Lime Rock: Porsche race report

PORSCHE RS SPYDER EDGED BY ACURA IN LAST 90 SECONDS IN A BATTLE OF FUEL AND TRAFFIC; BERGMEISTER/HENZLER SCORE THIRD GT VICTORY FOR LIZARD PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR LIME ROCK, Conn. - July 12 - Patrick Long, Sascha Maassen, Timo Bernhard, Romain...

PORSCHE RS SPYDER EDGED BY ACURA IN LAST 90 SECONDS IN A BATTLE OF FUEL AND TRAFFIC; BERGMEISTER/HENZLER SCORE THIRD GT VICTORY FOR LIZARD PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR

LIME ROCK, Conn. - July 12 - Patrick Long, Sascha Maassen, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Butch Leitzinger, Marino Franchitti, Chris Dyson and Guy Smith all had something in common as the checkered flag dropped at the finish of the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park on Saturday afternoon. All are Porsche RS Spyder drivers; all drove cars that either led or ran in the top three; and all had a day that ended in various degrees of disappointment. But, for the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR drivers Wolf Henzler and Joerg Bergmeister, it was all good for round five of the American Le Mans Series in northwest Connecticut.

The #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder of Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas, who now lead the LMP2 drivers championship by 24 points, took the lead at the one-hour mark just before a 25-minute yellow flag, and led for an hour and 43 minutes before being overhauled by the Brabham/Sharp Acura and settling for second place.

Both the Porsche and the Acura spent the last 30 minutes trying to stay out of trouble created by slower traffic, a marginal fuel supply, and a track littered with dirt and rocks from previous mishaps during the race. Bernhard, who held the lead for most of that time, would build a 10 - 15-second lead, only to get stuck behind a gaggle of GT cars and have the margin shrink to one - three seconds. Both cars had made only one fuel stop, but thought they could make it to the end with all the yellow flags that had ensued, and the leanest fuel mode they could muster.

Two laps from the end -- only 90 seconds from the finish -- after Timo lost a bout with traffic, Brabham attempted to pass him on the outside, and Timo stuck the nose of the car on the inside line, but the Acura cut him off, and Timo had to slam on the brakes, locking up the rear end and spinning onto the grass.

"I thought I could go faster than him, but I had bad luck in traffic, and he caught up to me. When he cut in front of me, I ran out of room on the inside line, and would have crashed into the barrier if I held that line. I decided it was better to spin and avoid contact, thus making sure I finished second, than it was to crash and put our season points in danger," said Bernhard, who now has three victories and two second-place LMP2 finishes with Dumas to his credit.

Porsche leads Acura in the LMP2 manufacturers title chase by 13 points after five races.

The #6 Penske Porsche RS Spyder of Sascha Maassen/Patrick Long got off to an even better start, with Long getting a great start and taking the overall lead on the first lap - a lead he held until lap seven, and holding the LMP2 class lead for the first hour of the race. Just before that 25-minute yellow flag, teammate Dumas got by Long, and then a miscue of the Penske pit caused the team to pit without a planned driver change, so Patrick had to bring the car back in for his driver change, costing track position and solidifying the lead for the number seven car.

But Maassen made good progress once the yellow was over, staying on the lead lap and running fourth behind the two Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyders, the Acura, and of course, his team car.

But then, after #16 Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder came into the pits for its driver change, Chris Dyson, who was running second, gave the car to Guy Smith, and Smith came together with the #44 Flying Lizard Porsche, crashing heavily and putting the Dyson car out of the race. That left the #20 Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Butch Leitzinger, who was running third after starting driver Marino Franchitti had run as high as second during his opening stint. Leitzinger drove a magnificent stint, and was in line for a podium finish when Maassen's RS Spyder lost grip and hit the rear end of his car with only three minutes to go, pushing Butch into the tire wall and ending his day. Maassen received a one- minute penalty for the incident, but he and patrick still managed to finish third in LMP2. Leitzinger/Franchitti had enough laps to collect sixth-place points as the incident happened so late in the race.

For the more than 200 Porsche owners who packed the Porscheplatz to watch the race, the GT2 class finish provided a happier ending to the day's festivities, as Joerg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler extended their class points lead to 11 over the Farnbacher/Mueller Ferrari with a victory in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

"We didn't qualify where we wanted to because of set-up problems, but once we got the lead - thanks to quick work by our crew - we tried to control the race, and led by as many as two laps near the end. Wolf did a good job of keeping the car out of trouble during the last part of the race, and bringing home the victory. We had too much lock on the differential, but once we corrected that problem, we had a good car," said Bergmeister.

The #46 Patrick Pilet/Johannes van Overbeek Flying Lizard Porsche, which led the class several times during the first hour, came together with the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche of Dirk Werner/Richard Westbrook, causing cooling system damage requiring multiple stops for water and a seventh place finish. The Darren Law/Seth Neiman Flying Lizard finished 11th after its crash with the Guy Smith LMP2 Porsche (see above).

But all was not lost for the #87 Porsche, which finished second when the Dirk Mueller/Dominik Farnbacher (son of Farnbacher Loles Racing partner Horst Farnbacher) Ferrari ran out of fuel on the last lap.

After all the problems we had in the race, it's amazing that we came second. I'm a little bit disappointed because without the problems, I think we were good enough to win today. We had a big problem with our front left tire in the first stint - I just had to try to bring it home because after three laps, the tire was absolutely gone. If we'd had a safety car that first 45 minutes, it would have been fine, but luck didn't play on our side, so we had to pit under green and lose a lap. Then Dirk did a great job and we pulled our way up to second - with a stop-and-go, so it can't be bad," said Richard Westbrook, defending Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion.

Porsche now leads Ferrari by 13 points in the GT2 manufacturers points battle.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , Sascha Maassen , Darren Law , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marino Franchitti , Johannes van Overbeek , Romain Dumas , Seth Neiman , Wolf Henzler , Patrick Pilet , Richard Westbrook , Chris Dyson
Teams Dyson Racing