Petersen/White Lightning Le Mans spotlight

LE MANS NO VACATION FOR PETERSEN'S DALE WHITE Sacramento, Calif. - Dale White arrived in Le Mans yesterday, the place he's been thinking about a couple hours per day since January. The team manager for Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing...

LE MANS NO VACATION FOR PETERSEN'S DALE WHITE

Sacramento, Calif. - Dale White arrived in Le Mans yesterday, the place he's been thinking about a couple hours per day since January. The team manager for Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing isn't in France to see the sights, though.

White is there to guide the fortunes of the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team won the GT title at Le Mans in 2004 and will attempt to do so again with Jorg Bergmeister, Nic Jonsson and Tracy Krohn behind the wheel in a little more than two weeks.

White has prepared for Le Mans from his home base of Bozeman, Mont. He is responsible for all facets of the team's operation, from housing to transport to equipment to the US Customs Service.

He also writes checks - big ones. "The expenses of competing at Le Mans are enormous," White says. "And they grow more and more each year."

The team's entry fee (five figures in Euros) to the Automobile Club d'Ouest (ACO) was due the first week of the New Year. "Your sponsorship has to be in place year-round for Le Mans," he continues.

It's no wonder. Petersen/White Lightning is sending 15 team members to France for a 21-day period. Man hours at the track will number more than 3,200.

A party this size needs a place to stay, and White has them ensconced in a chateau 18 kilometers from La Sarthe. "People go, 'Oooh, a chateau. You're really living it up,'" White says. "I priced it out and it's cheaper than getting hotel rooms." Plus it's big enough that most crew members may enjoy single accommodations, he added.

Well-fed crew members are essential, so all meals are catered by the same concern Petersen/White Lightning uses during the American Le Mans Series season - Vanessa's. "It's really important that the guys eat well, and it is well worth the expense," White says.

White oversaw the shipment of 60,000 pounds of equipment. The cargo went from Mid-Ohio in late May to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, then on to Charles de Gaulle International Airport in Paris followed by ground transport to Le Mans. "There's not too much (from the transporter) we didn't take," White admits. "All the tools, spare parts, apparel, jackets, helmets. You must be prepared for any kind of weather over there."

All equipment is shipped under the watchful eye of US Customs. White has a checklist he prepares in advance, which he gives to Customs, along with the carnet that spells out everything being moved. The cost? More than six figures.

Additional equipment is rented in France. Petersen/White Lightning's transporter went from Mid-Ohio to Lime Rock Park, site of the next Series race June 30-July 1. The team rents a transporter from Renault for its use at Le Mans. "Basically we rent anything that would cost more to ship than to rent," White says. This includes the walling and flooring for the team's paddock, internal/external lighting, a backlight pit board, tire warmer, etc.

The biggest team expense comes under the category of "mechanical." This includes car parts for pre- and post-race preparations, transmission(s), engine(s), axles and tires. The cost? Again well over six figures - and climbing if parts are damaged or rendered inoperable due to contact.

White also hires a French "liaison" who serves as a team translator and an all-around helper. "If we were to need a (race) shop, our liaison would know where to go. These folks are invaluable."

When Petersen/White Lightning's Porsche finally hits the track, it does so in all-new parts. "All moving parts get changed," White says. "Then, after the race, all the parts are worn out and need to be changed again." Chalk up yet another six-figure outlay.

Soon after he finishes the preparations, White begins the process of tearing down when the race is over. "Everything has to be loaded and out of there by the evening of June 19. We are going to be pretty weary when all's said and done."

A place on the podium, preferably the top step, would make the effort well worth it.

-alms-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Tracy Krohn , Nic Jonsson