WITH THIRD PLACE FARNBACHER LOLES 911 GT3 RSR FINISH, PORSCHE CLINCHES 2009 ALMS GT2 MANUFACTURERS TITLE IN RAIN-SHORTENED PETIT LE MANS AT ROAD ATLANTA
--Flying Lizard Porsche drivers close in on year-end title; Porsche wins season Michelin Green X Challenge GT manufacturers championship--
FLOWERY BRANCH, Georgia - September 26 - After almost four hours of red flag track condition due to lightning and a flooding downpour, the rain-shortened Petit Le Mans presented by Mazda 6 at Road Atlanta was given the checkered flag when the rain refused to quit, but the race ran long enough for Porsche to clinch the GT2 manufacturers title over Ferrari.
It was the third place finish for Dirk Werner and Wolf Henzler (both Germany) in their #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that gave Porsche a 26-point lead over Ferrari, with only 25 points available at the final event in two weeks at Laguna Seca Raceway. Despite the less-than-ideal conditions, Porsche Motorsport North America President Paul Ritchie was pleased with the year-long efforts of all the 911 teams.
"Although they are not in contention for the drivers or team championship this year, Farnbacher Loles Racing, Dirk Werner and Wolf Henzler put forth outstanding efforts today, and earned the podium position that put us over the top for the manufacturer's title," said Ritchie, noting that Werner is in contention in two weeks for the Rolex Grand-Am GT title and Henzler won the ALMS GT2 drivers title last year.
Ritchie pointed out that Porsche has now won the manufacturers championship in eight of the 11 years of the American Le Mans Series, and is in contention to clinch its ninth drivers championship in those 11 years.
Speaking of drivers titles, Patrick Long (USA) and Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), along with fellow Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb (Germany) who were running as high as second place in GT2 just before the red flag flew, settled for fifth in their #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Long/Bergmeister retained their driver points lead, however, even though the Melo/Kaffer Ferrari finished first. Long/Bergmeister now have 156 points, while Melo/Kaffer have 137 - a 19-point lead with 25 points available for the last event.
Long was philosophical about the finish as he sat in the paddock waiting for the rain to stop.
"We ran really well today, and pressured to GT2 leaders for the whole race. I have to offer congratulations to the Ferrari for coming in just at the right time for rain tires. In those last two laps in the rain, they went from fourth to first, and we went from second to fifth as we had to skate into the pits for rains. We are still in the drivers seat for the championship, and we will now turn our attention to Laguna.
Long shared the ALMS GT2 title with Joerg in 2005, and Joerg won it alone in 2006 when Patrick took one race off to drive the Penske Porsche RS Spyder. Then Joerg won with Flying Lizards and Wolf Henzler last year.
The #44 Flying Lizard Porsche team car, which ran Ethanol E85 fuel for the first time, finished first in the Michelin Green X Challenge GT competition. The car, driven by Johannes van Overbeek/Seth Neiman/Darren Law (all USA) finished seventh in the GT2 class, was rated the best Green Achievement score from a formula which measures performance efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions, and petroleum displacement.
The #44's win clinched the Michelin Green X Challenge GT manufacturers title for Porsche over Chevrolet (Corvette). Both the #44 and #45 Lizard Porsches, along with the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche, have a chance to win the Michelin Green X Challenge team title at Laguna Seca in two weeks.
The other Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the event, the Team Falken Tire entry of Bryan Sellers and Dominic Cicero (both USA), finished 11th in GT2 in only its second event.
In the LMP2 class, the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder, driven by Klaus Graf and Sascha Maassen (both Germany), and team owner Greg Pickett (USA), took its third podium finish in three races by finishing third in class, but the team had quite an adventure on the wet Road Atlanta track. Graf started the car from the pit lane, and quickly carved his way through the field, catching all the LMP2 cars and most of the LMP1 cars, finally passing the eventual overall winning Peugeot to run fourth overall. But then, things started to happen.
"Obviously I don't want a race to end like that weather-wise with these conditions. Everybody wants to race but it's a podium for us and we'll take it. We had a really fast car today and I really enjoyed myself out there, even in the very difficult conditions. I made a little mistake coming out of the pits after switching to slicks but that wouldn't have had that big of an impact except that we then ran in to a technical problem which really took us out of contention to win the race. We found the problem actually which was really difficult so hats off to the engineers, it's not easy to locate the issue. So we fixed it and we brought it back out, but we had lost 48 laps. We ran really strong lap times again after that. I'm happy for everybody on the team, it was great to have Sascha (Maassen) on board and I can't wait to get to Laguna Seca," said Graf.
The Porsche RS Spyder has won both the manufacturers and drivers championship the last three years in the American Le Mans Series.
ALMS Petit Le Mans - Final Results (rain-shortened - 4 hours, 49 minutes of running time and 3 hours, 56 minutes of red flag)
-credit: porsche motorsport