track right after the race to fly to Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama to drive a Farnbacher Loles Porsche tomorrow in the Grand-Am race.
Other Porsche GT2 finishers included the VICI Racing team of Johannes Stuck/Richard Westbrook (fifth) and the Flying Lizard entry of Seth Neiman/Johannes van Overbeek (seventh).
In the ALMS Challenge class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, Bob Faieta and Wesley Hoagland took their Gruppe Orange entry to victory to score their first-ever ALMS win. Faieta and Hoagland took the victory after the Martin Snow/Melanie Snow Porsche broke a drive shaft late in the race, finishing fourth in the final standings. The Ed Brown/Bill Sweedler Porsche was third, followed Nick Parker/Don Pickering GT3 Cup. The early race leader, Guy Cosmo/John Baker, crashed in the first half of the race and could not continue.
“Although we were on the pole, the Snows lead most of the race, and we were the pursuers. Late in the event, I lost my radio, but knew that I had to catch the #57 car. I just drove as hard as I could, and didn’t know until the end that they had broken. Even though we were the slowest class, everyone out there was so professional that traffic was not a problem. This was great,” said Faieta, who is the two-time defending Patron GT3 Challenge champion in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
The next event for the American Le Mans Series will be at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday, August 8, 2009.
Result GT2 class
1. Bergmeister/Long (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 167 laps
2. Melo/Kaffer (BRA/D), Ferrari F430 GT, 166
3. Auberlen/Hand (USA/USA), BMW E92 M3, 166
4. Henzler/Miller (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 165
5. Stuck/Westbrook (A/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 163
6. Farnbacher/James (D/USA), Panoz Esperante, 163
7. van Overbeek/Neiman (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 162
Points’ standings GT2 class
1. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Porsche, 100 points
2. Jamie Melo, Pierre Kaffer, Ferrari, 75
3. Dominik Farnbacher, Ian James, Panoz, 58
4. Seth Neiman, Porsche, 44
Wolf Henzler, Porsche, 44
6. Marc Lieb, Porsche, 36
2. Ferrari 75 points
3. Panoz 58
1. Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche, 100 points
2. Risi Competizione, Ferrari, 75
3. Panoz Team PTG, Panoz, 58
4. Farnbacher Loles Racing, Porsche, 44