Petersen/White Lightning Motorsports Porsche wins first ALMS event ever as Johnny Mowlem/Craig Stanton sweep the GT field at the Road America 500.
ELKHART LAKE, WI - August 24 - Although the Las Vegas-based White Lightning Petersen Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RS won the 2001 Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona and this year's GT class at the 24 Hours at Le Mans, second place was their highest finish in the American Le Mans Series event until today, when Johnny Mowlem and Craig Stanton scored the team's first win at the Road America 500 Sunday.
Mowlem, from London, England, has driven for the team since 2001 with several co-drivers including the late Bob Wollek.
"We used the differential that Wollek had chosen during his brief stint with the team, and we felt that Bob was watching us today and helped us to the winner's circle. For once, other guys had bad luck and lost laps to the pace car, and we could run fast to catch people in front of us, and then slower at the end to save the car and protect our lead," said Mowlem, whose only other ALMS win came in 1999 in a Porsche at Laguna Seca with David Murry.
Craig Stanton, from Long Beach, Calif., drove the first half of the event, and saw good things developing in front of him.
"After the Ferrari, the Orbit Porsche, and the Alex Job Porsches all had problems, we saw our opportunity unfolding. When I turned the car over the Johnny, we were fourth in class, and he really turned up the heat and caught the others," said Stanton, who scored his first ALMS win.
"Car owner Michael Petersen and crew chief Dale White really deserve this victory - they have worked hard to put a winner on the track, and we're glad it worked out today," said Stanton.
Previously this season, Petersen combined efforts with Alex Job Racing to enter today's winning car at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and Sascha Maassen/Lucas Luhr/Emmanual Collard emerged victorious in the GT class. Also, in their previous Porsche, Petersen finished second with Mowlem/Stanton/Jonsson at the 2003 12 Hours of Sebring.
Second was The Racer's Group Porsche of Kevin Buckler/Cort Wagner, which experienced a broken wheel earlier in the event, but came alive late in the race to finish second. Their car had qualified poorly because of set-up woes, but, after the wheel was changed, Wagner was able to make up time in the last part of the event for the podium finish.
Third was the Zip Racing Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly/Andy Lally - their first ALMS podium finish since coming to the series from Grand-Am at the beginning of the year. Pumpelly passed an ailing the Alex Job Racing McKenna mail2web Porsche of Sascha Maassen/Lucas Luhr to secure third place.
Maassen and Luhr had led the first half of the event until Maassen suffered a gearbox problem which left him with only fifth gear - a big problem, but not terminal at the roomy four-mile track.
"We couldn't come into the pits because, with fifth gear only, we would have never been able to get out, so we suffered with fast straight-line speed, but very slow cornering," said Maassen, who pointed out that a fourth-place finish was possible as the fuel economy from running in high gear prevented the final splash-and-go pit stop.
Luhr and Maassen also picked up the ten points for fourth place, an important step for the championship chase. They now have 102 points to lead the class, with Bernhard and Bergmeister still at 70. Cort Wagner has 51 points, and Mowlem and Stanton have 50.
Alex Job Racing teammates Timo Bernhard/Jorg Bergmeister lost ground in the standings because their Porsche ran off the course only 15 minutes into the event, breaking the suspension and causing a 28-minute pit stop. They finished 13th in class - out of the points.
The #43 Orbit Racing YES Network Porsche 911 GT3 RS of Peter Baron/Marc Lieb, which was running in the top three in the first hour, had problems in bunches starting with the first pit stop, which occurred under green flag conditions just before the first yellow flag. Lieb took over from Baron, and promptly lost a lap due to bad positioning luck when the pace car came out. Then, the locking mechanism fell into the door, causing another pit stop, and, finally, the suspension broke, ending their day. The other Orbit Porsche, the Classic Industries car driven by Joe and Jay Policastro along with Leo Hindery, finished 11th in class.
The PK Sport Porsche of Robin Liddell/Alex Davison was a top three contender early in the event as well, but a broken suspension put an end to their run.
The rest of the top ten in GT included The Racer's Group Porsche of Schrom/Ehret (fifth), the Seikel Motorsport Porsche of Collin/Lloyd (sixth), The Racer's Group Porsche of Bunting/Gleason (seventh), the Lewis/Borcheller Ferrari (eighth), the J-3 Racing Porsche of Jackson/Murry (ninth), and the PK Sport Porsche of Rice/Masarati (10th).
The next ALMS event will be in two weeks - September 7 - at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and will be broadcast live on NBC-TV.