Petersen/White Lightning To Contest 2007 Championship With Ferrari F430 GT
LAS VEGAS, Nev., USA, December 20, 2006 - Two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class-winning Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing announced today that it will campaign the Ferrari F430 GT in the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2007. The two-time, GT2 class Series Champions will enter their first race under the legendary banner of the Ferrari prancing horse at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17. The move to the most renowned name in motorsports comes on the heels of two consecutive American Le Mans Series Driver Championships for the Michael Petersen-owned and Dale White-managed team. The program will see the highest level of factory support the Nevada-based organization has enjoyed in its impressive sports car racing career. However, the partnership with Ferrari Corse Clienti stops short of a full-factory effort allowing the No. 31 to pursue a third consecutive IMSA Cup championship for privateer entrants.
The F430 GT will carry the neon yellow, red and white livery that has been identified with the team since debuting in the American Le Mans Series in 1999. As it has done since 2003, the Petersen/White Lightning entry will ride on Michelin racing tires. The team will take delivery of the mid-engine, 1100 kg (2,425 lbs) machine in Italy at Ferrari Corse Clienti in mid-February. Delivery will be followed by a private "shakedown run" at Ferrari's famous Fiorano test track in Maranello. The Petersen/White Lightning F430 will make its North American debut in a multi- day test at Sebring International Raceway in March.
The move to the Ferrari F430 GT follows a long and successful history with Porsche. Since 1998, Petersen/White Lightning has campaigned Porsche 911-derived cars capturing 17 class wins, over 20 podiums and prestigious victories at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (twice), 24 At Daytona, 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans (twice). Petersen/White Lightning, which will compete in its first Euromilhoes Dakar rally next month, has won nine American Le Mans Series GT2 races.
The V8-powered Italian exotic will be in its second season of professional sports car racing in 2007. The F430 GT provided the most intense competition to the Petersen/White Lightning entry as sought its second championship in 2006. Petersen/White Lightning went on to win three events, the Driver Championship with Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and the IMSA Cup title. Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) finished second in the Driver title chase.
Additional information regarding drivers, marketing partners and personnel relating to the move to the Ferrari F430 GT will be announced in the coming months.
Michael Petersen, Owner: "We are very excited about the new chapter that is beginning at Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing for the 2007 season and beyond. To race a Ferrari has been a dream of mine ever since my father brought home his first Ferrari when I was very small. We've had great success with Porsche in the past and have made many good friends there and we wish them all the best. But, as things change, as they so often do, we were presented with an opportunity of a new partnership with Ferrari that we could not pass up. I know the boys are very excited for the new challenge that has been laid out for the team. To be able to represent Ferrari in the American Le Mans Series is quite an honor for us. We are looking forward to an awesome partnership as it should be one hell of a ride."
Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "This is one of the most exciting days in the history of our team. Ferrari is synonymous with motorsports throughout the world. To represent the legendary automaker in the American Le Mans Series is a great privilege. Mike and I see this as an opportunity to go from a longtime relationship to a long-term partnership. This move aligns us much more closely with a manufacturer. We have a lot to do between now and Sebring but we are very confident and very excited about going racing. Winning is always the main focus but now it feels like we are part of a bigger picture; a bloodline of success."
About the move: "After winning the [GT2] Driver and IMSA Cup titles last year and all three championships in '05, we were presented a lot of interesting options. We were approached by several manufacturers about entering their cars in GT2, in classes outside of GT2 and even outside the Series. But, we want to race in the most competitive series and in the most competitive class. That's GT2. To win, you need to have a strong team and a close working partnership with a manufacturer. Ferrari has a strong appreciation of our program, what we have accomplished and what we hope to accomplish. Obviously, we share those same feelings about Ferrari. We are looking forward to working closely with Ferrari as a partner, not as a customer. That's at the root of our decision. Our engineer, Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany) has already met with the constructors of the F430 GT at Michelotto to discuss technical aspects of the car. They want to work closely with us throughout the construction of the car. This is a great start to a working relationship."
About the difficulties in making the decision: "We were informed mid-way through last season that our drivers would be moved to other teams next year. That left us in a difficult spot but with an easy choice once Ferrari laid out their ideas of a working relationship. They outlined what Mike and I have been looking for and the decision was made. It's what is right for the team. On a personal note, one of the hardest parts of this is breaking longtime, professional ties with some good friends within Porsche Motorsports. Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and many of the engineers have become like family to everyone on this team. Those friendships made the decision more emotional but, at the end of the day, we know it will be the right choice."