BACK TO THE FRONT: BERNHARD, DUMAS WIN IN UTAH With all the focus at Miller Motorsports Park on the new de Ferran Motorsports Acura entry, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas did what they do best - win in the American Le Mans Series for Penske...
BACK TO THE FRONT: BERNHARD, DUMAS WIN IN UTAH
With all the focus at Miller Motorsports Park on the new de Ferran Motorsports Acura entry, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas did what they do best - win in the American Le Mans Series for Penske Racing and Porsche. The duo took a hard-fought victory Sunday in the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix presented by the Grand and Little America Hotels.
Dumas' pole-sitting Porsche RS Spyder crossed the finish line 22.656 seconds ahead of Patrick Long in the second Penske Porsche that he shared with Sascha Maassen. The de Ferran entry of Simon Pagenaud and team owner Gil de Ferran placed third, nearly 29 seconds back.
"The key to the victory was the race strategy," Bernhard said. "They brought me in during the second yellow and put me out of sequence so I had a clear run to the end. I was pushing quite a lot. It was hard because I couldn't see the other people from the P2 class so all I had was the split time on my dash and I knew I just had to keep pushing."
Dumas and Bernhard captured their first overall victory for Penske since a season-opening win at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with Emmanuel Collard. The pairing also were winners in LMP2 after seeing their eight-race class winning streak end in the previous round at Long Beach.
Dumas inherited the lead when Audi Sport North America's Emanuele Pirro pitted from first place near the two-hour mark but still had to withstand challenges from the two diesel-powered Audi R10 TDIs. Lucas Luhr suffered a slow puncture with 30 minutes to go while running within three seconds of Dumas, and Pirro made contact with David Robertson's Ford GT just two minutes later and was knocked off course. The No. 1 Audi was penalized three championship points for the incident (IMSA Code 5.6).
"When I got in there was little more than one hour to go so I knew I had to be careful in my stint," Dumas said. "I knew with 20 to 30 minutes to go when the de Ferran car had to pit, I just had to take care of the car and win. For sure our team made a very, very good strategy and did not make any mistakes. We pushed at the right times."
The first six cars were from the lighter, more nimble LMP2 cars that took advantage of its cornering abilities around the 3.048-mile, 15-turn circuit.
Luhr and Marco Werner were seventh overall but finished first in LMP1 for the third consecutive race. After entering with a two-race overall winning streak, the No. 2 Audi lost time with the spin after contact with Lou Gigliotti in the LG Motorsports Corvette C6. The incident resulted in a slow tire puncture for the Audi and a late-race penalty.
"I think we showed a good race. It was fun fighting for the overall lead," Luhr said. "When we came up to the top of the chicane, the No. 1 car made the pass for me in front of the slower No. 28 car so I followed him. Then the driver had only one place to look, cut down into me and cut all the air. I spun and had to come in and get new tires. Then we got a stop-and-go for that bit."
Intersport Racing's Lola B06/10-AER finished second in class, its best finish of the season. Jon Field led early for four laps before a couple of spins and briefly losing power steering. Pirro and Frank Biela were third in class.
This was Audi's last race before the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a race the R10 TDI has won for the past two seasons. Audi has taken overall victory at Le Mans in seven of the last eight years.
"It was a bad stop for Lucas when he came into the pits and he lost some time, but everything worked out in the end," Werner said. "Audi is really doing a great job with the huge TDI program and all the development. We are looking forward to Le Mans, it will be a great race this year and we know it will be tough. I am looking forward to being successful again."
Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen won their third GT1 race in four starts this season in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. Magnussen finished more than a minute up on Oliver Gavin in the sister car. Olivier Beretta began from the pole in the No. 4 Corvette but O'Connell and Magnussen won the race in pit lane when the No. 4 car experienced trouble with its refueling system.
In each of the previous three rounds, the pole-sitting car ended up as the race winner.
"The No. 4 car had some bad luck," said O'Connell, who drove part of his stint without air conditioning in the Corvette. "But there were at least a half-dozen races last year that I thought we had the better car and caught a lot of bad luck. Racing is funny. It's very cyclical. We catch some good luck even on days we might not be the strongest but end up in front."
Like Audi, Corvette raced knowing this was the last time to get in any pre-Le Mans work. Corvette Racing has won in GT1 at Le Mans five times in the last seven years.
"This was a great race for us. We had to really work at keeping the other car at bay," Magnussen said. "We turned this into a test for both cars to get ready for Le Mans, and I really think we're going to be in good shape going to France. We had our problems but every time that happens it's something to practice."
Flying Lizard Motorsports' Wolf Henzler and Jorg Bergmeister drove their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to their first GT2 victory since Sebring with a one-lap victory over the sister Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet.
Henzler jumped out to a 20-second lead early and gained nearly a lap on the field during the race's first caution at the 16-minute mark. Werner in the overall leading Audi was between the two Porsches, allowing Henzler a free pass around the circuit to catch the rear of the field.
"The full course caution was the key to winning the race," Henzler said. "So we got an easy race and a great day. Sometimes you get a bit of luck and get a wave-by and it worked out perfectly."
The 1-2 finish was the second of the season for the Lizards and allowed Bergmeister and Henzler to move back into the class championship lead.
"It was an easy drive," Bergmeister said. "We knew after warm-up we had a great car. I was pretty optimistic and it was a nice way to do it. Wolf did a great job putting the gap between us and the sister car and it was great to get the wave-by. Without the gap we might not have been so lucky. We had the problem in St. Pete that put us behind, but I think that we deserve that we are in the championship lead again. We've been working very hard to get back here."
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix. The race is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 12 at Lime Rock Park. SPEED will televise the race live as will XM Satellite Radio on XM Sports Nation Channel 144. Live coverage from American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring also will be available at americanlemans.com.