Lime Rock: Petersen/ White Lightning preview

Petersen/White Lightning to Have New Porsche in New England 2005 GT2 Champions' 50th ALMS Event Brings New Challenge LIME ROCK, Conn., June 26, 2006 -- Following an eleventh hour accident at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18, Petersen ...

Petersen/White Lightning to Have New Porsche in New England

2005 GT2 Champions' 50th ALMS Event Brings New Challenge

LIME ROCK, Conn., June 26, 2006 -- Following an eleventh hour accident at the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 18, Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing had to go on a search. Instead of searching for that last thousandth of a second that usually fills the minds of competitors, team owner Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) and team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT) began searching for a new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to complete the 2006 American Le Mans Series season. The July 1 New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock (Conn.) Park is the first event since Le Mans for the team's No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. With seven races remaining on the ten event schedule, drivers Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) are eager to recapture the momentum that saw them race to five victories, including the last four straight, on their way to the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Championship. With the newly acquired car set to make its debut at Lime Rock, the challenges will be many for the team as it seeks to make its 50th career American Le Mans Series start.

Chief among those challenges was the car itself. Because the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that GT2 class teams use is currently out of production, the team had to do more than order a new car. While a new race car derived from the newest iteration, the 997 chassis, of the venerable Porsche 911will be available in 2007, the last assembled 996-based 911 GT3 RSR was sold in 2005. To help find a replacement for the machine totaled in France, where they were challenging for a third class win, the team called upon Porsche Motorsports North America head-man Uwe Brettel. Brettel located several prime candidates including Porsche Club of America (PCA) competitor Rusty West of Newbury Park, Calif. West had purchased the last RSR ever imported to the United States to race in Porsche Club events. White finalized the agreement to acquire the car from West late Thursday, June 22. West went out of his way to make the car available to Petersen/ White Lightning not only in time to compete in the New England Grand Prix, but he did so at a very fair and reasonable cost for the sought-after car.

Crew chief Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) and team member Sam Andrus (Santa Clara, Utah) picked-up the car from West on Friday, June 23 and returned it to the team's shop in Las Vegas. Once in Vegas, Chizma and Drew Cushman (Las Vegas) began to do initial preparation on the car before shipping it to the 1.54-mile, seven-turn road course. The Porsche is scheduled to arrive on Monday, June 26. From there the eight man team will begin final assembly and prep work on the car (chassis number: WPOZZZ99Z5S693070). The RSR will debut its traditional Petersen/ White Lightning livery in the first practice on Friday morning, June 30.

The chassis which was used in the first three American Le Mans Series races of the season and at Le Mans will be kept for donor pieces to the new car. It was deemed un-repairable in time to compete this weekend after it made heavy contact with the wall at the first chicane on the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. The car was custom-built from parts by Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing technicians over the winter. It led the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and at the American Le Mans Series at Mid-Ohio in May. Both times the car was forced to make lengthy repairs while in the GT2 class lead which cost it potential victories. The team also still owns the 2005 Championship-winning car, which also won its class at the 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Petersen/ White Lightning finished second here at Lime Rock in 2005 with drivers Bergmeister and Long. Long also won his first American Le Mans Series pole position here last year. The New England Grand Prix will start at 3 PM (ET) on July 1. A tape delayed broadcast of the two hour and 45 minute event can be seen on CBS at 4 PM (ET) on July 2. Live timing and scoring can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.

Quotes:

Mike Petersen, Owner: "It's nice to be back in America with a new car after the unfortunate thing that happened at Le Mans. We're looking forward to hopefully returning to our form. The races are getting fewer and fewer and we are losing time to position ourselves in the championship. I know the team will have a lot of work in front of them to get the new car ready but we are confident that we will have an extremely competitive car at Lime Rock. Unfortunately, I won't be at the race but will be watching on TV from home with my son and fiance and wish the guys the best of luck."

Dale White, Team Manager: "We've never missed a race we said we'd be at. We've been in worse spots than this with a lot less time. We really wanted to find a new car to get the best chance of winning at Lime Rock, which is important to our championship hopes. Rusty West really showed what true racers are all about. He sacrificed the rest of his season to give another Porsche team, a group of guys he has never met, a chance to go and try to win a championship. To me, that says so much about him and about what it is to be a racer. We had a few other alternatives but this was the best case scenario. Rusty made it happen and he made it happen fast. We can't thank him enough. And I also want to thank Porsche. We'll have some work to do to get the most out of the car in ALMS competition but we should have everything completed and ready to go with the first practice on Friday."

Jorg Bergmeister, Driver: "Le Mans was disappointing for the whole team and me especially. I can't wait to go to Lime Rock and hopefully continue where we stopped with the performance at Mid-Ohio... but with better luck. I think we should have a good car. We just need some luck right now to get the results that I think we deserve. I don't think there should be a problem having a new car. It isn't like the car is different from one car to another. Usually the Porsches are really equal. Maybe just a few little setup changes. I'm excited to go to Lime Rock and try to win the race."

Patrick Long, Driver: "Lime Rock is a wild event. The track is very different than what we normally run on. Last year was a cool memory as it was my first ALMS pole. So, I would like to keep that going. I'm looking forward to getting back with the Petersen/ White Lightning guys after not racing with them at Le Mans. We are going to go out and try and win and begin to claw back some points that we lost in the last couple races. It will be interesting to have a new Porsche for the rest of the season. It will show well for our guys; how quick they can assemble the car in a short period of time. It is never ideal to change cars in the middle of a season but if anyone can do it, it is the Petersen/ White Lightning boys. I'm not worried about that at all. It will be business as usual I think."

-pm/wlr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Michael Petersen , Rusty West