Sebring 12 Hours
Flying Lizard No. 45 Sixth and No. 44 Seventh in Rough Sebring Twelve-Hour
March 19, 2011 – Sebring, Florida – After a grueling twelve hours at Sebring, the Flying Lizard No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Marc Lieb finished sixth in GT, with the No. 44 Porsche of Seth Neiman, Darren Law and Marco Holzer finishing seventh. The No. 56 BMW took the GT win.
Team principal Neiman said, "It wasn't the way we had hoped to start our season, but it was good to see the team fight back from some difficult circumstances and put some reasonable points up for the championship. Congratulations to BMW and Corvette - the teams and cars ran very strong. And clearly we have some work to do and some time to go after it between now and Long Beach."
It was a clean race start for the entire field. Joerg Bergmeister started sixth on the grid in the No. 45 and Darren Law started the No. 44 from the rear of the grid. In his 90-minute stint, Joerg focused on staying with the lead GT pack but avoiding the battle between the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari, the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari (which started on the pole), both BMWs, and both Corvettes as they all fought for the lead, trading off through several caution periods and pit stops over the first 90 minutes.
Nearing the 90-minute mark, Joerg was P5 with the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in the lead, the No. 04 Corvette in P2, the No. 55 BMW in P3 and the No. 51 Ferrari in P4. The GT field took advantage of the next caution for their driver changes. Joerg pitted for driver change to Patrick Long.
Patrick was out again quickly, gaining several positions in the pits to emerge in fourth, and then passed the No. 04 Corvette on the restart to take P3. At the end of that lap, things took a downturn for the Lizards when the No. 45 connected with the No. 04 Corvette as the No. 04 passed him, sending both cars spinning, and collecting the No. 01 Extreme Ferrari in the aftermath.
By the 4-hour mark, the No. 45 had worked its way back up to P7. Bad luck struck again when Joerg Bergmeister took over from Marc Lieb for Joerg's second stint of the race. A scheduled change of the cool suit ice went awry, starting a cascade of events. On his outlap, under yellow, Joerg went off course, flat-spotting his right rear tire, a rare event for Joerg. Several laps later, Joerg radioed in that the racecar had began to misfire. He was able to continue, but then had to pit early for new tires. In the pits, it took several tries to get the car to restart. While Joerg headed out to complete his stint, the engineers were working to diagnose the problem. As the misfires continued to build, Joerg was force to pit yet again. The engineers had determined that an electrical component had been damaged by water from the cool suit and were able to replace it on Joerg's last pit stop.
After a driver change, nearly seven hours into the race, Patrick Long headed out for his second stint, now in P9 and two laps down on the GT leader. Meanwhile, the No. 44 held on to its position through the numerous yellows, cycling through Darren Law, Marco Holzer and Seth Neiman.
By the eight-hour mark, it was now fully dark. Patrick had moved up to P8, and the No. 44 was P10. Over the final four hours, both Lizard Porsches ran nearly problem- free, running through their driver lineup and conserving fuel in the final stints to minimize pit stops at the end of the race. The GT lead pack (the No. 55 and No. 56 BMWs, the No. 03 and No. 04 Corvettes, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari and the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari) continued to switch off over the sequence of cautions and pit stops.
By the final hour of the race, the No. 62 had been retired (mechanical) and the No. 56 and 55 BMWs held P1 and P2, respectively, with the No. 03 Corvette in P3 close behind and still on the lead lap. The No. 04 Corvette was P4 and No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari was P5, one lap down from the No. 56.
For the final hour, Patrick Long and Darren Law held on to their positions, but were not able to gain any ground, finishing sixth and seventh in the No. 45 and No. 44, respectively.
Patrick Long, "It wasn't an easy day for us, but I'm proud of everyone for soldiering on. It is days like this that can help you win the championship; you have to keep your head down and just get it done. I had a tough opening stint and felt really badly about the incident with the Corvette. My last two stints were uneventful and in the end, we were able to bring both cars home. Now on to Long Beach."
Darren Law, "The No. 44 ran seamlessly today: we didn't have any major problems and came from the back to a reasonable finish. I'm proud of the crew for preparing such a strong car for us, we were able to run a clean, consistent race and stayed out of trouble."
Marco Holzer, "I'm happy to finish my first 12 hours of Sebring. The team did a fantastic job on the pit stops and we are happy with our finish. I'm looking forward to doing more races with the lizards in the future."
Up next for the Lizards is the Long Beach Grand Prix, April 16.