Laguna Seca: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Bergmeister Wins GT2 Driver Championship with Second in Monterey Petersen/White Lightning Earns Second IMSA Cup MONTEREY, Calif., October 21, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing driver Jörg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany)...

Bergmeister Wins GT2 Driver Championship with Second in Monterey
Petersen/White Lightning Earns Second IMSA Cup

MONTEREY, Calif., October 21, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing driver Jörg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) earned his second American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver Championship by virtue of a second-place finish at today's Monterey Sports Car Championships. The No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which Bergmeister shared with fellow 2005 GT2 Driver Champion Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.), ran at the front of the GT2 class for much of the four hour season finale here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. However, the team would have to settle for second when the impressively quick Ferrari 430 GT was able to stalk and then pass the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Championship-winning team in the closing moments of the race. The Michael Petersen-owned team crossed under the checkered flag in the California darkness 14th overall in the multi-class event earning their sixth podium finish in the ten race season. By virtue of their second-place finish, the team also captured their second consecutive IMSA Cup awarded to the highest finishing privateer entrant.

Bergmeister won the title for production-based drivers with 151 points compared to second-place's 141. Long, who missed the season-opening race in the No. 31, would finish third in the Driver Point standings with 137 points. The Dale White-managed operation was in the hunt to defend all three of the major American Le Mans Series titles they won in 2005 entering today's race at the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course. However, the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winners would keep only two of the three championships. While the strong performance of the Ferrari would wrestle the Team title away by 14 points, the Las Vegas-based team would capture the IMSA Cup by three points over the Flying Lizard No. 45 and six points over there Ferrari.

Bergmeister becomes the first driver since 1999 to win two major road racing championships in a single season. The popular German added the American Le Mans Series class title to the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype he secured earlier this year. He has won three major sports car driving titles in his career.

In the four-hour race itself, the team started third in the GT2 class with Bergmeister behind the wheel. He moved-up to second by the end of the first lap and held in the top three until the first round of pit stops. Bergmeister's major competition for the title, Johannes van Overbeek, fell seven laps behind to repair damage that resulted when he was hit by a prototype early in the race. With the driver championship essentially sewn-up, Bergmeister and Long attacked the competition. On a second-hour re-start, Long briefly took the lead from the Ferrari when the red machine made contact with the 31 Porsche. Long spun off the track but was able to continue. The Ferrari was penalized with a 15 second stop in pit lane. Long moved back into second-place after the incident. The second of only two stops in the event by the Petersen/White Lightning crew put a full tank of fuel, four new Michelin tires and Bergmeister back behind the wheel and into the lead. Bergmeister held the lead from the two hour, 43-minute mark until there was only 10 minutes remaining. Despite putting-up a strong battle, the Ferrari was just too strong for the Porsche in the darkness of the Monterey Peninsula and it moved into the lead. Now in second and with the Ferrari pulling away, Bergmeister brought home the Porsche 911 RSR home for its final podium of the season.

Quotes:

Michael Petersen, Owner: "What an unbelievable race. It was a hard-fought race. The last ten minutes the Ferrari was charging pretty hard and there wasn't much Jörg could really do but just let him go. At that point it didn't really matter because the Driver Championship was pretty much sewn-up. I know Jörg was trying as hard as he could to get the Team Championship but that wasn't how things worked out. It really goes to show how competitive this Series is that two different cars split the three different titles. It was a fantastic day and I am thrilled for Jörg to be a champion in two different venues. That is a remarkable accomplishment and I am just proud to say I was able to provide him the tools to get the job done. I can't thank the guys enough. Patrick and Frank [Funke, engineer], Dale, all the crew guys. This championship is really about the whole team. >From the truck driver to the fueler, to Dale and myself, even to my Mom; this is a team effort. Everyone made this happen."

Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "This has been a great year. We had a lot of adversity at the beginning of the season and the team just kept coming back and fighting even harder. We never gave up. After Mid-Ohio, I don't think a lot of people would have thought we'd be standing here tonight with a Driver's Championship, the IMSA Cup and second in the Team Championship. But, here we are and we did it all with just one car. That is very gratifying. Everyone we were racing out here for the championship was doing it with two cars. The Ferraris, the Lizards; they had two cars to draw from all season and that makes all the difference in the team championships. So, I am really proud of what we accomplished this year. I think we again showed that it is teamwork that wins. Everyone pulled together and sacrificed this year. Patrick is a great example of that. He knew he couldn't go for the title from the beginning of the year because he raced the Porsche Spyder at Sebring but he was fighting as hard as anyone for Jörg and for the team. He even gave up a seat at Petit Le Mans in the prototype to help us win. That is teamwork and that is the type of thing that every guy on this program has done all year! We aren't happy with the results because we want to win but we are proud of the effort and knowing there isn't anything more we could have done."

Jörg Bergmeister:

(About the race) "It was a similar result to what we had at Portland where we had the Ferrari down almost a lap and they came back. I tried everything to bring home the win but the Ferrari was just too quick. But, I really tried everything."

(About the championship): "It was a great year. A couple of races ago we were 40 points down and no one really thought we could still win it. But, the whole team did an excellence job. A special thanks to Patrick for doing Petit with me. Without him I am sure we couldn't have done it. To me he is the champion as well. Just by missing the first race he lost the championship and I know how that feels because it happened to me in 2004. I really, really thank him for all of his efforts. For the team, two championships in a row; that speaks for itself I would say."

Patrick Long: "The race was another solid podium for the Petersen/White Lightning guys. Ultimately this was about getting the Drivers Championship for Jörg and for the team. We all feel a part of this for all that we have put into it and Jörg has made that very clear. Who would have ever thought at Mid-Ohio this year that we would bounce back from Lime Rock on and never falter once? That is a testimony to all the boys, Frank [Funke, engineer] and to the car. The car never let us down. To go two-for-two with Drivers Championships with Petersen/White Lightning is pretty awesome. I am really pleased to be a part of this group."

-credit: www.PetersenMotorsports.com

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Johannes van Overbeek , Michael Petersen