Lime Rock: Petersen/White Lightning race report

LAKEVILLE, Conn., July 1, 2006 -- Two weeks ago Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing was in Le Mans, France looking at its destroyed Porsche 911 GT3 RSR after an eleventh-hour accident ended the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class champion's...

LAKEVILLE, Conn., July 1, 2006 -- Two weeks ago Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing was in Le Mans, France looking at its destroyed Porsche 911 GT3 RSR after an eleventh-hour accident ended the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class champion's event there. A week ago the team was waiting on delivery of a 2005 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to finish the 2006 American Le Mans Series season. Today, the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Market Scan/Michelin Porsche RSR won the GT2 class of the New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in convincing style. In the interim, the Michael Petersen-owned organization burned the midnight oil and provided Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) a car that gave them their first victory of 2006. This was the Dale White-managed team's seventh career American Le Mans Series class victory and came in the team's 50th career Series event.

The 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Class Champions took delivery of their "new" Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on Friday, June 23 from Porsche Club of America racer Rusty West (Newbury Park, Calif.). The car was then shipped to Lime Rock Park here in Lakeville, Conn. It arrived on Monday of this week, the same day the crew and equipment arrived. Crew chief Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) and the team used every waking hour to prepare the car for today's race. In the process, every piece of bodywork was replaced, a new engine, transmission, electronics, wiring harness, both driveshaft, all four corners of the car's suspension, a new seat and seatbelts and many more pieces on Porsche's premier, street-based race car had to be replaced prior to the first practice. In total, every piece on the car was replaced with the exception of a few wiring components, some cooling hoses and the fuel cell. All the graphics work also had to be completed giving the car its familiar Petersen/White Lightning livery as it crossed the finish line seventh overall and over 40 seconds ahead of second-place of the GT2 class. This was the team's first IMSA Cup-- awarded to the highest finishing privateer entrant in each class-- of the season after taking nine of ten IMSA Cups and five of ten class victories in 2005.

Bergmeister started today's two hour and 45-minute event fourth. He had moved to second by the end of the fifteenth lap and took the top position in the class when the leading car crashed just in front of him. Bergmeister would hand over the wheel of the newly completed car to Long 46 minutes in the race. The team would not relinquish the lead at any point for more than a lap after that. Grueling temperatures, 90 degrees ambient and well over 115 inside the car, had an impact on the day forcing one extra driver change. Bergmeister would bring the car across the finish-line after Long drove the middle portion of the race. In fact, the only problem the Dale White-managed team faced all day was a faulty "cool suit"-- a system that pumps cool water through capillaries in a vest around the driver's torso-- that left the drivers searching for any way to fight the heat and limiting their time in the car. Despite the difficult conditions, the drivers, like the team had throughout the week, overcame the adversity to return to the podium for the first time since the 2005 season-finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

The New England Grand Prix can be seen on a tape delayed broadcast on CBS at 4 PM (ET) on July 2.

Quotes:

Dale White, Team Manager: "I've said it before and I will keep saying it until every one in the world hears me; these guys are awesome! Everyone on this team put in a 100 percent effort to make this happen. If anyone ever doubted that this is a team sport only needs to look at this week. To go from pretty much a tub on Monday to a race victory on Saturday is just unbelievable. Jorg and Patrick put all of that out of their mind and drove the new car like they had driven it all their lives. Like I said, a complete team effort. Unfortunately, Mike couldn't be here today but he and I have already talked and I can't tell you how proud we are of everyone on this team."

Jorg Bergmeister, Driver: "I had a pretty good start. When the Ferrari passed the BMW I was able to pass by as well. Unfortunately the Ferrari went off and it didn't come to the fight that I would have liked to have had. I think we had a really good car and I am pretty optimistic that we had something for them. I just have to say 'thank you' to the whole team for putting the car together. I was already joking at Le Mans that it was probably time to get rid of the old car because of all the bad luck we had with it this season. The guys really did a great job. It is not like we were not competitive all year long. We were always quick. Like Mid-Ohio where we, I would say, dominated the whole race. We just had bad luck. I hope that string has broken and we will have all good luck now and be back in the championship."

Patrick Long, Driver: "My stint was very eventful with traffic. The BMWs were playing a little bit of strategy. In fact, the BMWs and Panoz had their sister cars making it very, very difficult for me. Once I got clear of them, which was a real fine line of not hurting the car and still getting around them, it was pretty smooth sailing. It was really track management. It's phenomenal what the guys did. I think this makes all the long, hard nights they put in this week worth while. They completed a 36 hour race leading into this thing and to hit the track running. To go P1 in the first session; that is pretty amazing. Last night Frank [Funke, engineer], Jorg and myself sat down and made some decisions on what we were going to do with the car. Frank just made some awesome calls on the setup of the car. It was just unflappable all stint long. It gives me a lot of confidence to know I have an engineer and a team that can pull it out when the pressure is on."

-pwl-

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