Laguna Seca: Porsche preview

WITH LMP2 AND GT2 DRIVERS AND TEAM TITLES CLINCHED, PORSCHE TEAMS AIM FOR MANUFACTURER CHAMPIONSHIPS AT ALMS FINALE AT MAZDA LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY ATLANTA - October 15 -- At the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series at Mazda Laguna Seca...

WITH LMP2 AND GT2 DRIVERS AND TEAM TITLES CLINCHED, PORSCHE TEAMS AIM FOR MANUFACTURER CHAMPIONSHIPS AT ALMS FINALE AT MAZDA LAGUNA SECA RACEWAY

ATLANTA - October 15 -- At the final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. on October 18, Porsche teams aim to help the manufacturer clinch the LMP2 and GT2 class championships - still up for grabs after stunning wins at Petit Le Mans earlier this month.

With 25 points to the winners in each class, Porsche leads Acura by eight points in LMP2, and Porsche leads Ferrari by 15 points in GT2. Only the top finishing entry for each manufacturer receives points in the standings. Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France), along with their Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder team, have clinched the LMP2 drivers and team championships respectively, and Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler (both Germany) have done the same in GT2 for themselves and their Flying Lizard Motorsports team.

"It would be a wonderful conclusion to a very successful season if we could win the manufacturers championship as well," says Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport worldwide. "Having already won the other titles, we can now concentrate totally on this goal."

The race, which starts at 5:45 PM EDT on Saturday, October 18, and runs for four hours, will be telecast on a delayed basis by NBC-TV on Sunday, October 19, at 2:00 PM EDT. The race will be covered live on the American Le Mans Radio web at www.americanlemans.com, which will also provide streaming video of qualifying sessions starting at 6:05 PM EDT on Friday, October 17.

On the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Laguna Seca Raceway, two hours' drive south of San Francisco on the Pacific coast, five of the 503 hp RS Spyder sports prototypes will be challenging for the manufacturers title. Penske Racing, which has won the drivers and manufacturers championship the past two years, fields three of the prototypes with direct fuel injection (DFI). Sharing the #7 RS Spyder are the 2007 and 2008 champions, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Manning the cockpit of the #6 racer are Sascha Maassen (Germany), winner in the RS Spyder's debut at Laguna in 2005, and Patrick Long (USA), the only American Porsche factory driver. Returning to lend their support to the Penske squad are Helio Castroneves (Brazil) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia), Penske Racing's IndyCar drivers. At their first race together in the #5 RS Spyder two weeks ago in Road Atlanta, these successful IndyCar pilots secured their first ALMS class victory together.

The Porsche-supported customer team, Dyson Racing, contests the final with two of the Weissach developed and built sports prototypes: Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) share the #16 racer, Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) the #20. Dyson's consistent finishes, especially the podiums for the extra points races at Sebring and Road America, have helped put Porsche in a position to win the LMP2 title.

The signature feature of the race track near Monterey, regarded as one of the most interesting and diverse in the North America, is Corkscrew corner. It snakes downwards like a corkscrew with the drivers approaching the crest at high speed virtually blind.

"You need a reliable car and a good dose of courage to keep your foot down and stay on the ideal line," says Timo Bernhard, who with his teammate Romain Dumas started the 2008 season with an impressive overall victory at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring classic. On the way to successfully defending their title, the German-French duo followed up with class wins in St. Petersburg, Salt Lake City and Mid-Ohio.

According to Dumas, it was much harder to defend the title this year against increased Acura compeitition than it was to win it the first time.

"We are have to work as a team to help Porsche win the makes title," said Dumas.

Despite having already achieved their personal goal with the drivers title, they will certainly not slow down in Laguna Seca. On the contrary - the pair are determined to help Porsche retain the manufacturers' title (engine and chassis) in the race series featuring the world's fastest sports cars.

Timo Bernhard: "We're a team. The most important thing is success for Porsche. We received such tremendous support this season that we want to do everything to give something back to the team. It would also be incredible to secure all the titles for Porsche again this year."

In the GT2 class for production-based sports cars, Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler (both Germany) also claimed the championship title at the penultimate round in Road Atlanta. With the 911 GT3 RSR run by the new team champions Flying Lizard Motorsports, they won the races in Sebring, Salt Lake City, Lime Rock and Detroit this season. Their Lizard team mates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France), also have a good chance to conclude the season with a class win, while the third Lizard Porsche, driven by Seth Neiman/Lonnie Pechnik/Darren Law (all USA) hold a podium finish from Sebring and ran a strong race earlier this month at Petit.

Dirk Werner (Germany) and Bryce Miller (USA) in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Farnbacher Loles Racing, led much of the Petit Le Mans GT2 battle before a broken wheel hub sidelined their effort, and with a class win at Road America in their portfolio, they are considered a favorite at Laguna as well.

The other Porsche entry is the VICI Racing Porsche of Nicky and Francesco Pastorelli (both The Netherlands) and Marc Basseng (Germany), which comes off a strong performance from Petit Le Mans where the car ran in the top six until the very end of the race.

-credit: porsche motorsport

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , Helio Castroneves , Sascha Maassen , Darren Law , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marino Franchitti , Johannes van Overbeek , Ryan Briscoe , Romain Dumas , Lonnie Pechnik , Wolf Henzler , Patrick Pilet , Marc Basseng , Dirk Werner , Chris Dyson , Francesco Pastorelli , Bryce Miller
Teams Team Penske , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports