PORSCHE'S PERFECT DAY ENDS WITH 100TH AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES WIN AND NINTH GT2 CHAMPIONSHIP; LONG/BERGEMEISTER LEAD LIZARDS TO HISTORIC LAGUNA VICTORY
MONTEREY, Calif. - October 10 --Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) capped a successful 2009 American Le Mans Series season by winning their sixth race of the season, capturing the ALMS GT2 drivers, manufacturers, and team championships, as well as helping Porsche to earn its 100th class win in the American Le Mans Series today in the four-hour endurance event for the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway.
Bergmeister, who took over the driving chores from Long for the final stint in his #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, ran nose-to-tail with the #3 Corvette's Jan Magnussen for the lead during the last 20 minutes of the race, holding off the more powerful Corvette despite a vibration from a flat-spotted tire. Then, with three laps to go, the Corvette passed the Porsche, but used the pit lane entrance to do it, and the IMSA officials made him tuck back in behind Bergmeister. Then, with two laps to go, Magnussen got by Joerg again, and Bergmeister picks up the story.
"He got by me, but he went too far into the corner and put himself out of position, and I was able to retake the lead. This happened one more time during the lap, and I was in front going into the last turn, when he pushed me twice. We bumped a third time coming out of the corner, and he went into the wall and crashed. While I feel badly that Jan crashed, and I was glad to hear that he was okay, I felt we raced hard and fair, and that the entire Flying Lizard team and my co-driver Patrick earned this win," said Bergmeister after the race.
It was the team's sixth GT2 class win of the season, including five wins in a row at St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Salt Lake City, Lime Rock, and Mid-Ohio; and, for Bergmeister, his fourth ALMS GT2 title (2005, 2006, 2008, and 2009). He won the 2005 championship in a Porsche with Patrick, the 2006 title with Patrick (although they did not share the final points as Long drove Sebring in the Penske Porsche RS Spyder), the 2008 title with Wolf Henzler (Germany), and this year again with Patrick. For Long, this was a special year because of the competition the team faced.
"With the addition of Corvette and BMW to the GT2 mix, it was easy to put in what you thought was a perfect lap, only to find out you were only fourth or fifth fastest. But Porsche gave us a car which only came into the pits for fuel and tires - no mechanical problems all year - and the Flying Lizard Motorsports team continually won races for us with their flawless service, innovative strategy, and hard work preparing the car. As for Joerg and I, we complement each other's strengths and weaknesses, and are able to put all our efforts toward one goal - team victories," said Long.
"And to score Porsche's 100th ALMS win on top of that, it's a real honor," added Bergemeister. "We join the long list of Porsche factory drivers - Bob Wollek, Lucas Luhr, Sascha Maassen, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Dirk Mueller, Randy Pobst, Marc Lieb, Wolf Henzler, Mike Rockenfeller, Ryan Briscoe, Emmanuel Collard - along with many independents, such as Cort Wagner, David Murry, Johannes van Overbeek, Bryce Miller, Richard Westbrook, Helio Castroneves, Kevin Buckler, Johnny Mowlem, B.J. Zacharias, Brian Cunningham, John O'Steen, Martin Snow, Melanie Snow, Patrick Huisman, Craig Stanton, Kelly Collins, and Darryl Havens.
Wolf Henzler and Pierre Ehret (both Germany) finished third in the GT2 class in their #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, moving Wolf up to third place in the final point standings, despite having five different co-drivers this season while his regular teammate, Dirk Werner, was running a successful Farnbacher Loles Porsche effort in the Rolex Grand- Am series which results in a championship.
"The fight with the Panoz was a great battle, fun and fair. A prototype overtook me, but then he had a bad exit and I hit him. I don't know if he was on cold tires, but I wasn't expecting him to be so slow. I had to brake really hard, and Dominik in the Panoz had a great run, so he was able to pass me. After that, I was trying really hard to pass him back. I tried two times and we even went side by side through turns 1 through 4. We gave each other room and kept it fair. Finally with two laps until the end, I was able to pass him in the same way he passed me. He ran into traffic and he had a little bit of a bad exit, so I dove in. I had watched him from behind for 15 minutes, so I knew where I could out-brake him. So when we went into turn eleven, I knew I could make the pass so I said, 'Okay, now or never.' I made the move, and it worked perfectly," said Henzler, who won the title last year with Bergmeister.
