Road America: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Second 2005 ALMS Victory In Dramatic Road America Battle ELKHART LAKE, Wis., August 21, 2005 -- By anyone's definition Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing earned its second GT2 class victory of the ...

Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Second 2005 ALMS Victory In Dramatic Road America Battle

ELKHART LAKE, Wis., August 21, 2005 -- By anyone's definition Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing earned its second GT2 class victory of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season here today at Road America. As Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) rocketed the No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR over the hill at the famous track's start-finish line just .298 seconds ahead of their closest competitor in the team and driver championship, it culminated a full team effort to win the Generac 500 at Road America. Long's overwhelming desire to win added to the inspired drive of Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) early in the race and two perfect team pit stops which highlighted a daring race strategy by team manager Dale White (Las Vegas, Nev.). When it was all said and done, the Michael Petersen-owned team closed within two points in the GT2 championship chase with their second victory of the season-- third overall-- and its sixth IMSA Cup-- for highest finishing privateer entry-- of 2005.

From the crew's preparation of the No. 31 Porsche to the chassis setup of Stefan Pfeiffer (Croatia), Bergmeister's record shattering race laps in the early going, the pit stop strategy and the final restart in which Long dug deeper than anyone to make the pass for the lead and hold it under overwhelming pressure, it was a team victory. Missing the pole position by a mere .029 seconds in yesterday's qualifying, Bergmeister was caught-up in a poor start by one of his competitors falling back early. The German, who holds the track qualifying and race record here at Road America's 4.048-mile facility, was then coated with oil as a car directly in front of him lost an engine. Unable to see clearly for the first 45-minutes of the race, Bergmeister was still able to stay in the top-three. The car, whose preparation is overseen by Dennis Chizma (Seattle, Wash.), would never fall out of the top-three for the remainder of the day. Once the windshield was cleaned on the first visit to pit lane, Bergmeister went on to set a streak of track race records earning the fastest lap of the day (2 mins, 9.614 secs) for the GT2 class. In the process he would take the lead and build a gap of 13 seconds.

With a strategy call that saw the team's immediate competition stop, Long would have to wait until the final 45-minutes of the two hour and 45-minute race to show behind the wheel. The 24 year old showed why he is considered one of the best, young race drivers in sports car racing. With the team falling back to third again with the stop, Long began to turn laps faster than the leaders closing the gap dramatically in the final minutes. A late race caution allowed Petersen/ White Lightning to close the gap on second and third, it also allowed a late race pit stop for badly needed fuel by the leader. Long attacked, making a dramatic pass for the lead with less than ten minutes to go. Now with the class point leader directly behind him, the California-native staved off the attack to take victory.

Quotes--

Mike Petersen, owner/ driver: "It has been a long time since Sebring. It's great to have the second victory of the year. The team really pulled together after the last two races. The drivers really stepped up to the plate today. It was just an awesome race to be a part of with the incredible racing in the GT2 class. The strategy that we played just worked out perfectly. We are looking forward to Mosport to tighten the point's race even further. I'm just really proud of the team and hopefully the gremlin is off our back and we can take it to them the rest of the year."

Dale White, team manager: "This is awesome! The drivers did an incredible job and the team backed them up 100 percent. We made a pretty daring pit call that I know had a lot of people thinking we had made a mistake. I just kept reminding people to see it through to the end. We wanted this victory. After the last two races where we have had some technical problems that we had to fight back from, the team got together and came out swinging here this weekend. I think a lot of people expected us to just take second-place when we fell out of the lead in the points, or even this race. But we aren't like that. We are here to win."

Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "This is my favorite track for sure. I think Stefan did a really good job on the setup and the whole team did a really great job. The strategy was a gamble but it worked out. Awesome day. At the start, the Viper accelerated, braked, accelerated, braked and right as the green flag came out braked again and the 45-car passed me really easily. Everyone went to the inside at turn-one but the 45 car and I and we passed Timo [Bernhard, No. 23] pretty easily. Then some prototypes got between the 45 and me. One of the prototypes spilled a lot of oil on the windshield and I really couldn't see anything. I was really happy to have the first pit stop to get the windshield cleaned. After that the car was really fast and it was a lot of fun."

Patrick Long, driver: "That was a barnburner at the end. It was all or nothing. I threw it out on the table like the team did with strategy. Dale made a great call today and, fortunately the cards went our way for once. We've had some tough luck these last few races. To bring this one home is extra sweet."

-www.PetersenMotorsports.com

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Michael Petersen
Teams HART