American Le Mans Series Presents Q&A With Mike Petersen
Braselton, Ga. - The American Le Mans Series recently sat down with GT2 class team owner Michael Petersen to get his unique perspective on international sports car racing. We asked Petersen, owner/ driver of the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, about his team's first full season of ALMS racing, its relationship with manufacturer Porsche, the state of GT racing and much more. As the owner of the 2003 and 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans LM GT class winning Porsche, as well as a six-time visitor to the ALMS podium in 2004, Petersen's opinion of this largely privateer class is particularly relevant entering the 2005 season. This one-time highly successful off-road racer, who still turns competitive times while testing for the 2003 Road America 500 winning team, was happy to answer in the honest, insightful and humorous manner in which those in the paddock have become accustom since he first entered the ALMS in 1999. He even offered to answer your questions.
Q: The season did not end with the result you would have liked for your team. As the owner, how do you break-down what happened at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca?
MP: "Well, Laguna was a bit of disappointment to us all. We did not qualify as well as we wanted and took a huge gamble in the race. The gamble was all we could do with the rain to make-up some spots, to move to the front, but no luck with that gamble. We still had a great time as the drive up in my Carrera GT was just awesome!"
Q: Reviewing the season as a whole, what is your opinion of the year? Including Le Mans and the ALMS?
MP: "This season has been very incredible with the success that we have had as a team. That success, because of the team, has just been a dream come true. We had so many good, close races with the other competitors that it was always up in the air as who could win. From the start our goal was to win the championship and the privateer points. Although we did not, we still had excellent results with the defending of the Le Mans victory to always trying to stay on the podium in the ALMS. We had some personnel changes and the team became that much more focused. I am so proud of the guys and all of their hard work. We were not the biggest team but were one of the strongest consistently. That is quite a feat."
Q: You have enjoyed a very good relationship with Porsche since entering sports car racing. How beneficial is that relationship for Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing?
MP: "The relationship that we, as a team, have with Porsche has been one hell of a ride! We have both shared in several victories and disappointments but without their support and help we would not have been able to do some of the things that were our goals. Of course, a great team and good drivers added to that. Last but not least the sponsors have helped make it happen, as without them nothing would be possible! THANKS, MOM!
Q: 2004 marked your seventh year in professional sports car racing. What are the biggest changes you have seen over that period of time to the sport and to the GT class?
MP: "The biggest changes in the GT class the last seven years have been the great competition from the other Porsche teams and the other manufacturers. I still feel that we need more brands to enter to make things more exciting to the fans. The drivers that have been entering into the GT ranks have been some world class drivers which just goes to show that driving in your mirrors is just not as easy as the people think. The development of the 996 has to be my favorite thing in the last seven years. Matched with the sequential gearbox it is so much fun to drive."
Q: What are the biggest changes to Petersen/ White Lightning since 1998?
MP: "The biggest changes since 1998 is the growth of the team and the learning curve form everyone involved. We have gone through many different cars and people to find the right match. When Dale and I decided to make this a professional thing instead of a hobby, that is when things really started to get going. I hope to do racing for a long time and endurance racing is where I want to be."
Q: What is the chemistry between yourself and Dale White that has led to such success in seven years of sports car racing and nearly 20 years as motorsports partners?
MP: "Wow! Has it been that long? Dale is a very good friend first and a business partner second. I feel that by us having this flow we are able to get though anything that comes at us as very good friends. We both think alike and balance each other out in the business so it just works for us. Whatever we decide to do, I would want him on my side in any battle!"
Q: As an owner, what would you most like to see happen in international sports car racing? What does the sport need the most in your opinion?
MP: "I do not know if people are ready for this! No, really things need to be less one-sided for others to have a chance to win. If this does not happen soon the entries will be going to the other series. With talent anyone should have a good shot at winning, not just because they have this or that. It should just come down to the drivers, crew and the prep on the car. It would be nice to make this happen to encourage other manufacturers to come in and play with the big boys. I am sure the fans would enjoy this! The GT class, now GT2 I guess, is where we are having a good time right now. But, who knows what the future has in store for Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing? We are always keeping possibilities open for new challenges.
Q: Can you sum-up your thoughts as you come to the close of 2004?
MP: "2004. What a great year and I can hardly wait to do it all again in 2005. We'll have some exciting news soon, so check the web site for the info on what is to come. Thanks everyone for a great year and the great memories EVERYONE!"