PENSKE MOTORSPORTS PORSCHE RS SPYDER TEAM, DRIVERS LEAVE HOUSTON DISAPPOINTMENT BEHIND FOR ALMS BATTLE THIS WEEKEND IN OHIO
ATLANTA - May 17 - For Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, as well as the entire Penske Motorsports and Porsche Motorsport contingent - the disappointment of not finishing the Lone Star Grand Prix last Friday night must become a distant memory fast as the team optimistically approaches this weekend's American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio.
"Penske Racing has had much success over the years at Mid-Ohio and we hope to continue the legacy," said Tim Cindric, president, Penske Performance, Inc.
"It has been several years since we last competed at Mid-Ohio, but we have fond memories dating back to Roger's driving days. Last week, we had an opportunity to test on the newly-resurfaced course and are looking forward to a successful weekend," said Cindric.
The brand-new Porsche RS Spyder had shown its potential by claiming the LMP 2 class victory at its inaugural outing in Laguna Seca in October of 2005. At the long distance classic in Sebring in March, the #6 car not only led its class but ran second overall, only to be sidelined with only 49 minutes to go by a broken gearbox input shaft. A material defect cost the team the success for which they had all worked so hard over the winter. One small consolation was that Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, and Emmanuel Collard were classified second in the class due to the distance they had covered. The #7 Porsche RS Spyder, with Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas/Patrick Long aboard, did not finish the Sebring event with an identical material failure.
As the most successful manufacturer in American Le Mans Series history with 59 GT2, GT1 and LMP2 class wins, Porsche had never led an ALMS race until lap #13 at Houston, when Dumas passed James Weaver's pole-winning Lola to take the overall race lead. He held the top spot for the next 50 laps, outdistancing both of the more powerful Lola and the McNish/Capello Audi R8 LMP1 class entries. After a series of scheduled pit stops, Bernhard re-captured the lead for 22 more laps until the Porsche had to pit to replace the battery. The car was still in contention when it came in only eight laps later with terminal drivetrain problems.
The team Penske Motorsports Porsche RS Spyder of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr fell behind when the eventual race-winning Audi hit the car from the rear causing a flat tire on lap six. It moved all the way up to second place before a drivetrain problem ended its run with only 20 minutes left in the race. Although Maassen/Luhr were ten laps ahead in class at that moment, there was too much time remaining, and the Halliday/Field Lola overtook them for the class win. Sascha and Lucas finished third in class and Dumas/Bernhard were fourth, picking up valuable championship points.
In all, the Porsche RS Spyders led 72 of the 143 laps in Houston.
Houston GT2: The challenge continues
Just when it looked like you could pick the winners of the GT2 class based on the opening round results from Sebring, everything turned around last weekend in Houston.
At the opening round in Sebring, three Porsche teams, one BMW team, the Ferrari 430 squad, and the winning Panoz entries all led the class during the 12-hour event. Defending champions Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister are again driving the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which could not recover from a 20-minute pit stop to replace a broken control arm at Sebring. Similarly, Mike Rockenfeller/Klaus Graf had a control arm issue in their Alex Job Racing Porsche, and were further slowed by two flat tires.
The best Porsche team performance at Sebring was #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, with Johannes van Overbeek/Jon Fogarty/Marc Lieb at the helm, finishing second in class only five seconds behind the winning Panoz. The other Flying Lizard team car, with Darren Law/Seth Neiman/Lonnie Pechnik driving, was the next best Porsche finisher, capturing a fourth place finish at Sebring. Neiman and Pechnik will drive in Houston.
At Houston last weekend, the Alex Job Porsche was not to be denied, with Mike Rockenfeller/Klaus Graf handing Alex and Holly Job their 50th professional racing team win and capturing the GT2 title. Second again, and now leader in the point standings, was the Flying Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and newly-hired Wolf Henzler, who replaces Jon Fogarty on that squad. With the Ferrari third and the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister/Patrick Long fourth (broken shock) - and the winning Panoz from Sebring not finishing - anyone could take the points lead with a Mid-Ohio win.