Petersen/ White Lightning Ready For the Long Haul of Summer As Season Hits Stride SONOMA, Calif., July 12, 2005 -- The height of the summer heat meets the height of the summer schedule for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) this week at the...
Petersen/ White Lightning Ready For the Long Haul of Summer As Season Hits Stride
SONOMA, Calif., July 12, 2005 -- The height of the summer heat meets the height of the summer schedule for the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) this week at the Grand Prix of Sonoma. With the fifth round- the mid-point of the season- of the ALMS schedule being contested Sunday at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., all teams are starting to feel the pressure of racing back and forth across North America. It is times like these that show the true grit of a team. For Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing, the GT2 class point leader, that level of strength has been shown-out again and again in organization and preparation. Infineon is the fourth race weekend- including Test Day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans- in a string of seven races that the Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will compete in spread over 14 weeks. In that time, the team has racked-up an impressive record of three second place finishes and set a Le Mans track record in testing. Drivers Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) are tied for the driver point lead and won the pole position at the most recent ALMS round in Lime Rock.
Following the conclusion of Sunday's race, the team will depart for a race in Portland on July 30th and another on August 21st in Wisconsin before round eight in Canada on September 4. The season concludes with back-to-back endurances races; the 10 hour Petit Le Mans on October 1 at Road Atlanta and a four hour show on the California's Monterey Peninsula at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Magnifying the pressure of the schedule is that Sunday's two hour and 45-minute sports car race on the 2.53-mile, 12-turn circuit is nearly as far from the last race, held on July 4th at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut, as the team traveled to compete at Le Mans in France. Unlike the airplane that carried the 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR the 3,520 air miles from France to New England, transporter driver Sam Andrus (Santa Clara, Utah) drove the approximately 2,589 mile journey from Lime Rock to the team's Las Vegas shop and then the additional 600 miles to Sonoma in time for set-up and continued work on the car. While the back-to-back schedule of other series is daunting, the Michael Petersen-owned team does it with a single car and a team of only 13 including drivers and management!
Not immediately recognized in the team's schedule are the minimum of five day "weekends" as the No. 31 Porsche is prepped for competition by four technicians including lead tech Dennis Chizma (Seattle, Wash.). Overseeing is crew chief/ engineer Stefan Pfeiffer (Croatia) and team manager Dale White (Las Vegas). All told, including the 20 days spent in Europe preparing for and racing at Le Mans, the team will spend half the summer at the race track-- 49 days out of 98.
Michael Petersen, owner: "Here we are back in Sonoma and it is nice to be back with the boys. The ALMS does a great job with TV but, as I am sure you can guess, the race is not as fun as it is in person. We are all very hungry for the top spot and will be going for it this weekend. This is one of my favorite places to be this time of year. We are in the thick of the championship. To keep the bar set high, and with so many races to go, we are striving to win every race possible. But, with this in mind, we will not take big risks. A DNF would be a detriment to the outcome of the season. The competition should be fantastic for the fans as there are many cars that could pull out the win. The team will just do what they do every race and give it 110% and see where the cards fall."
Dale White, team manager: "This is the time of year that all the pre-season preparation pays off. Just like in the car, you have to keep your eyes up and take in the big picture. If you try and prepare for the next race this week, you're already behind. What we're doing now was planned before Sebring. That is how you make it through these weeks when it seems like you are always at the track or on a plane. Of course, the more successful we are the easier these long nights and time away from home are. The further ahead you think, the less time the guys have waiting to get a part they need and the more time they can spend preparing the racecar and that translates to the track. When you do it right, it's a perfect circle. Each ingredient is key. Every member of Petersen/ White Lightning plays a key role in the success of this team."
Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "We'll try and push as hard as we can. It's time for another win. Patrick and the whole crew did an awesome job at Lime Rock getting the pole. We're competitive and hopefully that won't change at Sears. Maybe, at the end, we'll be on the top step. I really like this track in qualifying because it's really challenging for the driver. For the race it's a little tough. Because it has a lot of off-camber corners you have to really take care of your tires. You have to think about the whole stint and not just the first couple of laps."
Patrick Long, driver: "This is the beginning of our endurance summer. Consistency and teamwork is really going to show here as we have to broaden our energy to really go after this championship; which is our ultimate goal. Winning races is still going to be key but with a few improvements to the cars that are upcoming, we are looking pretty good. We've been right with the Alex Job cars up till now in practice and qualifying and the new changes should allow is to hang with them in the races without using our tires up. Infineon is a very challenging course because it is very quick but also very technical. Elevation changes and bumps make it very tough to get a good setup for. Saying that, it is my favorite track on the ALMS schedule. Being a California race it is about as close to a 'home' event as I can get."