Contact Damages No. 31 While Fightning for GT2 Lead
LAKEVILLE, Conn. - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing fought for the GT2 class lead for most of the day here at Lime Rock Park in the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. However, the Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) owned team would be forced to settle for a seventh- place finish after damage to the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT caused an extended pit stop to make repairs. The disappointment of the result is deep as the team, with drivers Tomas Enge (a native of the Czech Republic now living in Monaco) and Darren Turner (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England) had dominated the weekend to that point, leading each practice session and winning the pole position for the two hour and 45-minute race.
Turner started the event for the team but relinquished the lead at the first turn. The 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans GT1 class winner stayed close to the leader, often nose-to-tail, before, 25 minutes into the event. He then made contact with a slow-moving back- marker while attempting to overtake it. Turner spun off the course but was able to continue. The spin cost the team approximately 15-seconds though they never lost second-place. A caution flag would close the gap just prior to the team's first pit stop where Turner handed the No. 31 over to Enge at the race's midpoint. Enge would continue the spectacular battle between the two Italian exotics. The No. 31 went on the attack taking the top-spot entering the first turn of the 1.54- mile, eight-turn Lime Rock Park facility with one hour and 11 minutes remaining in the race. Laps later, Enge would make contact while lapping a car but with far greater impact than Turner's earlier encounter. Both Enge and the other car spun and sustained heavy damage to the left-front including a destroyed radiator, headlight assembly, nose, both mirrors and front splitter (undertray). The Nevada-based team would fall as low as eighth while repairs were made to the Ferrari. The incredible pit lane repair effort by the Dale White (Bozeman, MT) managed team kept the two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver Championship-winning team in the race.
The Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing machine returned to the track 23 minutes later without the nose but the car capable of regularly running in the 54 second range. That strong team showing would help them move to seventh in class, 20th overall, in the final standings. In the early going, the car had been so quick that, for the fifth consecutive race, the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari F430 GT set the fastest GT2 class race lap. In the process of turning the lap, Turner set a new track record for the class at Lime Rock Park with a time of 53.045 seconds.
Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "The crew did a great job of getting the car back on track after the accident. Again, we were quick but it takes more than that in this class. We knew this race was going to be a tough one; you just put it all out on the table and hope that the return outweighs the risk. Today, that was obviously not the case."
Tomas Enge, Driver: "A very disappointing race. Definitely we had the fastest car in the race but with such a narrow and slippery track it was very difficult to overtake. That is why there were several contacts in the race. Unfortunately, one of the contacts ruined our race which was a big shame for everybody on the team after such great work from them all weekend."
Darren Turner, Driver: "It proved to be a race of what could have been. To start with we were a little unlucky off the line as the left lane was a little slow and allowed Melo to have the inside line for turn one. The two of us pulled away from the rest of the pack and we had great pace but the traffic played a key part. I got caught-up with a slower Porsche as I was trying to lap him and the resulting 'off' lost us about 15 seconds. The good thing was that with the safety car towards the end of my stint it closed the gap back up so that when Tomas got in the car he was right on the tail of Salo. It didn't take him long to get passed into lead. At that point I really thought we were on for a second win but, unfortunately, that wasn't to be."
Television coverage of today's American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix can be seen tomorrow, July 8, on CBS Sports at 1 pm (ET). Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing will compete next at Round Seven of the American Le Mans Series, July 21 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.