PENSKE RACING, FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS CLINCH 2008 AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR PORSCHE; RS SPYDERS SWEEP LMP2 PODIUM AT PETIT LE MANS
BRASELTON, Georgia - October 4 - The Porsche RS Spyder/Acura prototype pilots battle in LMP2 and the rivalry between the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the Ferrari 430 drivers in GT2 - a season-long affair - ended happily for the German sports car manufacturer as Penske Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports drivers took their Porsches to year-end American Le Mans Series championships at the 11th running of Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
The Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder driven by Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) wrapped up their second straight LMP2 drivers championship by finishing second in the 1000-mile event. They finished behind teammates Ryan Briscoe (Australia) and Helio Castroneves (Brazil), who drove their Penske Porsche RS Spyder to the LMP2 victory, and finished fourth overall. Completing the sweep of the LMP2 podium was the third Penske Porsche RS Spyder, driven by Patrick Long (USA), Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Emmanuel Collard (France). In fact, Porsche RS Spyders took five of the top six places in LMP2 with Butch Leitzinger/Andy Lally (both USA) and Marino Franchitti (Scotland) fourth in their Dyson Racing Porsche, and Guy Smith (England)/Chris Dyson (USA) Dyson Racing Porsche sixth.
In GT2, the year-long battle between the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler (both Germany) and the Tafel Racing Ferrari 430 of Dirk Mueller/Dominik Farnbacher (also both Germany) ended in favor of the Lizards at Petit Le Mans. Bergmeister and Henzler, along with help from fellow Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb (Germany), finished second in class, three laps ahead of the Ferrari, to earn Flying Lizards their first ALMS title. The Porsche drivers now have 181 points, while the Ferrari pair have scored 150. The final event at Laguna Seca in Monterey has 25 points available to win.
Both Penske Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports clinched their respective class team championships as well, while Porsche is in the drivers seat for both manufacturers titles.
Earlier in the weekend, Porsche won its second straight SCCA SPEED World Challenge title as Randy Pobst (USA) drove his K-PAX/3R Racing Team Porsche 911 GT3 Cup earned a repeat championship. Porsche had clinched the manufacturers championship the week before over Cadillac, Corvette, Viper, and Aston Martin.
"This championship was even more special than last year because Acura provided such stiff competition," said Bernhard, who has won drivers titles in both LMP2 and GT2 with Porsche.
"Acura came to the series this year with the full resources of the Honda factory, and pressed us to the limit, but Penske Racing and Porsche Motorsport responded with improved performance, a new direct injection 3.4-liter V8 engine, perfect car preparation and strategy, and teamwork that makes a champion," said Bernhard.
Briscoe and Castroneves, who are Penske Racing's regular IndyCar drivers, piloted a third RS spyder this weekend to help Porsche in its battle against Acura, and the move paid off as the duo won the LMP2 class.
Castroneves, a two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500, said, while he and Ryan were "visitors" to the RS Spyder team this weekend, they felt like major contributors to the effort.
"Remember, I drove the RS Spyder in 2006, and have tested it several times, and Ryan was a regular on the team last year, so we fit right in. The race against the Acuras was tough, but our car was well-prepared and we were able to maintain a lead until the Andretti/Kanaan/Montagny Acura crashed late in the event, assuring us the win," he said.
While Joerg Bergmeister (Grand-Am DP champion, multi-time ALMS GT2 champion, and Porsche Supercup titleholder) and Wolf Henzler (multi-time Porsche Supercup champion) are used to winning races and championships, they agreed that this one was special.
"This Flying Lizard team really works hard, and we are proud to help them earn their first championship. Preparing three cars is a difficult task, but everyone from all three crews contributed to this season's successes. And we wanted to give special thanks to Porsche Motorsport for their work over the winter that resulted in a greatly-improved race car that helped us beat the Ferraris," said Bergmeister.
"With the team have to rebuild both the #44 and #46 cars at the track overnight after practice crashes, they still spent the time and expertise to prepare our #45 Porsche so we could run perfectly for a ten-hour event. I've never been on a team with such dedication," said Henzler.
Other Porsche GT2 results included the Lonnie Pechnik/Seth Neiman/Darren Law Flying Lizard Porsche (sixth); the Patrick Pilet/Johannes van Overbeek Flying Lizard Porsche (eighth after a late-race crash); the Marc Basseng/Nick Pastorelli/Francesco Pastorelli VICI Porsche (10th - also after a crash); and the Dirk Werner/Bryce Miller/Joerg Hardt Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche (14th after a broken wheel hub).