Flying Lizard Heads to Long Beach for ALMS Round Three April 16, 2008 -- Long Beach, California -- The Lizard squad heads to Southern California today for ALMS round three: the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. The second of...
Flying Lizard Heads to Long Beach for ALMS Round Three
April 16, 2008 -- Long Beach, California -- The Lizard squad heads to Southern California today for ALMS round three: the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. The second of three street circuits this year, the 1.966-mile, 11-turn temporary course winds through city streets along the ocean, giving both residents and fans a front-row seat for a weekend of sports car racing.
Two races into the season (and out of a total of 50 possible points), Flying Lizard leads the ALMS GT2 team championship with 46 points, six points ahead of Tafel Racing. In the drivers' championship, it's even closer: eight drivers are within a five point spread. Six of those are Flying Lizard drivers. Lizard Porsche No. 45's Bergmeister/Henzler are two points behind Dirk Mueller/Dominik Farnbacher of Tafel Racing, No. 44's Darren Law/Seth Neiman are two points behind Bergmeister/Henzler and No. 46's van Overbeek/Pilet are just one point behind them.
Thomas Blam, Lizard chief strategist, commented on the particular challenges of Long Beach and what the team expects, "One street course down, two to go (Long Beach and Detroit). Long Beach is the shortest race we have this year and, like St. Pete, is on a temporary circuit. From a strategy perspective, it's easily possible to have a one-stop race: if all goes smoothly we will stop once for tires and fuel and that's it. Just like St. Pete, there is absolutely zero room for error at Long Beach. Plus we have a very large field of prototypes this year, who need room to pass, and a lot of new players in GT2 who are grappling with street circuits for the first time. We saw what that can mean at St. Pete, in which 20 percent of the starting field didn't finish the race."
Blam continued, "So far this year, we've been pleased with the pace of the Porsches; the pole at St. Pete by Wolf Henzler in the No. 45 was a good example of how strong the cars can be. In 2007, we did well here in the No. 44 (Darren Law and Patrick Long finished second) and we expect to see the Porsches overall perform well here again this year."
Teammate van Overbeek, who rebounded from a tough start at Sebring (resulting in an eighth place finish) to finish second at St. Pete with Patrick Pilet, added, "At Long Beach, several factors come together: the field is close in championship points, the race is really short, and the circuit is narrow with no run-off. Combine that intensity with the pace of these cars, and the desire of each driver to be at the front as early as possible and you have a very challenging situation. Racing on a street circuit requires a cooperative effort from all drivers in all classes: if anyone gets it wrong, the consequences are so high. The key is to get to the right mix of aggressiveness so you don't get run over, and patience so you can navigate traffic and get safely around the track."
The ALMS teams struggled with an extremely short race week at St. Pete with little prep time. Team manager Eric Ingraham is looking forward to a more normal schedule at Long Beach, "We have a test day here on Thursday and one more hour of practice than we had at St. Pete. That will definitely help with setup. Long Beach is a slightly longer course than St. Pete and has a hairpin turn and some sections with some good bumps in them. So what we learned at Sebring and St. Pete in terms of setup should certainly apply here. Lonnie, Seth, and Patrick haven't driven here before so Thursday's test day will be really valuable for each of them."
Ingraham, who manages the No. 46 Porsche strategy, reflected on the particular challenges of street courses, "In terms of strategy, there are two things which make street courses difficult: first, the relative difficulty of passing and secondly the length of the lap. With regards to passing, it's critical to decide on changing tires and what it will cost in terms of track position and whether or not you can make up positions if you spend time in the pits. With regards to the length of the lap, you can go one lap down at a short track with one green flag pit stop, so stopping under yellow makes a lot more sense. There are also a few things at Long Beach which are unusual: the way that the pits are set up, we cannot see the pit entry from our pit stalls and it's a very long pit lane so that means that stopping under green has a larger time implication than normal."
Just two races into the season, both ALMS GT2 championships (drivers and team) are still wide open. Ingraham added, "We've had our share of challenges already this year: the No. 46 being out for an hour at Sebring, the No. 45 finishing in the pits at St. Pete. This is our fifth season competing in the ALMS. Each year, it boils down to one thing: consistency. In a competitive field like GT2, the team that wins the championship is the team that finishes consistently high every race."