Lime Rock: Race report

PERFECT DAY FOR PENSKE, PORSCHE AT LIME ROCK PARK Fresh tires, a late pass in traffic and a solid restart with three minutes left gave Penske Motorsports' Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen their second straight overall victory in the American Le...

PERFECT DAY FOR PENSKE, PORSCHE AT LIME ROCK PARK

Fresh tires, a late pass in traffic and a solid restart with three minutes left gave Penske Motorsports' Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen their second straight overall victory in the American Le Mans Series on Saturday in the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. Briscoe took a 7.5-second victory over the sister Porsche RS Spyder of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.

Briscoe made the winning pass with less than 25 minutes remaining, ending what had been race-long dominance by the pole-sitting car of Bernhard and Dumas. The two LMP2 cars pitted together with 50 minutes left and the race under caution. Briscoe, running second at the time, got new tires and fuel while Bernhard's crew elected to just top off the fuel tank.

The fresh rubber made the difference down the stretch. Briscoe dove inside of Bernhard at Turn 1 and made the pass stick.

"It was clear that taking new tires during the stop was a big advantage," Briscoe said. "After the stop, we were much quicker. I got a great run down the hill and Timo was held up by a GT2 car and I sailed down the front straight. But there was a long way to go and you never know what's going to happen. It was a very safe pass and we needed it for the championship."

Briscoe and Maassen won the last Series round at Utah's Miller Motorsports Park in May and also claimed the LMP2 class win at St. Petersburg. They are nine points behind Dumas and Bernhard in the class championship race.

The victory surely brought back memories of team owner Roger Penske's first win as a driver in 1959. Coincidentally, it came in a Porsche at Lime Rock. This time, it was his call that claimed yet another Lime Rock win.

"For us, there was no losing," Maassen said. "We pitted together with the 7 car and they were afraid of losing the position if they took tires. But there was no one close to us so it was an easy decision. It was the biggest advantage and the reason Ryan could do such quick lap times."

Dumas and Bernhard led the first 145 laps. David Brabham and Stefan Johansson took third overall and in class for Highcroft Racing and Acura. It is their first podium since St. Petersburg.

Allan McNish and Dindo Capello took the class win in LMP1 and finished fifth overall. The diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI struggled on the short circuit and in the traffic as both drivers spun at various points of the race. McNish was running second overall early on behind Dumas 40 minutes into the race before a Turn 1 spin after colliding with the Intersport Racing Creation-Judd.

The Audi Sport North America crew had to replace the front nose as the car lost three laps to the leaders. They made up two of those by race's end.

"Before we arrived here we knew we would struggle in an LMP1 car when you have such good LMP2 competition. That's the nature of the track. The circuit is extremely tight and narrow and it's hard to get around traffic," McNish said. "I was able to get a good jump at the start but was really struggling to keep up with the two Porsches. I got caught when I tried to get around the Intersport car. He went down and I locked up the brakes and then tried to pass him again on the next lap and he did the same thing."

McNish and Capello, who won the race last year, recovered to finish ahead of Intersport, which posted its best finish of the year with Jon Field, Clint Field and Richard Berry. The second Creation-Judd of Autocon Motorsports finished third with Chris McMurry and Mike Lewis.

The second R10 TDI, which made its debut at Lime Rock on Saturday, finished fourth following a heavy shunt with Marco Werner at the wheel. Coming into the final turn, the rear suspension failed and sent the reigning Le Mans winner hard into the outside wall.

"Today I could feel after a few laps that it could have been so easy to make a mistake," Capello said. "We had two options: cruise around to the end or push hard for the win. We tried to take the second approach. From the lap after the spin I tried to take care the rest of the way."

In GT1, Corvette Racing's Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta took a 0.384- second victory over teammates Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. The win was the fifth of the season for the defending class champions and their third Lime Rock win in four years.

"It was very busy. It always is here," Gavin said. "It's the craziest track we drive at. You have to keep your wits about you the whole time. It's a constant battle. I was touched by three cars today; nothing big but it's the nature of the track. You hope that it's not going to be a big one. There were a few incidents that were unfortunate but didn't involve us."

The Corvettes were two of the few cars that had trouble-free runs. That's been the case most of the year for both C6.Rs.

"We had a good fight with the No. 3 Corvette," Beretta said. "We didn't make any mistakes but had a little contact. Other than that it was very good. On the pit stop we can make a mistake or have contact with another car and the race is done. But we didn't make any mistakes and made no major contact."

Flying Lizard Motorsports took its first win of the year and the first for the new Porsche Type 997 in the American Le Mans Series. Jorg Bergmeister and Johannes van Overbeek took a one-lap win over the Rahal Letterman Racing Porsche of Tom Milner and Ralf Kelleners, their best finish of the season. The Lizards benefited from an accident involving the three lead Ferrari F430 GTs and an untimely late pit stop by the Rahal Porsche to repair a punctured tire.

"Unfortunately for them it's a pretty regular occurrence," van Overbeek said of the Ferrari shunts. "We're happy for that though as it's the Porsche's first win in GT2 (this year). They build a strong motor. The last 15 minutes we were running low on water but the motor made it to the end. We're just thrilled."

The win by Bergmeister and van Overbeek combined with a ninth-place finish by Risi Competizione's Mika Salo and Jaime Melo catapulted the Lizard duo into the championship lead. Third was the other Risi Ferrari of Eric Helary and Nic Jonsson.

A victory was nearly the last thing on the Lizards' mind after the first lap. Bergmeister had to pit with a punctured left-rear tire following contact with another car but the Porsche had no other problems. The same couldn't be said for Risi and Petersen/White Lightning. Tomas Enge led Mika Salo in a close battle with less than an hour left when Enge got into Helary's car and then was forced off by Salo.

"That was the worst start we could have had in the race, having a puncture on the first lap of the race and losing two laps," Bergmeister said. "I thought we were already done. Luckily we were able to run a good pace. The yellows came at the right time and the Ferraris ended up taking each other out. We need to do what we have done all year: race hard and finish races. Hopefully we'll have more wins."

The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Acura Sports Car Challenge, scheduled for 3:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 21 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The race will be broadcast live on XM Satellite Radio's Sports Nation Channel and American Le Mans Radio via americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring. CBS Sports will broadcast the race from 2 to 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 22.

-credit: alms

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