WITH A NARROW LEAD IN DRIVER AND TEAM POINTS, PORSCHE ALMS CUSTOMERS TAKE ON AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS STREET CIRCUIT WITH BOTH EXCITEMENT AND CAUTION LONG BEACH, Calif. - April 15 - Ever since the Formula 5000 race cars proved that the Long...
WITH A NARROW LEAD IN DRIVER AND TEAM POINTS, PORSCHE ALMS CUSTOMERS TAKE ON AMERICA'S MOST FAMOUS STREET CIRCUIT WITH BOTH EXCITEMENT AND CAUTION
LONG BEACH, Calif. - April 15 - Ever since the Formula 5000 race cars proved that the Long Beach Grand Prix street circuit could handle world- class road racing in 1975, the history of Formula 1 and IndyCar racing in the U.S. has been impacted by this Southern California venue - and now sports car racing is making its mark as well.
The Indy cars, which have been running as the feature race since 1984, were joined by the sports cars in the American Le Mans Series three years ago, and the results have been spectacular, including the 2007 race where the LMP2 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyders took the top three overall positions, even though they were short 200 horsepower to the LMP1 prototypes.
The list of Formula 1 and Indy car drivers that have won at Long Beach is a who's who of racing, starting with Mario Andretti - the only driver to win in both a Formula 1 and an IndyCar race here - and include Brian Redman - who won that 1975 Formula 5000 event - Carlos Reutemann, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Michael Andretti, Al Under, Jr., Danny Sullivan, Sebastain Bourdais, and Helio Castroneves. A complete list of Long Beach winners since 1975 is below.
The American Le Mans Series race, which takes the green flag at 4:15 PM PDT (local) on Saturday, will be telecast on a tape-delayed basis on ABC on Sunday, April 19, starting at 12:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time, and will last 100 minutes - a special length for TV. The ABC broadcast will conclude at 2:30 PM EDT after coverage of the winners circle activities. Both the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche and the #18 VICI Racing Porsche will be equipped with ABC network in-car cameras to provide viewers with the best possible Porsche action from the race. Live scoring and American Le Mans Radio are available at www.americanlemans.com for both qualifying on Friday, April 17, at 7:00 PM EDT, and the entire race.
In the ALMS GT2 championship chase, the Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) aim to capture their second win of the season in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. While they will face stiff competition from the factory BMW, Ferrari and Panoz entries, the toughest rivals for the current point leaders Bergmeister/Long might be fellow Porsche drivers Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner from Germany, who share driving duties for the shortest race of the season (100 minutes) in the #87 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Farnbacher Loles Racing.
Henzler/Werner started the races in both Sebring and in St. Petersburg from the first row, but were not able to turn their excellent starting positions into a top result in the race. This situation should now change, according the Henzler.
"We race to win the title," says Wolf Henzler, who is reigning champion with Joerg Bergmeister. "Even if we've experienced bad luck twice now, we're not about to give up. We will keep fighting."
The street circuit along the harbor in Long Beach, where the pits are just a stone's throw away from where the docked ocean-liner giant "Queen Mary " is anchored, is also a very special challenge for Wolf Henzler.
" You can only win this race if you don't make one mistake and the pit stop runs perfectly," says the Porsche factory driver. "As refueling takes a very short time, we have to change drivers very quickly. If our tight schedule allows it we'll put in some more pit-stop practice at Long Beach."
On the narrow track edged by walls and fences overtaking is very difficult - making a good grid position essential. Still, in the fight for pole position, where cautiousness is needed with the tires, clever tactics are also important.
" We have to wait to see how the track is," says the Lizards' Joerg Bergmeister. "When there's a lot of rubber on the track we can drive somewhat more aggressively. With little grip we have more tire wear and therefore must be a bit more careful."
For their victory in St. Petersberg, Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long chose harder tires compared to most of their opponents and as a result could hold off coming in to the pits until the yellow flags came out. The subsequent time saving was a key to their success. Still, in Long Beach, believes Patrick Long, everyone will be driving with relatively soft tires.
" We won't complete all the laps without a tire change. And even the softest tires can withstand two short stints."
After two races, Porsche leads Panoz in the manufacturer's points, 40 - 36, while Bergmeister/Long lead the two Panoz drivers by the same margin.
The Flying Lizard Motorsports will race a second 911 GT3 RSR in Long Beach with drivers Darren Law (USA) and Seth Neiman (USA). Law had a chance to check the Long Beach circuit when he represented the ALMS at a media preview last week. He offered track rides to media representatives and met the stars who will compete in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race this week.
"I didn't notice any real changes to the track, but it is always nice to get on course a little early and get re-acquainted with the line and the things that make each of the street courses unique, like where the major bumps are in brake zones and how the crown in the road affects the grip level of the car. It just makes the first session easier," said Law, who already has the overall victory at the 24 hours at Daytona to his credit this year.
VICI Racing, which announced its T-Mobil sponsorship for its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR just yesterday, will debut its effort at Long Beach after missing the first two races of the season. Richard Westbrook (England) and Johannes Stuck (Austria) will be the co-drivers for the new VICI effort.
The other new Porsche team at Long Beach, Team Falken Tires, will feature Bryan Sellers and Dominic Cicero (both USA) as drivers. Team Falken plans to run a limited schedule in the American Le Mans Series in 2009 in preparation or a full assault on the championship next year.
-credit: porsche motorsport