BERNHARD, DUMAS SCORE THRILLING ROAD AMERICA WIN On a track dominated by Audi early in the weekend, Penske Motorsports' Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas scored an improbable overall victory Saturday at Road America, their fourth of...
BERNHARD, DUMAS SCORE THRILLING ROAD AMERICA WIN
On a track dominated by Audi early in the weekend, Penske Motorsports' Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas scored an improbable overall victory Saturday at Road America, their fourth of the American Le Mans Series. Bernhard finished 1.783 seconds ahead of Audi's Dindo Capello and Allan McNish as the Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 entry scored a sixth consecutive overall victory.
The Penske crew elected to take fuel only with 40 minutes left while the two diesel-powered Audis took fuel and tires in the final hour. That proved to be the difference in a race that had a little bit of everything, including a 65-minute caution period when a thunderstorm rolled through the Elkhart Lake area.
"The handling of the car was very good and we had a very good setup for the race," Bernhard said. "It was safe to drive the car and we could attack. When you overtook offline, the tires didn't have too much pickup. For us we didn't think it was necessary to change tires. We were in safe mode. The goal was never to win overall. But at the end it paid off."
Dumas spent the first two hours and 54 minutes behind the wheel and pitted from the overall lead after passing Emanuele Pirro in the No. 2 Audi on the cars' in-laps. He handed off to Bernhard as the No. 7 car kept the overall lead by beating Pirro out of the pits. Bernhard fell down to third as the Audis stretched their legs and took the first two spots before the final pit sequence.
Pirro pitted first and took fuel and tires with Bernhard coming in for fuel only two minutes later. Then came Capello with 33 minutes remaining, which handed the lead back to Bernhard. He led the final 17 laps.
He and Dumas finished a minute ahead of Penske teammates Sascha Maassen and Ryan Briscoe. The winning duo holds a 23-point advantage over their teammates in the championship chase, the biggest goal for Saturday's winning duo.
"We were faster in the pit which made a difference," Dumas said. "I thought yesterday that there was a small percentage of winning. And at the start I didn't think there was much more of a chance. The rain helped us a lot. Timo was perfect and when the Audis played together that helped us."
Capello and McNish finished first in LMP1 by 0.706 seconds over teammates Pirro and Marco Werner in the sister car. The two cars passed each other twice in the closing minutes which allowed Bernhard to keep his advantage.
"It was difficult to judge," Capello said. "In some corners our car was faster than theirs (the No. 2 car) but in two others their car was better. The traffic really was the key of the race in the last three laps. Once we got the pit board that we were 6 seconds behind with three or four laps to go, I was optimistic that we could have done it.
"When I started on slicks was not so easy because in a few parts the track was still damp," he added. "With our torque, it's easy to make a mistake under acceleration. After a couple of laps I felt comfortable and that we could push. I was surprised that when they called me in that the Porsches were so far ahead of us. They didn't change their tires and that was the only way they had to be so far in front of us."
McNish looked strong early and led the first 18 laps before the left-rear tire flew off the car. He regained the lead just past the one-hour mark and just a few minutes before the rains came. From the restart after the rain, it was back and forth for the final 90 minutes.
The Audis had dominated qualifying and all four practice sessions during the weekend. Having not won overall in the Series since St. Petersburg in late March, this was supposed to be the weekend they ended the P2 overall winning streak. They get another chance in two weeks at Mosport in Canada.
"We come here to win. As racing drivers, and it's the same for Timo and Romain, it's more important to win outright," McNish said. "We started from pole position and couldn't maintain it. They pulled one from underneath us but we're coming back."
In GT1, Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin won for the fourth straight time with a one-lap victory over their Corvette Racing teammates Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen. Beretta and Gavin have won seven of eight races this season and are in control of their pursuit for a third straight class championship. The only drama was a late spin for Beretta but it turned out to be inconsequential.
The Doran Racing Maserati MC12 of Didier Theys and Fredy Lienhard finished third in class for the car's debut run.
"I made a stupid mistake at the end and braked late on the outside line. These things happen," Beretta said. "I couldn't see out the side window but it wasn't an excuse. You make a mistake when you push."
For the second straight race, the No. 4 Corvette qualified second but found itself leading at the start. A miscommunication on the reconnaissance lap between the No. 3 team and Jan Magnussen forced the team to fuel the car before the start of the race, which meant starting from pit lane. Then the No. 4 Corvette gained even more track position and nearly a full lap when it was included in a wave-by during the rain-filled safety car period.
"The luck is not with them at the moment," Gavin said. "We know how that is. We had a bumpy season the first year we raced together. It will come right for them, but at the moment it is with us. You have to have some luck to win a championship. We haven't won it yet but it looks pretty good. You want to keep going from race to race and getting the best result you can."
Corvette Racing will enter a third Corvette C6.R in the next round at Mosport for Ron Fellows and Andy Pilgrim.
Jaime Melo and Mika Salo scored their first victory since Houston for Risi Competizione in the team's Ferrari F430 GT. The Ferrari went the final 68 minutes on a single tank of fuel and set of tires to beat Tom Milner, Ralf Kelleners and Rahal Letterman Racing's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR by 1.156 seconds.
The two cars pitted at the same time with 67 minutes left, and both took new tires and fuel. The Ferrari won the race out of the pits.
"I don't know if we could have done two more laps," Melo said. "I was managing the situation compared with (Kelleners). I did about 27 laps saving fuel. It's difficult to drive the car very slow and concentrate. It was close but also I think they were doing the same. I couldn't push harder than I was. One more lap could have made a difference."
The runner-up finish for Milner and Kelleners equaled Rahal Letterman's best in its inaugural season in the Series.
The win by the Ferrari duo and fifth-place finish by Flying Lizard Motorsports' Jorg Bergmeister and Johannes van Overbeek moved Melo and Salo ahead in the championship standings by 4 points. The two teams went head-to- head early in the race, which included two incidents that resulted in contact. The second saw the Lizard car spin near Turn 12 when Bergmeister tried to make a pass on Salo.
"It was pretty unnecessary, although they did apologize," Salo said. "There was a huge vibration and we had some time to go in the stint. The crew guys did an incredible job making the repairs. At the beginning it was flat-out racing. The Porsche has an advantage over us on the straight line but we were able to catch them and gain time in the corners, which is where we won it.
Tafel Racing's Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell finished third in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Mobil 1 presents Grand Prix of Mosport from Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. The race will start at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 26 and will be broadcast live on SPEED. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.