Road America: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Rain, Bad Luck and Drowned Brake Lights Result in Fourth Top-Five Finish of Season ELKHART LAKE, Wisc., August 11, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing battled to a fourth place GT2 class finish in today's Generac 500 at Road ...

Rain, Bad Luck and Drowned Brake Lights Result in Fourth Top-Five Finish of Season

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc., August 11, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing battled to a fourth place GT2 class finish in today's Generac 500 at Road America. The two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver Championship-winning team had been declared the third-place finisher at the conclusion of Round Eight of the American Le Mans Series season but a post-race technical inspection determined that the brake lights were not working properly for the closing stages of the event. As a result, the finishing-order changed moving the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT to the end of the lead lap, fourth in class, 18th overall. If not for the electrical gremlin the team would have earned its second podium finish of the season (the program won at Salt Lake City in May). It was the second top-four finish in four 2007 starts for Dirk Muller (a native of Germany now living in Monaco). The race was the debut event for Peter Dumbreck (born in Scotland but living in Adderbury, England). Team technicians believe the failure of the brake lights can be traced to the taillight switch going bad, most likely brought on by the poor weather.

The four hour endurance race had an extensive yellow flag of one hour and 30 minutes due to thunderstorms which brought lightning to the 4.048-mile, 14-turn Road America facility. That long freeze on competition hurt the Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) owned team's chances to rally back from a slowed driver change and poor luck when the safety car was called on track splitting them from the rest of the GT2 class leaders. That bad timing resulted in the loss of a lap. However, the finish shows the dogged determination of the Dale White (Bozeman, MT) managed team, the skill of its drivers and the team's strategy as they rallied from as low as sixth in class.

Muller, who started the race for the Nevada-based team, moved from second on the grid into the lead before reaching turn-one of the race. He held the spot until lap five when a GT1 class car struck the No. 31 Ferrari while passing it on a re-start. The car was only slightly damaged but the incident pushed Muller off course and dropped him to third. He would re-take the lead when the first and second-place cars made contact pushing them off course just in front of the German. Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing held the lead until the one hour and ten minute mark when White called Muller in for the first of the team's four pit stops. It was on this driver change from Muller to Dumbreck that Dumbreck's safety harness didn't lock immediately causing a delay in his leaving the pit stall. Now bogged in sixth-place, Dumbreck went on the attack but did not get far before the heavy rains and lightning started to pour down on the Elkhart Lake, Wisc. track. Ten minutes later, Dumbreck was in for four new Michelin rain tires. The race stayed under yellow until only one hour and 28 minutes remained in the scheduled four hour race.

Then the skills of the team and drivers began to shine. Despite losing the driver side mirror to the overall race leader, Dumbreck, who was making his first start for the team, in the American Le Mans Series, at Road America and in a Ferrari F430 GT, began a steady march towards the front.

The Scot brought the lightning bolt-emblazoned Ferrari in for a third pit stop with one hour and 18- minutes to go. With the rain ended, but the track still very wet, White and team engineer Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany) made the risky call to send Muller out on Michelin's racing slick rather than the rain tire which most of the competition was still running. The call paid off as Muller drove brilliantly on the drying track first regaining the lost lap with one hour and four minutes to go and then moving into third place with one hour remaining. Muller was cutting into the gap to second place with a string of two minute and nine second laps until he was pushed off track by a prototype class car. He never lost a position but fell back to a 45 second deficit to the car ahead. He again cut the gap, lap-after-lap, until a final splash for fuel eliminated the chance of catching the second place car without a yellow flag to tighten the field. Crossing the finish line in third was a triumph for the team which has struggled this year to get the final results despite being a dominate force in each race to-date. The loss of one position for the brake lights does not diminish the impressive race that the team ran to be in the position to earn a podium.

Quotes

Michael Petersen, Owner: "We had quite a few moments throughout the race which had us up and down. We lost quite a bit of time at the expense of the pace car. Dirk and Peter were able to make that time back up but we will only leave here today with a top- four position. We are looking forward to the next couple of races as we want to return to the top step of the podium."

Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "You always worry about getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time when the yellow comes out. We had a slow driver change on the first pit stop and that cost us just enough time to be behind the overall leader when the yellow waved for the rain. With so much of the race run under the caution it took everything we had to come back as high as we did. We timed the stops well, got a few well-timed yellow flags and Dirk and Peter drove the wheels off the car to get our lap back and then move us into the top-three. We are very disappointed not to finish on the podium. We felt like we earned it today but the brake lights must be operational and the IMSA officials determined that they weren't. This has been one of my most difficult seasons in racing but today showed, again, how strong the team is. We'll move on to Mosport in a few weeks and do our best to get into victory lane."

Peter Dumbreck, Driver: "It was a pressure situation for me and the last thing that I wanted to do was go off. It was a fun race for me; a new experience. There is more to come from me certainly. In the wet, considering that I had never driven the car in the rain, we were OK. I learned quite a few things and I think I can take them into the future and learn from them. Dirk did a fantastic job in his stint to finish. We will have some work to do for the next race."

Dirk Muller, Driver: "Well, a fantastic race. I had the lead after the first start and then the many weird things started in the race. We got the first full course yellow. My restart I was hit by the Maserati on my left side but it didn't do anything to the car which at that stage is a lucky thing. Then I was in the grandstand position to see the incident between the two competitors [the contact between the No. 45 and No. 62] which brought me then into the lead. At that stage, having such a great car, I knew that we definitely can fight for the victory. But, then things happened during the driver change and we were in the situation to get back positions. And, again, with this fantastic car, it was awesome to overtake, car-by- car. This feels at the moment like a victory to me when you count all these incidents with the traffic and the rain. So I am happy but I am really disappointed that we will not officially finish third. And now I am looking forward to our next ALMS race where Peter and I will be in this awesome car for the second time and I think from now on we want to stay on the podium."

Television coverage for today's race will be provided by NBC Sports tomorrow, August 12 at 2:30 pm (ET).

The next round of the American Le Mans Series comes in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada on August 26 at Mosport International Raceway. Like Road America, Mosport is an ultra-fast track in the great tradition of natural terrain road courses. Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing is the 2005 GT2 race winner of the Mosport event.

-credit: pm/wlr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Dirk Müller , Peter Dumbreck , Michael Petersen
Teams HART