Night of Firsts Gives Petersen/ White Lightning a Trio of ALMS GT2 Championships
MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 15, 2005 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing won their first-ever American Le Mans Series (ALMS) championship today in convincing style with a GT2 class race victory in the Monterey Sports Car Championships here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The win clinched a series of firsts for the team and the ALMS. Tonight's victory earned the first ALMS Driver Championships for both Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.), it earned the Michael Petersen-owned team their first-ever ALMS Team Championship and the win, the fourth consecutive for the team, guaranteed an endurance race (four hours or longer) sweep for the Dale White-managed team. The No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR won five races this season including the endurance events of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (a team first), the Petit Le Mans (a team first) and tonight's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (a team first). Other wins include the Road America 500 and Grand Prix of Mosport. The team earned nine of ten possible IMSA Cups-- awarded to the highest placing privateer entrant-- including tonight's leading to their first-ever season long IMSA Cup Championship. They stood on the podium in nine of ten ALMS races (five wins, three second-places, one third) with a disappointing eighth closing out the remainder of the calendar.
The win, from third on the grid, earned the Las Vegas-based team the first-ever ALMS GT2 Team Championship for a privateer entrant in the seven-year history of the ALMS. It was also the first time that a non-factory driver (Bergmeister) has won the GT2 driver title since '99. Long becomes only the second American driver, at age 24, to win a GT/GT2 driver title-- the first also coming in the ALMS's first season, '99.
Today's 15-second win marked the sixth career ALMS victory in 46 starts for Petersen/ White Lightning. The race celebrated the sixth anniversary for Petersen and White together in the ALMS-- their third full-season. The two made their Series debut here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a sixth-place finish driving together. The ALMS Team and IMSA Cup Championships add to an impressive trophy case for the two friends who began racing together over 20 years ago. Petersen/ White Lightning has taken four season championships in off-road truck racing ('99 SCORE and SNORE Truck championships, '98 Protruck Stadium Series championship, '97 SODA Unlimited 2wd) and Baja 500 and 1,000 overall titles from 1995-'97 with class titles in each in '98. In road racing they have two 24 Hours of Le Mans GT(2) titles ('03 and '04), class titles at the 12 Hours of Sebring, Petit Le Mans, the 24 At Daytona and the Six Hours at The Glen, six ALMS race wins, three SCCA World Challenge wins and one SCCA Trans-Am win.
The Driver's Championship was won in commanding fashion two hours and 48-minutes into the event. Bergmeister and Long would earn a total of 179 points on the year to the 145 by their nearest competitors. Once the driver title was clinched, the pair set-out to reward the season-long efforts of the 14-person organization. As motorsports is the ultimate team sport, the two drivers gave back to Petersen and White as well as crew chief Stefan Pfeiffer (Croatia) and lead technician Dennis Chizma (Seattle, Wash.) and team members: Sam Andrus (St. George, Utah), Ethan Bregman (New York), Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.), Andrew Cushman (Las Vegas), Troy Hildreth (Las Vegas), Tom Moore (Franklin, Tenn.), Michelin Tire technician Brian Monprode (Oxford, Mich.) and Joey Seely (Seattle).
The team would also earn 179 points with their single car entry whereas the Alex Job Racing (AJR) team that stalked them all season earned 161 across their two car operation.
The team assisted technical and marketing partners Porsche Cars North America earn the GT2 Automobile Manufacturer's title with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and helped Michelin clinch the GT2 Tire Manufacturer Championship.
Michael Petersen, owner: "My hat's off again to this team. The guys performed flawlessly. We've got the best group of guys, no doubt, in the American Le Mans Series. I'd put them up against any team. These guys are phenomenal. Our goal was to win the IMSA Cup championship. As the year went on, we started to think we could win the team championship. To win it all is just a compliment to these guys. I can't thank the guys enough. It has been a long process in the making. To take this long to win a championship, considering we haven't run but two consecutive, full seasons, is a milestone unto itself. It's just an unbelievable team. I'm just so proud. It's a pretty special moment. We didn't get here alone, for sure. We need to thank all of our sponsors, my Mom, Porsche, Michelin, everyone that is a part of this."
Dale White, team manager: "I am just proud to be a part of it. The whole team worked so hard. After the low at Portland we stuck together. We believed we could do it. We knew we could win the last four races. To see the looks on their faces at the end, it's worth it for me. That's the whole thing. It was here, six years ago, when Mike's father came to his first race ever. He really hated racing and this was the race where we realized that maybe we should buy a Porsche. That was when he came to me and said we'll do whatever it takes to win. I just wish it hadn't taken so long. I knew we could do it. Mike's father came to me then and said 'we're going to win this son of a gun, no matter what it takes.' That has driven me. Even though he couldn't be here to share it, he's still here with us. He drove a lot of this success we are celebrating tonight."
Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "It couldn't be any better. Coming to Petersen/ White Lightning and doing it on the first try with this team. The team did an awesome job all year long. It's just amazing. We got most race victories. We always had a really, really good car. I think we deserved it. The first win at Sebring, three in a row at Petit, the championships and it always is perfect to end the season with a win. It makes it extra sweet."
Patrick Long, driver: "I want to thank Mike, Dale, Stefan, Dennis, Nico, Sam, Drew, Troy, Ethan, Joey, Brian and Tom. Those are the guys! How much sweeter could it be to win four in a row, five for the year, more than anyone else and go out winning? We didn't need to win today but we stuck to our plan. We always talk about winning every race and that's what kind of effort you need to put forward to win championships. We were out to prove that our outlook on races can win championships. Strategy was the biggest part of this win today and that is a big thanks to Dale. He had it nailed from the beginning. Jorg put in an awesome middle stint and the guys had awesome stops. It was a tough start for me because I wanted to be a part of the battle that was upfront but I needed to keep a clean nose. That was our motto; go fast and win but come back with no bruises on the car. We stuck to that plan. I don't know how it could be any sweeter than this. It's a fairytale ending to an awesome, awesome year. The small fish got the last word. We were the underdogs. We were the hunters and we hunted and came out on top. It was a very fulfilling year. I believed in myself and I knew that if I had the right team and the right teammate, things were going to come to reality. This team, and my teammate Jorg, helped me remove any doubt."
More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Learn more about Porsche at www.Porsche.com.