PENSKE RETURNS TO ROOTS AS PORSCHE RS SPYDER ENTRIES AIM FOR SECOND VICTORY AND LMP2 POINTS LEAD AT LIME ROCK PARK LAKEVILLE, Conn. - June 28, 2006 - In 1959, Roger Penske - the driver - won his first race at an SCCA Regional event at Lime...
PENSKE RETURNS TO ROOTS AS PORSCHE RS SPYDER ENTRIES AIM FOR SECOND VICTORY AND LMP2 POINTS LEAD AT LIME ROCK PARK
LAKEVILLE, Conn. - June 28, 2006 - In 1959, Roger Penske - the driver - won his first race at an SCCA Regional event at Lime Rock Park, driving Bob Holbert's F-modified Porsche 550 RS. In 1961, Penske won his first SCCA National Championship (D Modified). Along the way, he shared the podium with Mark Donohue and Skip Barber, who were also class winners during that Fourth of July weekend race at Lime Rock Park.
In 1962, he again raced at Lime Rock on the July 4 race weekend, lapping the field in his red Cooper Monaco, establishing a new track record of 1:03.4 on his way to the USAC road racing championship and the "New York Times Driver of the Year" award. His winnings that year in racing? $34,350.
Now, on another fourth of July weekend - Saturday, July 1, 2006 - almost 50 years later, Penske leads the two-car Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 prototype team into the historic Lime Rock Park circuit seeking a second straight ALMS victory and the LMP2 class leadership.
Fast From the Beginning
From the very first test for this pair of Porsche prototype race cars, the Porsche factory engineers, the Penske Motorsports crew, and drivers Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard, and Romain Dumas knew that the Porsche RS Spyder had the capability to win the LMP2 class and compete for overall position in American Le Mans Series events.
When the car debuted last season at Laguna Seca, Maassen and Luhr won the LMP2 battle and finished fourth overall, and the team had several successful tests leading up to the 2006 12 Hours of Sebring. But input shaft failures at Sebring while the cars were leading the class resulted in a double DNF, as did transmission problems at Houston. While the potential remained, the results were not there.
Pole positions, race leads, and lap records at Sebring and Houston showed everyone that the car could lead the field, but a one-two finish overall and in LMP2 at Mid-Ohio delivered on that promise.
"The double victory at Mid-Ohio confirmed that everything we had all worked on indeed functioned over a complete race distance. Porsche's goals for the season after its first overall win in the American Le Mans Series have not changed. We want to be the best in the LMP2 class and hand over a winning car to our customers in 2007. That is, and will remain, our challenge," said Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport worldwide.
The Mid-Ohio win
The #7 Porsche RS Spyder, which was forced to the rear of the grid after pole-setting qualifying times because of a slight vehicle weight violation, used spectacular driving at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by German Timo Bernhard and Frenchman Romain Dumas to score Porsche's first overall win in the American Le Mans Series since its inception in 1999.
The Bernhard/Dumas Porsche also won the LMP2 class, its class first win of the season. The team #6 RS Spyder of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, which led the race from the green flag until the one hour mark, finished second overall and second in LMP2 - the first time that LMP2 cars have finished one-two overall in the history of the series.
After offsetting pit stop strategies between the two Porsche RS Spyders, Dumas and Luhr were dicing for first place, with Dumas holding on for the win with a half-second victory.
The defending ALMS champion Audi R8 of Rinaldo Capello/Alan McNish, the top-finishing LMP1 car, was third overall.
Lime Rock Preparation
The team's extensive testing schedule during its year-long development of the Porsche RS Spyder has taken it to many of the tracks on the ALMS schedule, but Lime Rock Park, which has limited availability due to the proximity of residences to the track, has not been on the list.
Thus, the RS Spyder has never been driven on this circuit. The team, therefore, has precious little time to set-up the vehicle for the twisty track which features many bumps and varying asphalt surfaces. The eight corners are partially paved with concrete slabs and feature virtually no run-off zones. Just one hour of free practice and a 20-minute qualifying session are available to find the best possible setup.
"There is a solution for every characteristic that a car shows on the track," said Kristen, who is confident despite the time pressure. "You just have to find the solution quickly and be able to apply it in the race."
GT2 - Porsche, Panoz, Ferrari Battle
Four different teams representing three different manufactures are battling for the championship in the GT2 class, with Porsche 911 GT3 RSR squads having won two of the first three events. At Mid-Ohio, Johannes van Overbeek and team newcomer Wolf Henzler put pressure on the early GT2 leaders, and scored their third straight podium of the season and their first class win as the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (van Overbeek) has a 10- point in the GT2 Drivers Championship.
The week before at Houston, it was the Alex Job Racing Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller/Kalud Graf which grabbed the win, with the Maxwell/Brabham Panoz winning at the 12 Hours of Sebring. The defending champion Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister has had a range of mechanical problems with two fourth place finishes. The team faces additional challenges at Lime Rock as a crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans totalled their current chassis, and they were forced to buy another car last week and will be busy preparing it in the paddock for Friday's first track session. The Flying Lizard car was also at Le Mans, and finished fourth in GT2.
The New England Grand Prix at Lime Rock, round three of the ten-race American Le Mans Series, will be held at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut on Saturday, July 1, from 3:00 PM EDT to 5:45 PM. The race will be telecast by CBS Sports on Sunday, July 2 at 4:00 PM EDT, and in Europe on Motors TV, also on Sunday. A live web radio broadcast can be heard on the American Le Mans Series web site - www.americanlemans.com. The ALMS site will also carry live scoring for qualifying as well as for the complete race. Porsche fans can see results and photos on www.porschemotorsport.com - a newly re-organized site for Porsche Motorsport activity.