Portland: Race report

TWO IN A ROW FOR CHAMPION RACING'S BIELA, PIRRO Portland - Trailing by 1.5 seconds with two laps left, Emanuele Pirro couldn't believe it. He closed quickly on Dyson Racing's No. 16 Lola, which lost fuel pressure while leading, to win the ...

TWO IN A ROW FOR CHAMPION RACING'S BIELA, PIRRO

Portland - Trailing by 1.5 seconds with two laps left, Emanuele Pirro couldn't believe it. He closed quickly on Dyson Racing's No. 16 Lola, which lost fuel pressure while leading, to win the Portland Grand Prix on Saturday night in Round 6 of the American Le Mans Series.

Four miles proved to be the difference. Pirro clawed his way back from third place with about 30 minutes left to put himself in position to go by James Weaver on lap 136. Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, who teamed in the pole-sitting No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola, finished second, about 10 seconds back. Weaver, who had led by more than four seconds in the waning moments, and teammate Butch Leitzinger finished third.

"I've known James (Weaver) since our Formula 3 days, and I like fighting hard with a guy with a lot of experience. I know I can push hard and still trust him to do right," Pirro said. "I was unhappy that I took the lead under those circumstances, I would have rather passed him under racing. But when I found out it was because he ran out of petrol I was happier because that means they took a risk and it didn't play out for them, and that's racing, that's another story."

"We are a young crew," Pirro said. "By each race, we are improving and improving and improving. The championship looks good for us."

Indeed it does. Pirro and Biela moved ahead of teammates Marco Werner and JJ Lehto in the P1 drivers championship standings. Fortune frowned on the defending race and series champions about 45 minutes in. As Werner attempted to go under the No. 4 Corvette Racing C6-R of Olivier Beretta, the Audi spun under braking. Werner was able to nurse the Audi back to the pits, and the crew had to replace the rear cover. Once Lehto got back on the track, the rear bodywork flew off as he moved past the No. 63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen.

Lehto spun off the track and collected Terry Borcheller with him. Both cars retired from the race, handing the LMP1 drivers championship lead to Pirro and Biela.

In LMP2, the No. 37 Intersport Racing Lola won for the third time this year as Clint Field and Gregor Fisken drove past a stranded No. 10 Miracle Motorsports Courage near the two-hour mark. Field has now won three times this year and moved past Miracle's Jeff Bucknum and Chris McMurry for the drivers lead in P2.

"It's always a struggle to get a good match, but with great drivers at your disposal like Liz Halliday and Gregor Fisken that can adapt to my driving style, our car, and our team, it makes winning easier," Field said. "Gregor did a great job on his stint. He kept it safe and kept it clean and our team did a great job on the stops.

"I was plugging away two seconds a lap faster," he added. "So if the No. 10 car had held up, I was thinking it was going to be a great finish. We had a bit of the same troubles last year, we had a couple of wins but a couple of DNFs, so we know how it can be."

The ACEMCO Saleen's misfortune opened the door for another 1-2 finish in GT2 for Corvette Racing. Beretta and Gavin won for the second time this year, posting a 0.714-second victory over the No. 3 entry of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell. The critical moment came during a pit stop at just about the two-hour mark when both cars pitted under caution. Gavin beat O'Connell out of the pits, and that's the way it stayed.

"At Sebring, we lost the race like this, and today we nearly lost it again," Beretta said. "The car was very difficult to drive. I'm very happy for the No. 4 crew, and we have the No. 3 car on the podium. So this is fantastic."

Gavin said the Corvette's steering wheel was bent, and the car wasn't nearly as smooth in the corners as it was before the incident. But thanks to quick and timely pit work, he said, the car never relinquished its lead from that point.

"The team did an amazing job today," Gavin said. "The car was quite badly damaged with the accident with the No. 1 car. It looked like we were going to have to make an unscheduled pit stop, but Olivier kept going and the pit crew worked their magic."

Third was the No. 5 Pacific Coast Motorsports Corvette C5-R of Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel, the first podium for the first-year team. It also marked the first time three Corvettes climbed the podium in the ALMS.

In GT2, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas won their fourth straight race in their No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche. Not only did they finish comfortably ahead of the second place No. 43 BAM! Porsche of Martin Jensen and Wolf Henzler, they unofficially took the class points lead over Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche, which finished eighth in class.

"I knew our strongest competitor was not on the same lap as us," Bernhard said. "It was a little better for us. I walked away from the BAM! car, and that allowed me to save my tires. It was a good thing because we had a yellow and everyone else pitted for tires."

Over the past two races, Bernhard and Dumas have led every lap, a span of 226 consecutive laps.

"It might have looked easy in the last two races, but it wasn't," Bernhard said. "It would have been a good battle with the No. 31 car. Everything is good at every track we go to. We have the experience."

The seventh round of the American Le Mans Series is the Generac 500 at Road America, set for 3 p.m. EDT Aug. 21 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The race will be broadcast on SPEED Channel. Qualifying is scheduled for 2:55 p.m. EDT Aug. 20. American Le Mans Radio, and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at www.americanlemans.com.

-cr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Andy Wallace , Ryan Dalziel , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Terry Borcheller , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Alex Figge , Clint Field , Jeff Bucknum , Romain Dumas , Gregor Fisken , Olivier Beretta , Liz Halliday , Wolf Henzler , Alex Job , Chris Dyson , Emanuele Pirro , JJ Lehto
Teams Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing