BERGMEISTER/LONG CAPTURE PORSCHE'S FIRST 2007 ROLEX GRAND-AM PROTOTYPE WIN IN RUBY THUESDAY CHAMPIONSHIP RACING TEAM PORSCHE CRAWFORD IN MONTEREY MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford ...
BERGMEISTER/LONG CAPTURE PORSCHE'S FIRST 2007 ROLEX GRAND-AM PROTOTYPE WIN IN RUBY THUESDAY CHAMPIONSHIP RACING TEAM PORSCHE CRAWFORD IN MONTEREY
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 20, 2007) -- No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Jorg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) helped establish a new Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series record by becoming the fifth different winners in five races to start the season in Sunday's U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
It was also Porsche's first Grand-Am prototype win of the season. Bergmeister claimed the lead from Jon Fogarty with 32 laps remaining when Fogarty brought the No. 99 Pontiac Riley onto pit lane for its final pit stop. With the second, third and fourth place cars filling his mirrors throughout the closing laps, however, Bergmeister was forced to conserve fuel in order to make it to the finish.
Bergmeister's big break came on Lap 89 of the 91-lap race, when Matthew Alhadeff brought out the day's seventh and final full-course caution period when he slid the No. 05 BMW Riley into the gravel trap at turn four. However, there were still a few nervous moments for the team as Bergmeister still had to make it to the finish line without running out of fuel, but the German Porsche factory driver did just that to make it five winners in five races, topping the previous record of four to start the 2004 season.
"We were rolling the dice," Bergmeister said. "I really don't know how much fuel we had left in the car. I got a low fuel warning on the white flag lap, and I was pretty sure we were going to make it there. When I knew it was going to be about six minutes left, I thought, 'Wow, this is going to be close.' But it worked out well, even on the last restart. I was really lean on the fuel, and trying to conserve as much as I could. We had great strategy today and we really needed this. We've had such a tough start to the season, and it's good to be back."
It was the first win for the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team since Long and Mike Rockenfeller took the victory in last year's VIR 400. It was also Bergmeister's first win since the 2006 event at Barber Motorsports Park, the last of three wins he scored en route to the Daytona Prototype title. The victory tops the team's previous best 2007 result of fifth at Mexico City in March.
"It feels great, personally and for the team," Long said. "It's been one of the most humbling 12 months of our own careers, but that's what makes it all the much sweeter. We needed a little bit of luck from the racing gods today on the fuel strategy. I don't know if I can stomach many more of those races. I'm still a little tranquilized by that one. It was good. We had a car that could race all weekend, and that's the first time we felt consistently up there in all the sessions this weekend, so that's a positive thing. It's guys like those on the Ganassi team that make us work that much harder, and again, it's a humbling experience after all the adversity we've been through. It's great to be back up here, and hopefully we can carry the momentum into this rest of this season and race with these guys week in and week out."
No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Riley co-drivers Darren Law and David Donohue continued their recent run of success with a fourth-place outing at Laguna Seca. Law and Donohue also finished third in the VIR 400 last month and have now finished inside the top six in four consecutive races. The No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, with Hurley Haywood and J.C. France at the wheel, finished 14th, two laps behind the leaders.
Christian Fittipaldi led 20 laps in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Fabcar, but an off-course excursion by co-driver Harrison Brix contributed to an 11th-place performance. Lally and Valentine Record First Rolex Series GT Class Victory of the Season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Porsches 911 GT3 Cup Cars Sweep Podium in Rolex GT Race
In the Rolex GT race on Saturday, Andy Lally--and his co-driver RJ Valentine in the No. 66 TRG CRG/Maxter/Rotax Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racer -- scored the victory over teammates Daniel DiLeo and his co-driver, Ross Smith, in their No. 65 TRG Maxwell Paper Products Co. Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Cautiously working his way through the field all afternoon, Lally chased the Kelly Collins Pontiac around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn track for several laps before getting by Collins in Turn 5 on Lap 90. Fortunately for Lally, he was able to save a little bit of fuel as a caution came out moments after he passed Collins when Andrew Davis spun the No. 72 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 in Turn 11, forcing the last of four caution periods.
Officials could not get the track cleaned up in the time remaining to go back to green flag conditions, giving Lally and Valentine the win.
"It is a huge deal," said Lally, whose only lead came in the final three laps of the event. He was also the final of nine drivers and nine lead changes, and did not stop during the final 66 laps. "The really cool thing is, this is my first win here. I've had two second-place finishes in Rolex and I had a third-place finish here in Barber Dodge a long, long time ago. I just mentioned to (team owner) Kevin (Buckler), we've got two seconds and a third, and we really need a win here. It was wonderful to come through. It's one of those things where it clicked just right, and our guys just did an awesome job. I've got to thank RJ, my engineer and Kevin for the three of them getting together and helping me build a real good car this weekend. I've got to say the handling was just unbelievable. I've also got to thank the guys who raced me clean, because the last three guys that we picked off were all very much gentlemen, and nobody was trying to cut my nose off."
"It's obviously a privilege at my age," added Valentine, who helped the pair scored its second podium in three races. "You begin to wonder, 'The older you get, the faster you was.' Having Andy as a teammate is a real privilege. To have the guys around me with TRG and all the group of people that prepare the car, sometimes it looks easy just driving. The reality is, you can't drive something if it's not set up properly."
As has been the case nearly the entire season, the Farnbacher Loles Motorsports two-car Porsche 911 GT3 Cup team dominated the race after the first round of pit stops. Coming in with top cars which have led more than half of the laps contested in GT class competition this season, Craig Stanton put the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche out front for several laps again Saturday, as the car sat atop the results for 33 laps, and led by as many as seven seconds.
However, Stanton didn't make his scheduled pit stop and driver change until Lap 77, with less than 30 minutes left in the timed race. His crew feverishly changed tires and put enough fuel to get co-driver Leh Keen back into the race, but he reentered the race in 10th, with many of the other teams ahead of him no longer in need of a stop. The duo was scored as sixth at the finish.
Teammate Dirk Werner--who along with co-driver Bryce Miller in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Marquis Jet/IPC Porsche scored the last race victory last month at Virginia International Raceway--inherited the lead, and was nearly 10 seconds ahead of Collins before he too needed to stop for a splash of fuel. That stop--which added a couple seconds when Werner locked up the wheels and spun while making the turn in the pits--enabled Collins to regain the lead for the No. 07 Pontiac, but his mirrors were full of Lally's No. 66 until the Dacula, Ga. driver made the winning pass.
Werner dropped to fifth during the short stop and managed to get by Collins and Drew Staveley in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R before the checkered flag flew, giving himself and Miller their third straight podium finish after leading five laps near the end.