No. 45 Wins GT at ALMS Monterey: First Lizard Win of 2011
September 17, 2011 – Salinas, Calif. – After battling six hours of intense GT competition, Joerg Bergmeister brought the No. 45 in for the team's first win of the 2011 ALMS season tonight at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. It's the team's 3rd win in a row at this circuit. The No. 44 of Seth Neiman and Marco Holzer finished ninth.
The last three hours of the race were a nailbiter as first Long and then Bergmeister battled both of the BMWs (the No. 56 and No. 55), the No. 62 Risi Ferrari and the 4 Corvette for the GT lead. Long had started the race fifth on the GT grid, staying with the GT lead pack (the No. 56 BMW which started from the pole, the No. 55 BMW and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari), and handing the Porsche over to Bergmeister at the one-hour mark, now in P4.
Over the next hour of his two-hour double stint, Bergmeister held fast to P4 while the GT lead pack shuffled, but with the No. 56 still in the lead. At the start of hour three, a full- course caution brought most of the GT cars into the pits for tires and fuel. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari did not pit with the pack and took the lead. Bergmeister, still in P4, beat both BMWs out of the pits to move to P2. The No. 56 BMW was P3 and the No. 55 P4.
Nearing the four-hour mark, Bergmeister finally was able to pass the No. 62 to retake the lead. Shortly after, he pitted for driver change back to Patrick Long. After the round of stops was complete, Long held P1. Meanwhile, the No. 44, which had started from twelfth, with Marco Holzer behind the wheel, had progressed gradually through the field to P9, cycling uneventfully through driver changes to Seth Neiman and back to Holzer.
One-hour into his double stint, Long pitted for tires and fuel. The No. 56 BMW was P2, the No. 55 P3 and the No. 62 P4 at the time of the pit stop. The No. 62 stayed out, but both BMWs pitted with Long. The crew had to add oil to the No. 45 at this stop, allowing the No. 56 to edge out ahead of the No. 45 to take the lead. Long passed the No. 56 on the green flag restart, moving to P2. The No. 62 was still in the lead.
Long held off the No. 56 for the next ten minutes, until the No. 56 finally got by, moving Patrick to P3. Now Long had the No. 55 BMW on his tail, and spent the next 20 minutes holding him off until the No. 55 also got by, putting Long in P4.
Long stated, "The middle of the race was classic GT racing -- I spent over an hour battling the two BMWs who had a lot of straight line peformance. Our strength was traffic -- we were able to manage the traffic and put the traction down. Our strategy was to make sure we had a car that could go to the end and thanks to Joerg's driving at the end we were able to do that and still come out on the top of the podium."
At the five hour mark, Long pitted for driver change to Bergmeister, who headed out in P5. By now, the No. 4 Corvette was back in the mix, with the No. 56 BMW P2, the No. 62 P2, the No. 55 P3, and the No. 4 P4. With 30 minutes to go, Bergmeister was now P4, with the No. 56 BMW in the lead, the No. 55 BMW P2 and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari P3. Bergmeister was 8 seconds back from the No. 62; he was focused on reeling him in as the No. 62 was conserving fuel and on a slower pace. With 20 minutes to go in the race, the No. 55 BMW, in P2, made an unscheduled pit stop for a tire change, moving Bergmeister in P3 and No. 62 in P2. A few minutes later, a full course caution worked in the Lizard's favor, allowing Bergmeister to close the gap to the No. 62 and to the No. 56, but also giving the No. 62, now very low on fuel, a break.
On the green flag restart after the final caution, Bergmeister had just six minutes to make a move; he and the No. 62 took advantage of traffic and together passed the No. 56 to take P1 and P2, respectively. With two laps to go, Joerg was working to pass the No. 62, when the two made contact on the front straight, with Joerg against the inside wall. Bergmeister said, "That was a close call on the front straight. I was hit really hard -- I was able to keep control but I had a lot of pick up on the tires and as we went into the brake zone of Turn 2, he got around me on the outside." The No. 62 took the lead, but later in the lap hit the fuel bobble and Bergmeister was able to overtake. "On the last lap, as the No. 62 ran out of fuel, I passed to take the lead, with the No. 56 right behind me." Bergmeister took the checkered to win the ALMS Monterey at Laguna Seca. In the No. 44 Marco Holzer finished ninth: another solid finish with points on the board for the No. 44.
Team principal and driver of the No. 44 Porsche Seth Neiman added, "Words are inadequate to describe how we all feel tonight. This season has been so rough; to put together this hard-earned victory in the face of such intense competition has made this whole year worthwhile. Congratulations to the entire team for delivering two great cars, seamless pit stops and perfect strategy, and as always breathtaking driving from Joerg and Patrick and my co-driver Marco."