Houston: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Petersen/White Lightning Finishes Fourth in Punishing Houston ALMS Battle HOUSTON, May 12, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing knew entering the Lone Star Grand Prix that the second-round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) ...

Petersen/White Lightning Finishes Fourth in Punishing Houston ALMS Battle

HOUSTON, May 12, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing knew entering the Lone Star Grand Prix that the second-round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season was going to be punishing. However, the 2005 ALMS GT2 class Champions did not expect it to take such a toll on the No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. When the checkered flag flew over the inaugural event through the Reliant Park complex here in Houston, the Michael Petersen-owned team had finished fourth in class, 10th overall. At the end, both Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany), who started the two hour and 45-minute race, and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) were bruised and blistered from the bumpy, tight confines of the track. The car itself had also suffered substantial damage to its left front shock absorber.

Bergmeister started the car on the 1.7-mile, nine turn street course and immediately was on pace with the pole winning Ferrari that led much of the day. However, the bumpy track soon began to take its toll. The left front shock began to slowly fail causing a severe understeering condition. Bergmeister slipped to third and then fourth in quick succession. At one hour, 23 minutes, Bergmeister pitted handing the wheel of the ill handling car over to Long. Long continued in fourth despite being penalized for running through the chicane. Despite performing a self-induced penalty by waiting for all the cars he would have passed to exit the chicane before reentering the track, Series officials deemed it an advantage. The No. 31 was forced to make a stop-and-go penalty in pit lane just beyond the two-hour mark. He would lose no positions on track but did lose a lap and was not able to challenge for third place.

Despite the frustrating finish, today's result is the Dale White-managed team's 42nd Top-Five finish in the sports car racing. They have made 80 starts.

Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing will now turn its attention to round-three of the ALMS season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on May 21st. The team finished second there in 2005 on their way to a five-race winning season and the ALMS GT2 Team, Driver and IMSA Cup Championships.

Quotes:

Mike Petersen, Owner:

"It is another frustrating result due to unfortunate circumstances. The team worked hard and did a great job. The drivers got everything out of the car they could today. It just wasn't meant to be. We'll put it behind us and go on to Mid-Ohio."

Jorg Bergmeister, Driver:

"That was one of the toughest stints physically that I have ever done in a Porsche. The car was pretty good. I could go at the pace of the Ferrari and Rocky [Mike Rockenfeller, race winner] as well but the more we went, the more problems we got with the front. The front tires started jumping really bad so I think we had a broke shock and that is why we lost so much time afterwards. Tough luck."

Patrick Long, Driver:

About His Race: "You can look at the positives. We finished the race in the top-five. We got some decent points after a tough start to the season. It's only up from here. We know we have the pace from qualifying. Jorg did a great job in the opening stint to run upfront. It was a rough ride in the beginning but, slowly, the front shock problem continued to get worse and in the end we decided to take the smart route and bring the car home. We had a pretty good distance to P5 [fifth position]. So, fourth place is not what we wanted but it could be a lot worse. Well done to the guys for keeping their heads and persevering."

About the Stop-And-Go Penalty: "The leaders came through and one of them locked-up under braking so, to avoid him, I went through the chicane. I didn't gain a position on that. That was what was told to us in the drivers' meeting that if you gained a position you'd need to give it back. I actually let the leaders go by the next corner to make sure I was in no violation but the judges at the corner saw it differently. So, we had to honor that and come in and serve a penalty. But, in the end, I don't think it affected the outcome."

-pm/wlr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Michael Petersen , Mike Rockenfeller