Sebring: Petersen/White Lightning preview

2005 ALMS Champs Open GT2 Defense at Site Where It All Started SEBRING, Fla., March 10, 2006 -- The 54th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, scheduled for March 18, brings Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing full-circle. It was...

2005 ALMS Champs Open GT2 Defense at Site Where It All Started

SEBRING, Fla., March 10, 2006 -- The 54th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, scheduled for March 18, brings Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing full-circle. It was at this prestigious event one year ago that the Michael Petersen-owned team dominated the GT2 class of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season-opening race. That started the team down a course that would be rewarded with the 2005 ALMS GT2 Team, Driver and IMSA Cup Championships. Now, they return to the 3.7-mile central Florida facility as the reigning class champions in both the Series and the race. Their mission for the new season is focused again on capturing both with the No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin/ Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. However, as drivers Jorg and Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Nic Jonsson (Buford, Ga.) seek to conquer the top step of the podium, the 12 Hours of Sebring has even more significance for the Michael Petersen-owned team than its immediate past.

Last year's Sebring victory, one of five for the season, joined a timeline of history-making moments, both highs and lows, for the Las Vegas operation here. It was at Sebring, in 1998, that Petersen (Las Vegas) and team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT) drove their first professional sports car race. They finished seventh driving a Porsche 911 in the GT2 class. That would be the lowest finish, to-date, the two have put together at Sebring.

Since 2001, Petersen/ White Lightning has entered the 12 Hours four times and raced in three. As their own team, Petersen/ White Lightning has never finished below third in class. The low-point of the team's history with the track came in 2001. In the first year in the ALMS racing under their own banner, Petersen and White withdrew after the untimely death of lead driver, racing legend Bob Wollek, in a bicycling accident the week of the event. 2006 marks the fifth anniversary of that solemn occasion. The team returned in 2003 to begin a streak of podium finishes with a second-place result after a third-place start. In '04, they captured third after starting fifth. Last season brought the team its first ALMS pole position and Sebring race victory.

2006 has its first for the team as well. The 12 Hour will be the first event in which the team has fully assembled their own Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The car was built from the "tub" up at Petersen/ White Lightning's Las Vegas shop. Despite years of building their own off-road vehicles, this is the first in sports car racing. Like most teams, the six-time ALMS race winners typically purchase the complete car directly from Porsche Motorsports. Since no new RSR models were being built for the '06 season, longtime team member and now Crew Chief, Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas) oversaw the build of the machine. Matted to a new 3.8 liter Porsche flat-six engine, the car-- still in its familiar Petersen/ White Lightning livery-- will turn its first laps of the 2006 season on Monday, March 13th in the Promoters Test Day at Sebring International. With those laps, the team is set to come full-circle on their championship-winning season. Now is the time to start the next lap... the first lap of 2006.

Quotes:

Mike Petersen, owner: "Sebring has been a very good track for Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing. It is a track that really demands attention to detail if you want to win. They say that to finish first, first you must finish and I don't think there is anywhere that that is truer than here. We have a lineup of drivers that understand how to go fast and make the car last. We have a crew that knows how to fix it fast when we do have a problem. That is what endurance racing is all about and Sebring is all about endurance."

Dale White, team manager: "The team is totally focused on the where we are at. When we get to work we aren't thinking about being defending champions or that we won this race last year. All that proves is that you knew how to do it once. In fact, I don't like to think about defending the win or the championship as much as I like to think of it as trying to win them again. Defending them sounds sort of passive and we are on an all-out attack to win this race and the championship a second time."

Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "For me it is very exciting for sure. We have a lot of challenges this week at Sebring with a new car, a new engineer and a new lineup of drivers. But I have worked with everyone before and we work very well together. The team is all guys that have worked together and know each other. They know how to win including this race last year. I think we have a very good chance but we are going to have to work very hard every lap."

Tim Bergmeister, driver: "I am very happy to get the chance to do the 12 Hours of Sebring with my brother and the Petersen/ White Lightning Team. I think it will be very nice to do a long distance race again with Jorg as we did at the 24 Hour on the Nurburgring some years ago. The biggest challenge will be to have a clean race and get through the traffic without losing too much time."

Nic Jonsson, driver: "I am very, very excited about being back with Petersen/ White Lightning again and with my teammates, Jorg and Tim. They are, obviously, some of the best Porsche drivers in the world. For me it is a real honor to be a part of that team. I have finished second at Sebring two of the last three years, in 2003 with Petersen/ White Lightning, and I hope that the third time is the charm. I really want that win at the 12 Hour. It is one of the biggest races in sports car racing right behind Le Mans. I feel we have a really, really good opportunity with this team."

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring can be seen live on SPEED Channel starting at 10:30 AM (ET), March 18th. Live timing and scoring of each on-track session can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com. Regular reports from the track can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com throughout the day on Saturday, the 18th.

More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com.

Please visit www.Porsche.com for more on the Porsche's line of products.

For more on the ALMS, please visit www.AmericanLeMans.com.

-pm/wlr-

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Michael Petersen , Bob Wollek , Tim Bergmeister , Nic Jonsson