SECOND ROAD RACING COURSE; SECOND OVERALL WIN OF THE SEASON FOR PENSKE PORSCHES; FLYING LIZARD PORSCHES TAKE ONE-TWO IN GT2 IN UTAH After no one on the Penske Porsche Racing team thought that the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix ...
SECOND ROAD RACING COURSE; SECOND OVERALL WIN OF THE SEASON FOR PENSKE PORSCHES; FLYING LIZARD PORSCHES TAKE ONE-TWO IN GT2 IN UTAH
After no one on the Penske Porsche Racing team thought that the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by The Grand and Little America Hotels feature race could possibly match the excitement of qualifying the day before, a combination of flawless driving and incisive pit strategy gave the team's Porsche RS Spyders a one-two overall win at Miller Motorsports Park.
Romain Dumas (France) and Timo Bernhard (Germany) took the lead for good with 35 minutes to go in the two-hour, 45-minute event after the leading de Farran/Pagenaud Acura had to pit for fuel and tires. The #7 Dumas/Bernhard Porsche had done its normal pit stop duties with a little more than an hour to go, and was poised for a non-stop finish. The #6 Penske Porsche RS Spyder, with Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) also made up a place in class when the Acura stopped, and move up two places overall to second when both LMP1 Audis had incidents on the course.
Tim Cindric, president of Penske Racing, was very proud of the team effort and the strategy that resulted in victory. "It's been a while since our historic win at Sebring, and it was great to have another overall victory, but, more importantly, it was important to extend our lead over the Acuras, which have shown again that they are very competitive. We now have a good LMP2 points lead, but it took a perfect stint from each of our four drivers to get a one-two finish plus a good strategy and great pit work," said Cindric.
Romain Dumas, who took the checkered flag for the winning #7 car, pointed out this is their third win in class out of four events, and, while the overall wins are nice, they are just being in the right place at the right time. "We get important points and win championships by defeating our competitors in class, but we enjoy the satisfaction of besting the Audis. It was fun racing with Lucas and the Audi, but, at the end, we had to be careful to make sure we finished.
Timo Bernhard, who shared the LMP2 title with Dumas in 2007, said it was tough for the drivers to follow the strategy when they saw the competitors ahead of them on the track. "The strategy at the beginning was to take care of the car, and the race would come to us. It was very tough to stay to the strategy when there were times we didn't feel it was going to work, but we trusted team and, as usual, they were right," said Bernhard.
Maassen and Long were caught in the frenetic dash to turn one at the beginning of the race, and found themselves in ninth place after only 2,500 yards, but they too stuck to the strategy, moving up two spots when two Acuras collided in that turn, and more spots when Audis had their problems. Finally, with 15 minutes left, Long lead the de Farran/Pagenaud Acura by ten seconds, a lead he was able to maintain until the checkered flag was in sight, when he slowed down to earn a four-second win.
"We were conserving fuel when Pagenaud was catching us, but we turned several equal laps to make sure he knew we could so it if pushed. Sascha really kept the car out of danger in a very difficult first stint," said Long, the only American Porsche factory driver.
The RS Spyders of the Dyson Racing team was in contention for a podium finish all day, with the #20 Porsche of Butch Leitzinger (USA)/Marino Franchitti (Scotland) at the helm, was fourth overall and fourth in LMP2, while the #16, driven by Guy Smith (England)/Chris Dyson (USA) wound up sixth overall and eighth in LMP2. Dumas/Bernhard now lead the Scott Sharp/David Brabham Acura drivers in the LMP2 championship by 28 points (86 & 58), with both Dyson Racing team driving pairings in hot pursuit (Leitzinger/Franchitti with 46 points and Dyson/Smith with 43 points).
In the manufacturers championship for LMP2, Porsche has a 21-point lead over Acura, and in the team championship, Penske Racing leads Acura's Highcroft Racing by 28 points, with Dyson Racing only four points behind.
In GT2, Flying Lizard Motorsports had a momentum-builder for its upcoming appearance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month by finishing first and second in class with their Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs. Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) got a break early in the race when they received the "wave-by" from the pace car (a courtesy extended by the sanctioning body when the pace car is looking to pick up the leader when re-forming the field based on a car's position on the track).
The team maintained its lead throughout the event, using its large lead to plan fuel stops and driver changes; keeping the other competitors at bay. "We knew after warm-up that the car was very fast and would be good over the long run. The wave-by turned out to be the key to winning the race. Over my stint, I was able to stay out of the rest of the GT2 traffic and was very careful to stay out of trouble. When I caught the GT2 pack - there were four or five of them who were a lap down - they were all fighting for position and I had to work my way carefully through them, one by one. Thanks to the crew for a fantastic race. We are now back in the lead in the championship and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season in such a strong Porsche," said Henzler.
Patrick Pilet (France) and Johannes van Overbeek (USA), in the Team Lizard Porsche, finished second, moving up from fourth after the Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Werner/Basseng had to come in for fuel on the last lap and the Tafel Ferrari of Mueller/Farnbacher needed a late- race pit stop as well.
The Farbacher Loles cars was later excluded from the points for having a fuel cell that was determined to be over the 90 liter capacity dictated by the rules. Henzler/Bergmeister now lead Mueller/Farnbacher in the GT2 driver standings by one point, while the Flying Lizards lead Tafel by nine points and Porsche leads Ferrari in the manufacturers championship by six points.