Alex Job Racing's Bernhard has Eyes on the Title Tavares, Florida -- Alex Job Racing driver Timo Bernhard has his eyes set on the American Le Mans Series GT driver's title going into the final race at Laguna Seca on October 16th. Bernhard's...
Alex Job Racing's Bernhard has Eyes on the Title
Tavares, Florida -- Alex Job Racing driver Timo Bernhard has his eyes set on the American Le Mans Series GT driver's title going into the final race at Laguna Seca on October 16th.
Bernhard's season got off to a great start. At Sebring the 23 year old German partnered with Jorg Bergmeister and Sascha Maassen to win the 12-hour race from their GT pole starting position. However, season long teammate Bergmeister became ill during the week in Florida and was unable to drive the required 25 lap minimum to qualify for points, excluding him from the possibility of becoming co-champion.
Bernhard explains the elevation in the competitiveness of the GT class in 2004. "I had never heard of the Flying Lizard team before, as they are new to the series. But they did a good job to keep us under pressure the whole year. I have been driving in the ALMS since 2002, but this year has been the most challenging and competitive year by far! Not only the Lizard Team, we have five Porsche teams which could win a race plus Ferrari and the Panoz keep getting stronger and stronger each race. The GT class is the best competition in the ALMS."
"In the long distance races everything has worked very well for us this year and there was more of a gap to the other teams," continued Bernhard. "At Sebring and Petit there were no technical or other problems like car damage for the whole race. That makes a difference and what makes an even bigger difference is the fact that we had a car that we could push for long distances. So I have to give a big "thanks" to AJR for preparing these great cars!"
Mid-Ohio witnessed the beginning of a tough two races for Bernhard. Despite qualifying on the pole, Bernhard and Bergmeister were able to overcome fuel pickup problems on their number 23/McKenna/mail2web.com/Xybernaut/Alex Job Racing/Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to finish in second place in a race they could have won. Going into round three at the newly scheduled Lime Rock Park, the 23 car qualified in third position. Early in the race, it looked like rain and the cars pitted for rain tires only to have it dry out less than ten laps later requiring an additional pit stop. This stop put the car down a lap to the GT class leader. Later into the race, on lap 102, with Bernhard at the wheel the rear half shaft broke. The resulting tenth place finish put Timo in second place in the points.
At Infineon Raceway controversy rained in the GT class. At race end Bernhard found himself in second place to the leading Flying Lizard car. During the race a yellow flag was flown on lap 22, putting the GT field one lap down to the eventual winner. This lap gain was made against the rules, which requires the car to be stopped in the pits and turned off before proceeding down pit road - no drive thrus. After the race Bernhard and Bergmeister were awarded the win by series officials.
The very next weekend in Portland, the tough luck for the 23 car returned. The tight layout of the track and especially the entry to the famed Festival Curves witnessed a lot of contact on the day. With Jorg Bergmeister at the wheel the 23 car suffered a hit from the rear resulting in a bent header pipe, robbing the car of valuable horsepower. This resulted in a fourth place finishing for the duo.
Mosport proved to be the turning point for the championship for Bernhard. Starting from their third place qualifying position, Bergmeister had moved into second place coming into the pit window. Nursing a vibrating rear-end, Jorg handed over to Timo, great pit work by the AJR crew put Bernhard in the lead where he began to gap the GT field by nearly a-half-second a lap to win. The next race at Road America went much the same way. After battling early with teammates Lieb and Dumas, the 23 car was able to go onto win the race in decisive fashion. This victory put Bernhard in the driver points lead by three points.
The eighth race on the schedule allowed the team to recover from a six race in ten week stretch to fine tune the Porsche RSRs, rest and do some prerace testing - the first time all season. Starting behind teammate and pole sitter Dumas, Bernhard began to pursue his teammate. An early yellow flag put the GT point's leader down a lap early. The team decided to bring in the Dumas driver AJR Porsche on lap 14 for fuel under yellow. Seven laps later when the shuffling was complete the 24 car was one lap up on second place Bernhard. On lap 75 Bernhard was able to unlap himself. He then turned the car over to Porsche stalwart Sascha Maassen and he put the car in the lead. The two AJR cars ran in lock-step for almost sixty-percent of the race with the Bernhard car winning out by less than a second securing a 15 point lead for Bernhard going into the last race at Laguna Seca.
Timo Bernhard currently leads the driver's points standings with 139. Alex Job Racing has already clinched the ALMS GT team championship.