Long to Remain at Petersen/White Lightning for Petit Le Mans
2005 GT2 Champions Look to Regain Momentum and Defend Petit GT2 Title
BRASELTON, Ga., September 22, 2006 -- Continuity and momentum are key ingredients to a championship season in motorsports. Today, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing received a boost in their pursuit of a second consecutive American Le Mans Series GT2 class championship with the decision that Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) will remain in the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at next week's Petit Le Mans. With the decision, Long, the only American Porsche factory driver, will join Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Nic Jonsson (a native of Sweden now living in Buford, Ga.) at the 10 Hour/1,000 Mile event at Road Atlanta. In 2005, Bergmeister and Long drove the No. 31 Porsche to the Michael Petersen-owned team's first Petit Le Mans victory on their way to a sweep of the final four races of the season.
Long, who in 2005 became the first American to win the GT2 Driver title since 1999, was originally slated to pilot the Porsche RS Spyder in the LMP2 class. The native Californian will forgo his second race in the prototype to focus on driving for the Dale White-managed team. Together, Bergmeister and Long teamed to win the 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans LM GT class, the '05 American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver, Team and IMSA Cup titles and seven Series races for Petersen/White Lightning. Jonsson fills out the lineup for the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winning team as he did at the 12 Hours of Sebring and at Le Mans earlier this year.
Currently the Las Vegas-based program is third in the GT2 class team points with 102 markers, 16 behind the leader. Bergmeister, who has combined with Long in seven of the eight 2006 races scoring two victories, comes to Atlanta second in the driver standings also 16 points out of the lead. Long is ranked third with 92. Petersen/White Lightning slipped slightly in the point standings at the most recent race, the Grand Prix of Mosport, when a shift lever broke while they ran second. They would finish sixth after repairs. Due to the endurance nature of the final two events of the season, the Petit Le Mans and Monterey Sports Car Championship (Oct. 21 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) pay more points than the "sprint" races that proceeded them. The 10 hour Petit Le Mans offers 26 points while the four hour Monterey season-finale offers 23. The two hour and 45-minute "sprint" races paid 20 points apiece while the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring provided 26.
The ninth annual Petit Le Mans will take the green flag at 11:45 AM (ET), Saturday, September 30. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED Channel starting at 11:30 AM. Live timing and scoring and the American Le Mans Radio Web broadcast can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
Mike Petersen, Owner: "It is a huge decision. Having Patrick in the car gives us an awful lot of momentum by keeping the same guys in the car. The last race put us behind the eight ball and we have a lot of ground to make up in the championship. There are a lot of points still available and having Patrick with us for the last two races definitely puts a thorn in the side of the competition. The longer races help level the playing field. A lot more can go wrong and I think that is where we excel; not having the problems and then overcoming those that we do have. I think the drivers like the longer races and I know Dale and I particularly like the longer races. We are looking forward to defending our championship and our win at Petit."
Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "When you see this sort of move by a young driver, it's inspiring to a team. I think that shows what we have created here. Patrick passed on a ride that could, potentially, win him the race overall, to look at the bigger picture. He stepped-up and thought about what is best for all involved. Everyone at Petersen/White Lightning wants to show their appreciation by winning this race. Everybody involved had to make hard choices to make this happen but this gives us the momentum to pursue a second title."
Jorg Bergmeister: "It's definitely great that Patrick can do the Petit with us. I'm really exited about it. It is always good to have him in the same car. Hopefully, the bad luck is gone from the last race. Last year Petit was really good so we'll try and do it again. I have three in a row there now. It would be nice to keep that streak running as well. It should be good. I am excited about the last two races of the season."
Patrick Long: "I sat down with the folks from Porsche and looked at this objectively. It is a great opportunity to drive the RS Spyder but Petersen/White Lightning has played a very important role in my career. I felt like leaving the team in a restructuring process right as the championship comes down to the wire would be counterproductive. Jorg and I work so well together as teammates. I look forward to continuing that good work to help him defend our 2005 driving title. In the end, I felt it was the right decision to make. Mike and Dale gave me a chance back in '04 that led to my first major sports car win at Le Mans. This is the least I could do for them."