St. Pete: Porsche Motorsport preview

PORSCHE RS SPYDER, 911 GT3 RSR TEAMS TAKE THEIR SEBRING SUCCESSES TO THE STREETS OF ST. PETERSBURG; PENSKE RACING, FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS TRY FOR TWO IN A ROW ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- April 1 -- You might think that momentum from historic...

PORSCHE RS SPYDER, 911 GT3 RSR TEAMS TAKE THEIR SEBRING SUCCESSES TO THE STREETS OF ST. PETERSBURG; PENSKE RACING, FLYING LIZARD MOTORSPORTS TRY FOR TWO IN A ROW

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- April 1 -- You might think that momentum from historic victories at the 12 Hours of Sebring would put the Porsche RS Spyder LMP1 teams and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR competitors in fine shape for the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg this Saturday (1:30 PM Eastern -- live on ABC-TV).

But nothing could be farther from the truth, according to Porsche Motorsport North America President Paul Ritchie, as the street course in South Florida provides no similarities with the airport course only one hour away in Sebring.

"The four RS Spyder teams and five GT3 RSR teams had terrific Sebring experiences last month, and Porsche came away with good leads in both the GT2 and LMP2 class points, but there are ten more events on the schedule, and the likes of Acura and Ferrari will challenge us all season," said Ritchie, who took over the top spot of Porsche Motorsport North America this January.

"Our teams have numbers from last year's St. Petersburg event, but the narrow course and constant traffic and lack of passing opportunities will dictate the results more than suspension setting or fuel economy. Not only will the cars need to be perfectly prepared, but the drivers must be on constant alert all around the course," said Ritchie.

Ritchie added that the shortened race, one hour and 55 minutes, will change tire and fuel strategy, as well as the driver-change pit stop.

Porsche launched into the new American Le Mans Series season with a historic triumph in Sebring. With the Penske Racing RS Spyder, Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) and Emmanuel Collard (France) claimed the 18th overall victory for Porsche at the long distance classic. Securing second place, Butch Leitzinger (USA), Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) and Andy Lally (USA) made Porsche's double victory perfect with the RS Spyder fielded by Dyson Racing.

In St. Petersburg, where Porsche celebrated a one-two LMP2 class victory after a gripping chase last year, the same four RS Spyders are entered for 2008. Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) share driving duties in their #6 Penske Racing car. Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) drive the #7 RS Spyder. Dyson Racing, also fields two RS Spyders; Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) man the #16 car, with the #20 RS Spyder piloted by Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti.

"Things can happen really quickly. Whoever makes an error here mostly ends up in the wall," said Timo Bernhard.

Despite the absence of long straights, where competitors could normally catch their breath, the reigning champion enjoys the street circuit.

"You have to drive with extreme precision and fully concentrate from start to finish. It's not easy, but that's how I like it," said Bernhard.

Porsche also began the season with a convincing double victory in the GT2 class for modified standard sports cars. Flying Lizard Motorsports swept to victory at Sebring with two 911 GT3 RSR. It was the all-German line-up of Joerg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb that took the victory ahead of Darren Law (USA), Seth Neiman (USA) and Alex Davison (Australia). In St. Petersburg, their teammates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France), who are eager to make up lost ground from their eighth-place finish at Sebring, are hoping to get back into the points chase with a podium finish.

The Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which was leading the class at Sebring when it was taken out by the Risi Ferrari early in the race, is also hoping for a better fate in St. Petersburg with German drivers Marc Basseng and Dirk Werner. Their car suffered major damage as a result of the Sebring incident, with the team stripping the car down to the tub to re-align the frame in preparation for this weekend's event.

The VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will also be at St. Petersburg, but will not announce their drivers until later this week.

-credit: porsche

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Series ALMS
Drivers Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , Emmanuel Collard , Sascha Maassen , Andy Lally , Darren Law , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marino Franchitti , Johannes van Overbeek , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Seth Neiman , Alex Davison , Wolf Henzler , Patrick Pilet , Marc Basseng , Dirk Werner , Chris Dyson
Teams Team Penske , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports