BERNHARD, DUMAS WIN AGAIN FOR PENSKE, PORSCHE Timo Bernhard used a strong restart to pull away from Bryan Herta on Saturday and then withstood a furious charge from the Andretti Green Racing driver to give Penske Motorsports a ...
BERNHARD, DUMAS WIN AGAIN FOR PENSKE, PORSCHE
Timo Bernhard used a strong restart to pull away from Bryan Herta on Saturday and then withstood a furious charge from the Andretti Green Racing driver to give Penske Motorsports a hard-earned victory in the Lone Star Grand Prix. It was the team's second straight overall victory in the American Le Mans Series and third in the past year.
Bernhard and Romain Dumas won on a street course for the second straight week in their Porsche RS Spyder. Herta brought the Andretti Green Racing Acura ARX home second with Marino Franchitti, just 0.49 seconds behind Bernhard as LMP2 cars took the top two spots.
Dumas and Bernhard were forced to retire last year with a drivetrain problem after Dumas qualified on the overall front row and led for most of the early going.
"Last year we led the race here and had a technical problem. We were thinking it would be different this week," Dumas said. "Timo wasn't too sure at first but I think he likes it now. It's really great and it's a big deal. Before the race we knew that the car was quick but we have to think about the championship for the class and not overall wins."
Following a spin by Jim Tafel's Porsche and the subsequent caution, Bernhard jumped out to a 5.9-second lead with 30 minutes remaining. Herta cut the gap to under a second with eight minutes to go but ran out of time and laps at the end.
"The last 30 minutes were the toughest of my life," Bernhard said. "I knew I had to push really hard on the restart and gained about 6 seconds. I thought I could ease up but when we caught traffic, Bryan caught back up to me. Then I got caught in more traffic. Nothing is predictable there. In this kind of racing, you have to be focused all the time."
"It was exciting," said Herta, who finished second overall and won in LMP2 with Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan at Sebring. "I was looking for some traffic to help me get up to the Porsche. It would have been more fun if I had won. This car is so good. This is only its fourth race but it's incredible."
Rinaldo Capello was third overall and first in LMP1 for Audi Sport North America in the Audi R10 TDI. Capello finished 1.341 seconds behind Bernhard and won in class for the third straight event with Allan McNish. Sascha Maassen was third in LMP2 and fourth overall in the other Penske Porsche.
Capello was in position for the overall win until a pair of unfortunate events set him back. First was a punctured left front tire near the one- hour mark. He gained ground and was running third overall until he drove through Turn 6 following contact with a GT2 Porsche. But the late yellow was just what he needed to get back in contention.
"For all practical purposes that put us out of the race," McNish said. "But he drove fantastically to get us close to the two leading cars at the end. It was a very good race with four cars fighting for the lead in the end."
"It was unfortunate to get a puncture," Capello said. "I then lost time when I overshot. I went over a big bump lapping a backmarker and we touched. I just couldn't stop. I did my very best to catch the leaders which I managed but just ran out of time to get in front."
The diesel-powered prototype remained unbeaten in LMP1 but has lost two straight overall races following nine straight to start its Series career last season at Sebring. With the Series returning to a road course in May at Miller Motorsports Park, both drivers are eager to start a new streak for the Audi.
"Miller is something along the line of what the car was designed for," McNish said. "We've been competitive enough to win at two of the street courses. I think we'll be strong in the rest of the season but so will the competition. We have to keep our minds on the job."
In GT1, Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen ended the three-race win streak of teammates Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta for their first victory together since Mosport in 1999 as part of a Panoz factory prototype effort.
"You have to tip your hat to our engineer," O'Connell said. "We went the wrong way before qualifying and then changed it significantly and I was able to turn laps faster than in qualifying. I had amazingly good in laps and a great out lap. It was enough to get us out front. We've had so much rotten luck with the 3 car and I'm glad to get this win."
Magnussen took the checkered flag 50 seconds ahead of the other Corvette. It marked a breakthrough for a No. 3 crew that has been right on the heels of the sister car for much of the early season. Magnussen never felt secure as darkness fell in the closing moments.
"When we had the safety car, we had almost a lap lead on the other car and it was a matter of just staying out of trouble," Magnussen said. "When it's dark, all you see is headlights and you don't know how far behind the other cars are."
Jaime Melo and Mika Salo won for the fourth consecutive event of 2007 for Risi Competizione and Ferrari. The duo gave the Houston-based Risi squad a 6.4-second win over Johannes van Overbeek and Jörg Bergmeister in the Flying Lizard Porsche, which recorded its third runner-up finish of the season.
Salo lost the lead on the late caution in the pits but regained the advantage two laps after the race went back to green. "The car was so good and so easy to drive," Salo said. "I couldn't believe it. We were a lap away from our scheduled stop when the safety car came out. I had wanted to keep the same tires but we decided to go ahead and change the tires. There was something wrong with the pit stop and we lost the lead. But I saw (van Overbeek) had a little problem with his tires because he was sliding around. I was able to catch him and pass him quite easily."
Melo opened with a strong stint that built a nearly 30-second lead before he handed off to Salo past the one-hour mark. In taking the checkered flag, Salo won his fifth consecutive GT2 race to set a class record. He and Melo have now won six straight events as a duo dating back to Salt Lake City last season.
"The car was really good and consistent," Melo said. "I just left the car to Mika and he did a great job overtaking the Porsche. We're focusing and looking for our next one in Utah."