Houston: Petersen/WLR preview

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Focuses on Houston Street Race Two-Time Series Champs Look to Return to Winning-Form on Third Street Course in Four Weeks HOUSTON, April 16, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has had a...

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Focuses on Houston Street Race
Two-Time Series Champs Look to Return to Winning-Form on Third Street Course in Four Weeks

HOUSTON, April 16, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has had a tough season by any standard. By their own standard, it has been surreal. With three races behind them they have one totaled Ferrari F430 GT, which required a completely new car be built from scratch in just three days to reach the Grand Prix of Long Beach, and one heavily damaged car at Sebring. With a high finish for the season of sixth-place, earned at Long Beach last weekend, the 2005 and 2006 American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver Championship-winning team has not finished as well as it traditionally has. However, with the drama of the rebuilds behind them, the Dale White (Bozeman, MT.) managed team has its sights set squarely on Saturday evening's Lone Star Grand Prix of Houston. Dirk Muller (a native of Germany, living in Monaco) will return to the No.31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT, the same car he set fastest GT2 class lap in Long Beach last Saturday, to be joined by Jarek Janis (Olomouc, Czech Republic).

The 1.7-mile, 10-turn JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park in Houston is the third consecutive temporary race course of the American Le Mans Series. It comes as the first back-to-back weekend for the Series this season and returns the premier sports car racing series in the world back to its traditional two hour and 45-minute race distance. The beginning of the 12-race season has been tough for the teams as they face the grueling conditions of the 12 Hours of Sebring and then three street races in the course of just six weeks. For the two-time class winners at Le Mans, the stretch has given way to 24 hour workdays but has not broken their attention to detail or desire to win. In fact, the speed shown at Long Beach only went to increase expectations for the remainder of the year.

The Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) owned team has been fast since taking delivery of the Ferrari F430 GT earlier this year. They have led two of the three events and started on the front row twice (Sebring and St. Petersburg). The No. 31 turned-in one fastest lap in qualifying (St. Pete) and two fastest race laps (Enge at St. Pete, Muller at Long Beach). However, events have turned the potentially good results into frustration and additional work. The Houston event, in its second year, was the beginning of a comeback from an equally unusual poor start for the Nevada-based team in 2006. Last season the Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) led group qualified second at Houston and, despite a broken damper/shock absorber, was able to finish fourth on the bumpy, narrow facility that snakes its way through the parking lots and streets around Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome. They went on to win the GT2 Driver Championship and the IMSA Cup Championship, finishing second in the Team Championship.

Jarek Janis (pronounced YaRiK YaNis) replaces the injured Tomas Enge (like, Janis a native of the Czech Republic now living in Monaco) who was injured while leading the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Fla. on March 31. Enge's recovery from elbow surgery has been progressing remarkably well with the five-time Le Mans GT1 pole sitter expected to be back in a race car by the 24 hour classic in mid-June and the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari by Lime Rock Park in early July.

Quotes

Mike Petersen, Owner: "We're looking forward to Saturday for sure. The Ferrari seems to be a good car on these street courses. Last year we had a car that didn't really like the bumps and this car likes the bumps. Houston is bumpier than Long Beach or St. Pete so that works to our favor. I think the advantage is definitely for us. There are a lot of people going for points and being conservative. We are going to be in 'attack' mode all the way this year. We pretty much have, for the most part, nothing to lose and everything to win. We'll just wait and see what happens and keep ticking away until Tomas can get back. We'll see what happens from there. Our goal is to go for victories every time out."

Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "This has been a hard stretch of races for the team. It was made a little bit worse by the schedule. Four races, including Sebring and then three street courses, in six weeks is difficult logistically but it physically trying on the guys and the equipment. When you have the kind of crash damage we have had at the first two, it makes it nearly impossible to catch-up. But, I think we have. We are looking forward to getting everything back on track this weekend at Houston. If we can leave Texas with a good result, on top of having gotten the car ready for Long Beach, we will go into the few weeks before Salt Lake really, really happy."

Dirk Muller, Driver: "It seems to be that I like this. So, for Houston, I am very much looking forward to it. The car was very good at Long Beach and Houston looks to be similar. I think the Ferrari will be good again this weekend. I have been very impressed with the team, it is very professional. So, I believe that we can do very well at Houston."

The Grand Prix of Houston will start at 5:30 PM (CT), Saturday, April 21.

-credit: pm/wlr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Tomas Enge , Dirk Müller , Michael Petersen , Jarek Janis