"Everyone worked very hard this weekend to provide me and Pierre with a good car for the race. We earned our podium position today and our third in the Championship. I've known Pierre for a few years now, but this is the first time I've driven with him. He's used to driving Ferraris, but after a few laps in the Porsche, he got much more consistent and confident. He kept the car safe and developed a good rhythm as his stint went on. He was a big help to me today and we earned this podium together," Henzler added.
Other Porsches got involved in this celebration day, with the #44 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek (both USA) not only finishing fifth, but winning the Michelin Green X Challenge for the second straight event, scoring enough efficiency points to win the season title for GT cars. The Michelin Green X Challenge measures the best Green Achievement score from a formula which calculates performance efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and petroleum displacement. For the second event in a row, the #44 Porsche ran the ALMS event with E85 fuel (85 percent ethanol).
The #45 Lizard team Porsche was second, and the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche third in the Michelin Green X Challenge final GT standings.
The #18 T-Mobile Porsche entered by VICI Racing, despite now entering the race until mid- week and missing the entire first day of scheduled practices, finished seventh with richard Westbrook (England) and Johannes Stuck (Austria) at the helm, while Team Falken Tire Porsche, with Bryan Sellers and Dominic Cicero (both USA) sharing the driving, finished eighth in only their third race.
In the LMP2 class, Klaus Graf (Germany) and car owner Greg Pickett made it four podiums in four events in their Team Cytosport Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder, finishing second in class despite a couple of spins and a clutch problem.
"The Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder was fantastic today. Unfortunately we had a clutch issue that caused me to go off track when I was warming up the tires during a caution period. After that I had trouble getting it back into gear but let me tell you that nothing other than a Porsche would have continued to make it in this race. It was magnificent. It's a great testament to their engineering excellence and without that we would not have finished the race. The crew talked me through the re-set procedure for the transmission, which was stuck between gears, and I was on my way," said Pickett, a former multi-time Trans-Am champion.
Graf, also a former Trans-Am champion, had his adventures on the track as well.
"What a race! Fortunately we finished enough of laps to finish second and give us our fourth podium in a row, that's a big achievement for the team coming into the ALMS LMP2 class at the end of the season, so hats off to the whole team. Obviously it was a pretty eventful race. I had a good start but I was stuck behind an LMP1 car for a couple of laps. I didn't really get frustrated but I just wanted to get going. The Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder was good and I wanted to go faster. So I dove underneath him going into Turn 9, which is a really fast turn. And he just didn't see me I guess, because he hit me flat out when I was basically through and passed him already. Luckily the Porsche RS Spyder is a really strong car and it only did body work damage and some damage to the wheel so we were able to recover from that and put in some strong laps afterwards. We have a really strong team and I'm really looking forward to next year," Graf added.
In the American Le Mans Series Challenge class, for the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars running in the Patron GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama series, Melanie and Martin Snow (USA), both still in contention to win individual awards in the Patron series, captured the season championship in their Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car despite not scoring any points at Laguna Seca due to a contaminated fuel issue.
They clinched the championship when the Wesley Hoagland/Bob Faieta Gruppe Orange Porsche did not finish first - a position they needed to overtake the Snows. Faieta took the checkered flag in third position, but later, the car was disqualified for having excess fuel capacity. The Shane Lewis/Mitch Pagery Velox Motorsport Porsche crossed the line in first place, but they too were disqualified (for not meeting the minimum weight) in post-race tech inspection. So, the winners of the ALMS Challenge class were Guy Cosmo and John Baker, in their Orbit Racing Porsche, having been on the pole in all three events they have entered, but scoring their first win.
"Today's fuel problems were unfortunate, but we had a great season, and we're glad it ended with a championship," said Ms. Snow, mother of four and a driving instructor at Utah's miller Motorsports Park. Along with Dutch champion Patrick Huisman, Martin and Melanie won the GTS class in a Porsche in 1999 to score a win in the first ALMS race at Sebring.
"As the season went on, I got more and more comfortable in our Porsche for these long races, and I had lots of fun," she added.
-credit: porsche motorsport