SONOMA, Calif., July 17, 2004 - Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing qualified third in GT class for tomorrow's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma here at Infineon Raceway. The No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3...
SONOMA, Calif., July 17, 2004 - Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing qualified third in GT class for tomorrow's Infineon Grand Prix of Sonoma here at Infineon Raceway. The No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was part of a unique, single-car qualifying format being tested by the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) this weekend. Craig Stanton, Long Beach, Calif., ran a phenomenal lap, turning in a time of 1 minute, 34.710 seconds (96.17 mph) grabbing the attention of the paddock. The Michael Petersen-owned Porsche had suffered through a difficult test day on Friday and two morning sessions today searching for the right combination for qualifying and the race. However, the Las Vegas-based race team continued to fine-tune their machine finding the quick setup just before the timed runs. They then turned the car over to Stanton's skillful hands to put it into the show.
In what Stanton aptly called "bullring-style qualifying", each car was given two laps at speed alone to mark its best time. The procedure changed from the more traditional qualifying format where all cars within the production-based GT and GTS classes ran as many laps as they like within a 20-minute timed session. The new format called for one 'out' lap and one 'in' lap bracketing the timed laps. Stanton was the first in the third group of cars to hit the track and immediately began to push the car as soon as he pulled from the pit lane. His efforts to get the Michelin tires up to temperature quickly paid off as the California-native put up the fastest time to that point on his first 'hot' lap. His second lap dropped slightly to a 1:35.043. His first lap time was good enough to hold third-place behind two other Porsche 911s on Michelin tires.
Stanton will be joined by David Murry, Cumming, Ga., in tomorrow's two hour, 45-minute race. Stanton will start the 24 Hours of Le Mans GT class winning car, before turning the wheel over to Murry who will run the second and final stint of the race. The event airs live on CBS starting at 3 pm (EDT).
Mike Petersen, team owner/ driver: "After I missed Lime Rock Park, which was a very bad race for us, it's very nice to return to Infineon and to qualify in the third position. We beat a lot of teams that this is their home-track, which makes us feel good. However, ultimately, we weren't in P1. I think we have a good race car for the race. We are looking forward to the race. The new qualifying format was exciting. There was definitely no traffic to hold anyone up so no one can use any excuses. We aren't dissatisfied with third place but we are ultimately here to be in P1 all the time. It isn't a celebration for us until the checkered flag falls and we are in P1. It is definitely a step forward. When we first arrived here this weekend we were a little off on the setup and with limited track time we have come a long way."
Craig Stanton: "Today was a good day for Petersen/ White Lightning. It was a group effort here once again. These guys have been working really hard. They really deserve all this. I am just the funny guy that gets in and drives around in the car. I do like this format. It reminds me of short-track racing on a Saturday night. I have some experience in that so anything like this is right up our alley. The Michelins did a great job. We pressured [inflated correctly] them for the second lap and they came in right when we wanted them to. I was playing around with the traction control a little. It was good to have that. I came out of [turn] 11 one time a little too early and I came right up to the wall. And it was nice that I could mat it [the throttle] and let the computer take over. I'm really blessed that Porsche has come up with a nice system like this. I looked around and, man, there are a lot of fans here. We have Earnhardt Jr. here and that really draws a crowd. So I am really excited about the race tomorrow."