Lizards 2nd and 7th at Utah Grand Prix; Fifth Consecutive Podium May 19, 2007 -- Tooele, Utah -- The Flying Lizard Motorsports' No. 45 Porsche finished 2nd and the No. 44 finished 7th today at the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park:...
Lizards 2nd and 7th at Utah Grand Prix; Fifth Consecutive Podium
May 19, 2007 -- Tooele, Utah -- The Flying Lizard Motorsports' No. 45 Porsche finished 2nd and the No. 44 finished 7th today at the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park: the fifth consecutive second-place finish for the California-based GT2 team. It was an exciting race from the start, with many cars making off course excursions into the desert dust. But the well-designed 4.5 mile course and wide run offs meant just one full course caution in the 2 hour and 45 minute race.
Tire management was top of mind for teams on the technical course and with just one caution, teams were forced to conserve tires or pit under green. Scheduled as a two-stop race for most GT2 cars, the No. 45 had a 3-stop race, nosing in for an unscheduled fuel stop on the last lap.
Over the first few laps, the GT2 field was bunched closely together. Joerg Bergmeister started the No. 45 from ninth on the grid. Although the No. 45 had qualified third, chief strategist Thomas Blam elected to start the car from the back of the grid with fresh tires. The No. 44, with Lonnie Pechnik, started sixth on the grid.
Joerg worked to move up through the GT2 field. He fought traffic to gain three positions to P 6 but was still behind three of the Ferraris -- the No. 31, No. 62, and No. 48. Just 10 minutes into the race, the course went yellow to remove the No. 22 Panoz, which had stopped on track. Joerg pitted under yellow, and the No. 62 Ferrari, which Joerg and Johannes are battling for the GT2 championship, pitted at the same time. The crew's strategy was to change only front tires and a short fuel, enabling Joerg to pull out of the pits before the No. 62 Ferrari. Unfortunately, a problem with the starter caused Joerg to have problems leaving the stall and the No. 45 lost precious seconds, allowing the No. 62 to get out ahead of him.
Meanwhile, two of the four Ferraris -- the No. 31 Petersen/White Lightning and No. 48 Corsa -- used the time to distance themselves from the rest of the pack in the No. 1 and 2 positions, respectively. Once it had the lead, the No. 31 Ferrari never looked back, and retained the effective lead throughout the entire race.
Joerg commented on his stint, "I was stuck in traffic for quite a while at the start, which was frustrating. I had gained a few positions and then we decided that we would pit under the first yellow. It was a shame that because of the starter problem I lost a few positions and had to effectively start over again after the yellow. Also, we had only changed front tires on the stop so that upset the balance of the car, but over the distance it was ok and I was able to manage it. You know, second place is a strong finish and we'll take it."
After the course went green, Joerg once again worked up the field -- staying with the No. 62 Ferrari as the two cars moved through the field. He settled into P3 behind the No. 62, with the No. 31 still in the lead. The field reshuffled when the No. 31 pitted (the last of the GT2 field to pit) and the No. 62 Ferrari moved into the lead with the No. 45 in P 2.
90 minutes into the race, Joerg made his second pit stop for driver change to Johannes van Overbeek, tires and fuel. After a clean stop, Johannes was back on track in P 3. After another reshuffle for pit stops, it looked like the No. 31 and the No. 62 would be in a battle for the lead, with the No. 45 in P3, when the No. 62 broke a drive shaft and ended the car's four-race winning streak.
"I knew that my job was to hold tight to position and manage the tires and fuel through my stint. It was possible that we could have made it to the end without having to stop again, and we knew that the No. 31 would have to stop again for fuel," added van Overbeek. "I was in a solid second and things were going well until I got the bobble on the second to last lap. I had some trouble switching to reserve and we made a last minute decision to stop again for fuel. With the No. 71 Tafel Porsche just behind me in P 3, it was a close call, but we decided to stop for a splash. Luckily, the No. 71 had to make an unexpected stop earlier which gave me a greater lead over them, everything went well on our fast stop and I was able to get out again quickly to finish second."
Meanwhile, the No. 44 Porsche, which finished seventh in GT2, stayed out during the only caution. On the restart, Lonnie was forced wide and there was some damage to the tires. Lonnie nursed the tires for his entire stint, then switched over to Seth 55 minutes into the race. An hour later, Lonnie was back in the car and finished out the race.