Laguna Seca: Porsche Motorsport race report

PORSCHE TEAMS, DRIVERS AND CARS CLINCH SIX AMERICAN LE MANS YEAR-END AWARDS; LUHR, MAASSEN, BERGMEISTER ARE CHAMPIONS MONTEREY, Calif. -- October 21 - Porsche, the most successful manufacturer in the history of the American Le Mans Series, added...

PORSCHE TEAMS, DRIVERS AND CARS CLINCH SIX AMERICAN LE MANS YEAR-END AWARDS; LUHR, MAASSEN, BERGMEISTER ARE CHAMPIONS

MONTEREY, Calif. -- October 21 - Porsche, the most successful manufacturer in the history of the American Le Mans Series, added to its sports car racing legacy by securing six year-end championships as the result of top finishes tonight in the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway.

The four-hour endurance event, which included both daylight and night-time racing action, saw both the Porsche RS Spyder factory cars, prepared by Penske Motorsports, finish one-two in the LMP2 class and wrap up all the championships available, and Jorg Bergmeister, one of the drivers of the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, win the drivers championship in GT2 for the second year in a row.

This marks the first time in the American Le Mans Series' eight-year history that a manufacturer has won two class driver and manufacturer's championships in two different classes in the same year. Here's a summary of the 2006 Porsche American Le Mans Series manufacturer, team and driver titles:

ALMS LMP2 Class Chassis Constructors Championship - Porsche RS Spyder
ALMS LMP2 Class Engine Championship - Porsche 3.4-liter V-8 LMP2
ALMS Class Drivers Championship - Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr (tie)
ALMS LMP2 Class Team Championship - Penske Motorsports GT2 Class
ALMS Manufacturers Championship - Porsche 911 GT3 RSR GT2 Class
ALMS Drivers Championship - Jorg Bergmeister

LMP2 - Seven Wins in Ten Races Bring a Title

The Porsche RS Spyder, the car that brought the Porsche factory back to prototype racing for the first time since 1998, won the LMP2 class in seven of the ten 2006 American Le Mans Series races, and finished one-two overall in the event at Mid-Ohio - the only time LMP2 race cars have finished one-two overall in the history of the series.

While Porsche and Penske clinched the manufacturer and team titles several races ago, consistent finishes for the AER-powered Intersport Lola left the drivers title in doubt until the final event. The team split up the long-time driving combination of Maassen and Luhr to maximize its finishing results with four races to go, and the pair had to each win two of the remaining four events (with the other one finishing second) to reach their goal of a shared championship.

"We accepted Porsche's decision to split the driving assignments, but we then formulated our own plan to try to finish the season with equal points. It is not easy to plan anything that happens on the race track, but the reliable RS Spyder, great work by the Penske team, and some hard driving by our co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas all helped us reach our dreams," said Maassen, who clinched his third ALMS title with Luhr.

"We accomplished the goals we set for ourselves before the season began," related Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing. "We won a race overall, took home the LMP2 manufacturers championships for Porsche, the LMP2 team title for Penske Motorsports, and the LMP 2 Drivers Championship for our drivers. It was also great to see Sascha and Lucas tie for this honor, especially since they were paired in different cars for the latter part of the season."

Luhr and Dumas, who won the class and finished fourth overall in the race, gave race winner and LMP1 competitor Alan McNish a chase for the overall lead late in the event, but Lucas, who was in the car at the time, realized he couldn't afford to take a chance of messing up the points.

"I got close to the Audi, but the greater power of the LMP1 car never allowed me to be in a position to pass. Near the end, I pushed too hard and spun, but was fortunate to get back on the track without losing my class lead. I then concentrated on finishing the race and winning the championship," said Luhr.

Earlier in the event, Dumas lead the race overall from lap #54 to lap #70, and Luhr led the race overall from lap #99 - #107. It was during that latter stint when Lucas turned the fastest race lap overall - faster than all the more powerful LMP1 cars. Timo Bernhard also led the race overall in the other RS Spyder from lap #87 - #98.

For Porsche, it was the seventh and eighth drivers championship in the eight years of the American Le Mans Series, as well as the seventh, eighth and ninth manufacturers title. Porsche competitors have now earned 71 class victories (Porsche RS Spyder, Porsche 911 Turbo, and Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR) in the American Le Mans Series, and placed their cars on the pole 70 times - outdistancing all other manufacturers by a wide margin.

For 2007, Penske Motorsports has already announced it will return to the American Le Mans Series to defend its championships in the LMP2 class with updated Porsche RS Spyders.

GT2 - A Battle to the End

The GT2 class has been an interesting points battle all year, with the Ferrari 430 being the fastest car during the season, but the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR being the most consistent. Johannes van Overbeek, one of the owners and senior driver for the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, entered the event with co-driver Wolf Henzler with a chance to win his first ALMS championship.

As Henzler had joined the team part-way through the season, only Johannes had a shot for the title, and he was battling defending champion Jorg Bergmeister, whose Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was closing fast, with two wins in the last three events. Bergmeister's co-driver, Patrick Long, missed the opening event at Sebring to drive the Porsche RS Spyder, so Jorg, like Johannes, was pursuing the title alone.

The two cars were running together on the track early in the event, but, a little more than a hour into the race, van Overbeek was cut off by a LMP1 car, and broke a radiator, causing a lengthy pit stop that cost the team a chance at the championship.

Bergmeister and Long were not a cinch to win the title - even after the Lizard car fell behind, however, as they were hit by the Ferrari (resulting in a penalty for that car), and had to chase the Mike Rockenfeller/Marcel Tiemann Alex Job Porsche for much of the event.

"Our plan all year was to just win races, and the championship would take care of itself. I was driving my stint when Johannes had his problems, but no one told me, so I was pushing hard for first place. Patrick Long, my GT2 co-champion a year ago, was a ahrd- working teammate, even though he had no chance for the drivers title. In my mind, that makes he a true champion as well," Bergmeister, who became the first driver to win both a Rolex Grand-Am title (in the Daytona Prototype class) and an American Le Mans Series title the same year.

In the race results, the Ferrari 430 finished first, with Bergmeister/Long second and Rockenfeller/Tiemann third.

-credit: porsche motorsport

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Marcel Tiemann , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Johannes van Overbeek , Romain Dumas , Wolf Henzler , Alex Job
Teams Team Penske , Flying Lizard Motorsports