Le Mans Warm-Up Offers One Additional Challenge to Defending GT2 Champions
LE MANS, France, Saturday, June 18, 2005 -- After more than 36 hours already invested in the repair and preparation of the No. 90 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, the 24 Hours of Le Mans had one last practice challenge for the Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing crew. While the team got to see Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) roll out for this morning's final warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans after two long nights, the session still proved to be more of the same for the defending 24 Hours of Le Mans GT2 class champions. Bergmeister ran a lap of four minutes, 15.1 second but then was forced to end the session short when a water leak was found during a routine pit stop. Bergmeister was to be followed into the car by American Le Mans Series (ALMS) teammate Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) but the small leak in the lower, right radiator return pipe was discovered during the driver change. The leak, while easily repairable, forced the team to end the session at that point. Timo Bernhard (Dittweiler, Germany) also did not turn a lap in the Porsche during the 45-minute final practice session of which the team ran 35 minutes.
This last practice proved vital to the Las Vegas-based team as it was its first, and last, chance to test the car after a substantial repair to the front clip- the front section of the frame- was required after a qualifying incident. In the first laps of the final practice/ qualifying session on Thursday evening, Bergmeister was on a flying lap when the car spun unexpectedly exiting the turn following the Dunlop Bridge. Contact with the retaining wall split the front clip forcing the Dale White-managed team to send the car for repairs at a body shop specializing in Porsches. The No. 90 was handed over to the shop at 1:30 AM on Friday morning and returned to the team at 5:30 PM that evening. The seven man crew immediately descended on the car and worked steadily into the night leaving the track at 2:30 AM. Overall, there was approximately 275 man hours invested in the repair of the car since Thursday. The team now is able to turn its attention to 24 hours at the Circuit de la Sarthe's 8.48-mile, 11-turn course.
The 73rd Annual 24 Heures du Mans will take the French Tri-Color- symbolizing the start of the event- at 4 pm today from the sixth position in the GT2 class. The Michael Petersen-owned team will be pursuing an unprecedented third-straight victory for a privately owned American team in the world-renown event. The 2005 12 Hours of Sebring and 2001 24 Hours At Daytona team took its first Le Mans victory in 2003 working in conjunction with Alex Job Racing (AJR). In 2004, now as a sole effort, Petersen and White came with Bergmeister and Long- as well as Sascha Maassen (Raeren, Belgium) - and won both the GT (now GT2) pole position and race victory.
Jorg Bergmeister, driver:
about the warm-up: "I just did one timed lap to see if everything is OK. Then we had a water leak and that is what the guys are trying to fix right now. And then, hopefully, we have had enough problems already in practice sessions so that we can have a clean race. The car should be alright. We will make a few adjustments but it should be OK for the race."
about his strategy for the start: "I have no idea; I've never started the race here. But I think it will be OK. It will be like the normal ALMS start. I'll definitely try and make-up some positions without being too aggressive because the race is so long. There is no hurry at the start."
The 24 Hours of Le Mans can be seen live on SPEED in the United States and on Eurosport in Europe. Check local listings for exact times. Full live audio coverage can be found at www.RadioLeMans.com. Live timing and scoring can be found at the official site of the event, www.LeMans.org.
More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Learn more about Porsche at www.Porsche.com.