Flying Lizard Fifth and Ninth in Frustrating Race at Road America August 11, 2007 -- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin -- There were only three full course cautions in today's four-hour Generac 500 at Road America race but they spanned more than one ...
Flying Lizard Fifth and Ninth in Frustrating Race at Road America
August 11, 2007 -- Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin -- There were only three full course cautions in today's four-hour Generac 500 at Road America race but they spanned more than one quarter of the race, mostly due to a lengthy rainstorm and thunderstorm that put a halt to green flag racing for more than an hour.
Luck was not with the Lizards at this race. Things started to go wrong just before the race on the recon lap (30 minutes prior to the race) when Darren Law reported shifting problems with the No. 44. The crew took the car behind the wall immediately to replace the transmission. Although the car was not able to make race start, a full course yellow on the first lap to haul two GT2 Porsches out of the gravel helped minimize No. 44's lost time and Darren started the race 15 minutes late but only four laps down.
The No. 45 was off to a great race start. Johannes started from fourth on the grid and moved quickly to third after race start. Within 20 minutes, he passed the No. 62 and No. 31 Ferraris to take the lead. He held the lead for 15 minutes until he and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari made contact as the No. 62 passed. Johannes went off in Canada corner, but was able to continue. The two made contact again shortly after and a flat tire sent Johannes into the gravel trap. He continued, but pitted immediately for new tires. Race control assessed a stop and go penalty on the No. 45 for contact with the No. 62, and Johannes was required to stop again to serve the penalty.
Johannes commented, "The second contact with the No. 62 wasn't intentional. I had no where to go: it was either rear end him or take the apex of the corner. When he moved down to the apex, we made contact. It was a shame because we had a great car, fast drivers, and a great crew. Fifth place didn't represent how good the car was this weekend."
After serving his penalty, Johannes was in ninth. With rain now imminent, teams began to prepare for a downpour. An hour and a quarter into the race, still on dry tires, but with rain falling, Johannes pitted in P 7 for tires, fuel and driver change to Joerg. The No. 44 also pitted in this window for a driver change to Seth Neiman, and both cars changed to rain tires. As hard rain and lightning passed through Elkhart Lake, all teams moved to rain tires and the course went full course yellow. The yellow lasted over an hour as the cars circled the track in heavy rain, with the No. 45 in P 7 and the No. 44 in P 10.
Finally, the weather cleared and most teams, faced with a need to fuel and to change back to slick tires, worked to calculate pit stop strategies. When the course went green, Joerg, still on rain tires, was able to move up to P 3. Another yellow just ten minutes later brought many of the cars in for a change to slicks. Both Lizard Porsches stayed out on rain tires. Ten minutes later, nearing the 3 hour mark, Joerg pitted for slicks, and fuel. Seth Neiman in the No. 44 also pitted for slicks, fuel, and a driver change to Darren Law.
Chief strategist Thomas Blam added, "The No. 45 switched to rains at the right time but we were overly conservative in switching back to dry tires. We lost time switching under green when others had made the change under yellow."
Once the field settled back after the round of tire change stops, Jeorg was now in P5 and Darren in P 10. Joerg was back to race pace quickly, but was unable to regain any more positions and finished in fifth.
"What a slog," said Darren. "I felt like I drove by myself for hours -- I can't believe that I spent that many hours without ever getting to race a single car! I never passed anyone and no one passed me. It was the weirdest race I've ever run: I wanted to race somebody and there was no one around. It's unfortunate what happened before the race but the crew was phenonemenal in getting us on track so quickly. "
With the No. 45's fifth place finish, Joerg and Johannes move to second in the ALMS drivers' championship, behind Salo and Melo in the No. 62 Risi Ferrari. The Lizards head to Canada next for the ninth race of the 12-race ALMS season: the Grand Prix of Mosport, August 26.