Road Atlanta: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Petersen/White Lightning Captures Second-Straight Petit Le Mans Bergmeister Closes Points Gap to Four With One Race to Go BRASELTON, Ga., September 30, 2006 -- It took an effort that put two laps on the American Le Mans Series GT2 class field...

Petersen/White Lightning Captures Second-Straight Petit Le Mans
Bergmeister Closes Points Gap to Four With One Race to Go

BRASELTON, Ga., September 30, 2006 -- It took an effort that put two laps on the American Le Mans Series GT2 class field but Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing captured their second consecutive Petit Le Mans today at Road Atlanta. As late as the sixth hour of the 10 hour or 1,000 mile race, the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR languished a lap behind the class leaders. All of that had changed as the car crossed under the checkered flags in just over nine hours to complete 1,000 miles one lap ahead of the field. Persistent and aggressive driving by Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.), key strategy decisions by team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT) and what are now being called "White Lightning" quick pit stops, the Michael Petersen-owned team rallied to their third Series class victory of the season. In the process, the Las Vegas-based team cut the driver championship lead to four points and added a ninth career Series victory to their tally.

Bergmeister started second on the GT2 class grid but, at the 12 minute mark, an LMP1 class entry struck the No. 31 in Road Atlanta's "Esses" sending the German off course, narrowly missing the outside wall. He returned in the last spot and so began the uphill climb the team would face throughout the day. In the third hour, the left rear tire was punctured as Bergmeister prepared to come in for a regularly scheduled stop. The explosion destroyed portions of the rear bodywork of the Porsche and cost the team a lap but, again, through impressive driving, Bergmeister was able to save the car and bring it in for the stop with no further damage. With Nic Jonsson (a native of Sweden now living in Buford, Ga.) playing the key driver support position throughout the week, Petersen/White Lightning overcame each obstacle thrown at it to take the victory one lap over second place. It was Long's and the team's second consecutive Petit Le Mans victory, Jonsson's first and Bergmeister's fourth-straight win in the American Le Mans Series cornerstone event.

The result was four positions better than the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning team's nearest competition in the season-long point standings. They entered the penultimate round of the American Le Mans Series trailing by 16 in both driver and team standings. Bergmeister leaves the event just four points behind in the standings with 23 markers available at the season finale. The team now travels to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the final round of the ten race American Le Mans Series season. The daylight-to-dusk, four hour event on October 21 will determine the GT2 Team and Driver champions for 2006.

Quotes,

Michael Petersen, Owner: "What a day of ups and downs. It was quite a battle. The guys did an awesome job as usual. Towards the end, Patrick did an awesome stint that put quite a bit of time on the Ferrari and gave us some breathing room. Jorg got back in the car and finished-up with another great stint. It is an awesome accomplishment for the team to win this for the second year in a row. I know this closes the point championship up quite a bit. I do believe we have a couple of surprises up our sleeves for Laguna so stay tuned."

Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "The day was like a roller-coaster but we never gave-up. We just stuck to our plan, adjusted it when we needed to and just kept our heads down. The drivers did an awesome job, the stops were strong and we did what we set out to do... win. I am just so proud of the team. This is just an awesome team result for an awesome team effort!"

Jorg Bergmeister: "Just a crazy race. It started off really bad. I almost hit the wall there when the prototype hit me in the Esses. The whole team did an awesome job. The car was just perfect. We had the quickest car for the distance. Patrick and I pushed like hell and the guys did just perfect pit stops every time. Before this race I thought we didn't have any shot in the championship anymore. Now we are just four points down it looks a little better. It is another four hour race so anything can happen but we are going to try and win again."

Nic Jonsson: "It is always great to work with the Petersen/White Lightning guys. They are very professional in everything they do. Being teammates with Jorg and Patrick, they are two of the best GT2 guys in the world, it is just fantastic. The first time I drove a Porsche was with Mike and Dale at Sebring in 2003. I have been fortunate to be invited back several times. I was trying to give my input where I could this week. It is just fantastic to be a part of a success like this and a team that is as good as this is."

Patrick Long: "It was a very eventful Petit Le Mans. Last year was much less eventful so this one made it extra sweet. We persevered through tons of adversity. We knew that all of the unity that we have had all these years could make the difference when we need it. Over each stint we were as consistent, or more consistent, than the Ferrari. That is a testimony to Frank [Funke, engineer] and the car that Porsche produces. Jorg did awesome to keep his head on straight with everything happening to him. For my side, it was pretty straight-forward through my three stints. To charge through and narrow this championship is the typical, never-give-up Petersen/White Lightning style. From a team standpoint, keeping what we had for the last two years was the most important thing. That made any selfish position for me to where I was going to drive this race non-existent. These guys are like family for me so it feels great to stick with the team and to win this race."

-credit: www.PetersenMotorsports.com

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Michael Petersen , Nic Jonsson