Sebring: White Lightning Racing preview

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing to Debut at American Le Mans Series Opener SEBRING, Fla., March 9, 2007 -- The 55th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is the dawning of a new age for two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 class ...

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing to Debut at American Le Mans Series Opener

SEBRING, Fla., March 9, 2007 -- The 55th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is the dawning of a new age for two-time American Le Mans Series GT2 class Champions Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing. The March 17th endurance classic at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway marks a string of firsts for the team that encompasses nearly every part of its structure. The greatest shift from tradition comes in the form of the fluid lines of the mid-engine Ferrari F430 GT which will carry the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin colors for the first time. It is also the first time that two programs will run side-by-side under the Nevada-based team's banner as Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing debuts its new No. 32 EquiWest/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT in the American Le Mans Series. Despite the largest and most competitive GT2 field in recent years (19 cars), it is the team's endurance racing expertise and experience which will help lessen the impact of the overwhelming number of new elements facing them at Sebring.

The event also marks a number of debuts for the drivers as well. Of the three drivers entered in the No. 31, only Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) has ever raced with the Michael Petersen-owned team before (Sebring, 2006) and only Bergmeister and Petersen Motorsports teammate Tomas Enge (a native of the Czech Republic who now calls Monaco home) have ever raced in the 12 Hours. Reserve driver Memo Gidley (Novato, Calif.) will be driving for the first time with the two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans class winning team as well as making his debut in a production based class.

Meanwhile, not a single driver from the No. 32 stable has ever started a race at Sebring. Of the three listed to run in the Steve Pruitt-owned car, only Maurizio Mediani (Reggio Emilia, Italy) has ever raced in the American Le Mans Series (three times in '06) while both Rui Aguas (Porto, Portugal) and Jose Maria Lopez (Cordoba, Argentina) are making their first-ever starts in the United States. Lopez has never started an endurance race or raced a sports car.

New to the event, Corsa Motorsports will call on the skill set of team manager/entrant Dale White (Bozeman, MT), engineer Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany) and the Dennis Chizma-led crew. The drivers of the EquiWest car also bring a wealth of experience in the Ferrari F430 GT that will ease the transition into one of the sports biggest events. Mediani and Aguas each have countless hours behind the wheel of the F430 GT in both road and race form as test drivers for the Ferrari factory.

Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has an impressive history in a short period of time at Sebring. Though their first appearance at the track dates back to 1998- the 12 Hour that year was their first professional sports car race finishing seventh in the GT2 class with Petersen and White sharing the wheel- they have only run six times on the 3.7-mile, 13-turn course. They won the GT2 class, then known as GT, in dominating fashion in 2005 from the pole position. They have also taken podium finishes two other times (second in 2003, third '04) and were leading last year when a rear suspension component failed dropping them to a seventh-place finish.

In its history, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has racked-up an impressive 35% rate of victory in the 23 endurance races- four hours or more- that they have entered. It is this experience that provides the greatest asset to the team as they start the 2007 season.

Quotes: Michael Petersen, Owner: "A new year, a new challenge for the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing team. We are all excited to be under the Ferrari banner this year. With one new driver in Tomas, one returning driver in Tim and with the addition of Memo, we think we have a combination that can challenge for the win. Our goal is always the same; push conservatively and shoot for the win. Just because we have changed manufacturers doesn't mean we have changed our game plan. I haven't even seen the cars yet so I am exited about getting in and driving the car in testing. The guys have been super busy as we got the cars relatively late. We will have some tweaking to do throughout the weekend but I am confident that we will be where we need to be. I want to thank all of our partners for making it happen. And, most importantly, I want to thank my new wife for letting me pursue my hobbies."

Steve Pruitt, Owner: "I have a great deal of anticipation as we approach Sebring. From its origins and through documentaries from the Speed Merchants to the Discovery Channel, Sebring has always held one of those enviable places in motorsports of reverence and respect. The event transcends the race itself against its backdrop of crowds, colors and the social setting which surrounds it. It is the Super Bowl of endurance and sports car racing in North America if you will. As a new team it would be easy to get lost in the aura of the event. While the dynamics of a completely new team must be sorted out from equipment to personalities to communication skills, I believe that Corsa has the components in place to make our goal for Sebring which is to make it to Hour Nine so that we can then go racing."

Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "I don't think we have ever come to a race with this many unknowns. Certainly at Dakar this year we had even more question marks but never a sports car race. We have done our best to stack the odds in our favor. We have two cars to draw information from. We have six drivers with a wealth of experience in all forms of racing. Tim and Tomas have Sebring experience that they can use to help the other drivers find the pace more quickly. Maurizio and Rui have an immense background in the Ferrari to help the others learn the car. Memo and Jose each bring a lot of development work at the top levels of the sport and the crew is already very familiar with the Ferrari. When you look at it as pieces, it looks like an uphill battle. But, when you look at it as a whole, that hill flattens out a lot. The learning curve isn't as steep."

Tim Bergmeister, Driver, No. 31: "I can't wait to start the season in Sebring with Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing and the Ferrari 430 GT. I am sure we will be very competitive and, with Tomas as my teammate, we have every chance to be in front. After testing in Fiorano I am already familiar with the car and I also know Sebring so everything should be fine."

-credit: Petersen Motorsports/Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing

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Series ALMS
Drivers Tomas Enge , Memo Gidley , Michael Petersen , Maurizio Mediani , Jose Maria Lopez , Tim Bergmeister , Rui Aguas , Steve Pruitt