PANOZ ENDS PORSCHE'S SIX RACE GT WINNING STREAK WITH NARROW VICTORY AT SPORTSBOOK.COM GRAND PRIX OF ATLANTA; CADILLAC WINS SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE, BUT INCURS PENALTY FOR PUSHING PORSCHE; IMSA GT3 DEBUT --38 Porsches - both in GT3 Cup and GT3 RSR...
PANOZ ENDS PORSCHE'S SIX RACE GT WINNING STREAK WITH NARROW VICTORY AT SPORTSBOOK.COM GRAND PRIX OF ATLANTA; CADILLAC WINS SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE, BUT INCURS PENALTY FOR PUSHING PORSCHE; IMSA GT3 DEBUT
--38 Porsches - both in GT3 Cup and GT3 RSR configuration - competed in the American Le Mans Series Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta, the SPEED World Challenge, and the inaugural IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge at Road Atlanta. In the ALMS event, Timo Bernhard in his Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was about to pass Robin Liddell in his Panoz Esperante when Timo's nose edged into Robin's fender. Timo was black flagged, and Robin won the GT race. In World Challenge, the same Robin Liddell was leading the race in his Jon Groom Racing AXA Financial Porsche 911 GT3 Cup when he was pushed off the track by a Cadillac driven by Max Papis. Papis was fined and had points taken away, but Liddell lost his victory. Alfred Renauer, a guest driver from Germany, crossed the finish line first in his XM Satellite Vici Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, but was ineligible for the win, so Brent Martini, from Coconut Grove, FL, won the first-ever IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin in his Wheel Enhancement Racing/TRG Porsche GT3 Cup.-
ATLANTA, GA - April 17 -- Defending ALMS GT2 champion Timo Bernhard from Germany and Romain Dumas from France, driving the #23 Alex Job Racing mail2web/Hyatt Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, started the ALMS race at Road Atlanta at the back of the back due to a qualifying-day transmission change, but came all the way back to take the lead with two laps to go - only to be black-flagged and relegated to second place.
Bernhard, who drove the second half of the event, chased down the pole- sitting Panoz with two laps to go, and moved into the lead, but, as a result of the pass and ensuing contact, the Panoz spun off the track, and the IMSA officials gave Bernhard a stop-and-go victory, denying his his first win of the season. Because he had a one-lap lead on the White Lightning/Petersen Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister, Timo maintained his second-place position to the finish. By finishing third,
Bergmeister and Long now lead the points with 39, while fourth-place finishers Johannes van Overbeek/Jon Fogarty in their Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR now have 29 points.
"It was the best GT racing I have seen in a long time," said Uwe Brettel, president of Porsche Motorsport North America.
"Congratulations must go to the Panoz team and their drivers for the win, their first. Timo did everything he could, and went out of his way to make it a clean race. He thought he had the pass, but there just wasn't enough room. It was an unfortunate racing accident," said Brettel.
The second Alex Job Porsche, the Bell Microsystems car with Randy Pobst and rookie Ian Baas aboard, was fifth.
The SPEED World Challenge
In the SPEED World Challenge, the Jon Groom Racing AXA Financial/Pfaff Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car led a trio of Cadillacs for most of the event, only to be pushed off the track with two laps to go. Cadillac driver Max Papis was fined $5,000, lost ten championship points, and was put on probation for two races, but it did not make up the lost win for Liddell.
"It was my race, and he took it away," said Liddell, who crashed into the wall when pushed, causing a DNF.
Defending Porsche Michelin Supercup champion Wolf Henzler, from Germany, who had been on the pole for the first two rounds of the SPEED World Challenge, was running second in his Farnbacher Loles Racing Applied Materials Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car when a lapped car cut him off, puncturing his radiator and causing a DNF. The Farnbacher Loles Racing team lost two engines early in the weekend in practice, and was forced to run a less-powerful Supercup engine versus the World Challenge spec engine they usually run.
IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Presented by Michelin
The weekend also marked the debut of the five-race IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin, which featured eight lead changes with 27 identically-matched Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars.
Alfred Renauer, from Germany, who was given guest driver status because of his extensive experience in Porsche Carrera Cup action, swapped leads with Brent Martini and ended the 45-minute event in first place, but his finish did not count in the standings because of his guest-driver status.
Thus, Martini, in his Wheel Enhancement Racing/TRG Porsche, became the series' first winner, with Ricardo Imery, from Caracus, Venezuela (and half- time from Miami) in second in his Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche, and Mark Hupfer, from Indianapolis, third in his J3 Racing Porsche.