Lizards’ Long Turns Perfect Lap in GT Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, But Fifth on Grid at ALMS Monterey; Bleekemolen Continues Pole Run in Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup in GTC for Saturday Race
MONTEREY, Calif. – September 16 – When Patrick Long (USA) turned his fastest qualifying lap in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, he was pretty happy as the car felt balanced and handled well. But when the crew told him his time, he found out that he was fifth on the grid behind two BMWs, a Corvette and a Ferrari.
“We made a setup change before the qualifying session, and the results were very good. My lap was perfect, and we have a great car for the six-hour race tomorrow. The fact that others could go faster when we made no mistakes speaks to regulations that are outside of our control,” said Long, who, along with Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) are seeking their second podium and first win of the season. The pair have won the American Le Mans Series GT driver’s championship the past two years, with Bergmeister earning a co-championship in 2008 as well.
The ModSpace American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patron will give the field of 36 cars the green flag tomorrow, Saturday, September 17, at 4:15 EDT (1:15 PM Pacific), and the race will last for six hours. ESPN3 will have the entire race live online, while live scoring will be on www.americanlemans.com. The ESPN2 broadcast of the event will be a two-hour program on Sunday, September 18, at 1:00 PM EDT.
The #17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which has won two of the last three ALMS GT events, was qualified by Bryan Sellers (USA) , who said the team has been faster in the race than in qualifying all year, so their ninth position on the grid was not a great concern.
“Over the race distance, our car seems to work into its best set-up, and our tires seem to come into their own later in the race,” said Sellers.
His co-driver, Wolf Henzler (Germany), agreed, adding that the change in track temperature for qualifying made a lot of choices a guessing game.
“The track surface has been cold ever since we arrived in Monterey, but for qualifying, we had sunny and warm, so our setup was not perfect,” said Henzler, who has an ALMS GT championship to his credit (with Bergmeister in 2008).
The Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid 2.0, the latest version of Porsche’s GT racing laboratory, is running this weekend’s race “unclassified” as there are not rules in place for hybrid race cars yet, but the car, which captures energy from braking, stores in on a flywheels, and uses it on demand through electric motors on the front axle, turned a time which would have put it third on the GT grid. Because the car was not allowed to participate in qualifying, driver Romain Dumas (France) – a multi-time ALMS champion himself – is looking for more laps at Laguna before he can draw any conclusions.
“We have improved in each session – we just wish we had more track time,” said Dumas.
“Of course, the great advantage of this car is the extra power with electric four-wheel-drive, but you have to modify your usual driving style. I haven’t driven the car this year, so I am getting used to both the hybrid system and the Laguna track,” said Dumas.
His co-driver, Richard Lietz (Austria), said the car will start at the back of the field since it is unclassified, but he is not concerned as the race is six hours long.
“We want to show the public that a hybrid can be fast and fun to drive as well as efficient,” said Lietz.
Other Porsche GT qualifiers included the #48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Bryce Miller (USA) and Sascha Maassen (Germany) – tenth; and the #44 Flying Lizard entry of Seth Neiman (USA) and Marco Holzer (Germany) - 12th.
In the ALMS GT Challenge class for matched Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racers, Jeroen Bleekemolen (The Netherlands) earned his ninth pole in 14 races (over two years) in the #54 Black Swan Racing Porsche he will share tomorrow with car owner Tim Pappas (USA).
“We were struggling in the first few practice sessions, but the team kept working on the setup and we had a great car for qualifying,” said Bleekemolen, who can help Pappas maintain his points lead in GTC even though Jeroen cannot win the title because he missed several races.
It was a Black Swan Racing sweep of the GTC front row as Damien Faulkner (Ireland) qualified the Green Hornet/Black Swan Racing Porsche in the second position in the car he will share with Peter LeSaffre (USA). Third was #66 TRG Porsche of Peter Ludwig/Spencer Pumpelly/Duncan Ende (all USA).