PENSKE PORSCHE RS SPYDER BREAKS REAR SUSPENSION, THEN CAPTURES LMP2 POLE 45 MINUTES LATER; HENZLER PUTS FLYING LIZARDS ON GT2 POLE WITH PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- April 4 -- At 2:00 PM this afternoon, it didn't look good for...
PENSKE PORSCHE RS SPYDER BREAKS REAR SUSPENSION, THEN CAPTURES LMP2 POLE 45 MINUTES LATER; HENZLER PUTS FLYING LIZARDS ON GT2 POLE WITH PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR
ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- April 4 -- At 2:00 PM this afternoon, it didn't look good for the #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder -- winner two weeks ago at the 12 hours of Sebring. Romain Dumas (France), while driving in the warm-up session immediately proceeding qualifying, did not have time to avoid a GT2 car stopped on the circuit, and smashed the right rear of the car, taking out the whole corner (wheel, spindle, control arms, etc.). With only 45 minutes to go until qualifying, it looked like Dumas and defending champion Timo Bernhard (Germany) would have to start this tight street race course from the back of the field.
But, with team owner Roger Penske personally taking charge of the repair operation in pit lane, not only did the car get back out in time to qualify, but Dumas turned the fastest lap in the LMP2 class and the second fastest overall to capture the class pole for tomorrow's Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, which will be telecast live on ABC-TV starting at 1:30 PM Eastern Daylight time.
Their RS Spyder will start on the front row of the event next to the Werner/Luhr Audi R10 LMP1 car, and just in front of the LMP2 Acura ARX of Brabham/Sharp. Third in LMP2 is the #6 Penske Porsche team car of Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA), who are trying get back into points chase after an early exit at Sebring due to a water pump malfunction.
"Because of the distance between our truck and the pits, if we had been towed back to our paddock location, we would not have been able to get back to the pits for qualifying," said John Erickson, general manager for Penske Racing.
"We never doubted we could fix the car because of the skill level of our crew and the stout construction of the car. The damage was limited to the upper and lower control arms, and wheel assembly," said Erickson.
"It was amazing to watch Mr. Penske and Mr.(Penske Racing President Tim) Cindric carrying parts and organizing the team effort after I was towed in," said Dumas, who had been fastest in the practice session before the crash.
"I was afraid that they would not finish the repair in time, but not only was the car finished in time, but it handled just as well as it did before. I've never seen a crew work like this Penske Racing team," said Dumas.
Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Scotland), drivers of the #20 Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder, will start fourth in the LMP2 class and fifth overall, while the Dyson team car of Guy Smith (Great Britain) and Chris Dyson (USA), is sixth on the class grid and seventh overall.
GT2 -- First Porsche Pole since 2006
Wolf Henzler (Germany) captured the GT2 class pole position in the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to give him and co-driver Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) the Lizards' first pole since 2004 and Porsche's first pole since 2006.
Henzler's fast lap was 18-hundreths of a second faster than the second-place Ferrari of Melo/Salo, while the Dirk Werner (Germany)/Marc Basseng (Germany) Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 RSR sits third on the class grid.
"The car took a beating at Sebring en route to our victory there, yet the team delivered a race car to me for qualifying that seemed brand new," said Henzler, who celebrated his first ALMS pole today.
"Both the improvement in downforce and the gearbox in the car for 2008 make St. Petersburg better to drive than last year," said Henzler.
Other Porsche 911 GT3 RSR positions for tomorrow's race:
No. 46 Flying Lizard Porsche -- Johannes van Overbeek/Patrick Pilet -- fifth
No. 44 Flying Lizard Porsche -- Darren Law/Seth Neiman -- sixth
No. 5 VICI Racing Porsche -- Nathan Swartzbaugh/Craig Stanton/Ruben Carrapatoso