Detroit: Flying Lizard race report

Flying Lizard No. 44 2nd in GT2 at Detroit; No. 45 Retired after Accident September 1, 2007 -- Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan -- The Flying Lizard Motorsport's No. 44 Porsche of Darren Law and Patrick Long finished second in GT2 today at the...

Flying Lizard No. 44 2nd in GT2 at Detroit; No. 45 Retired after Accident

September 1, 2007 -- Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan -- The Flying Lizard Motorsport's No. 44 Porsche of Darren Law and Patrick Long finished second in GT2 today at the Grand Prix of Detroit in its second podium finish of the year. After a strong and virtually trouble-free run, the No. 44's result proved to be the silver lining in what was a difficult weekend for the team's championship effort. The street course definitely had it in today for Johannes van Overbeek and Joerg Bergmeister and the Lizard's No. 45 Porsche. Heading into the race, the duo was just 16 points from first for the ALMS drivers' championship, second to the No. 62 Ferrari's Mika Salo and Jaimie Melo. Unfortunately, ninety minutes into today's race, that gap widened to 36 points, when the No. 45 was retired after an accident on track. The accident significantly damaged the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and resulted in a spectacular on-track car fire and lengthy full-course yellow. van Overbeek, who was driving at the time, was able to pull off course when he saw smoke and flames, exited the car quickly and was not injured.

After a rocky start in the first practice session on Friday in which both Lizard Porsches were significantly damaged in separate incidents, the Lizards knew to expect a rough race. However, things started out well with Darren Law in the No. 44 fourth on the grid and Johannes van Overbeek sixth. After making it through a chaotic first lap, Darren was able to move to fourth, and Johannes to fifth. The two Lizard Porsches ran nose to tail for the first 20 minutes of the 2 hour and 45 minute race, chasing the three Ferraris: the No. 62 in the lead, the No. 61 Risi Ferrari in second and the No. 31 Petersen White Lightning Ferrari in third. At the 20-minute mark, Johannes passed Darren to move into fourth position.

25 minutes into the race, the No. 61 attempted to pass the No. 31 Ferrari (which had overtaken him earlier) and they collided on course -- sending the No. 61 into the wall and the No. 31 off course, causing a yellow flag. As a result, the No. 45 moved into P 2 and the No. 44 into P3, with the No. 62 in the lead with a large gap. All three cars pitted under the ensuing yellow for tires and fuel. With fast pit stops on the No. 45 and the No. 44, both Lizard cars were able to close the gap with the leader No. 62. The No. 31 was in fourth position -- just six seconds behind the No. 44. As a result of the multiple cautions and attrition in the GT2 field, the four leading GT2 cars were all on the same lap, but the entire rest of the GT2 field was one lap back or more. Over the next 40 minutes, all four GT2 cars -- the No. 62, No. 45, No. 44 and No. 31 -- maintained their positions, with the No. 62 gradually building a wider gap from the rest.

At the ninety-minute mark, things began to go seriously wrong for the Lizards. The No. 45 collided with the No. 71 Tafel Porsche on track, causing significant damage to both cars. A double yellow was called as the cars made their way around the track. The No. 45 caught fire on the track on its way back to the pits, as the result of the earlier accident. Johannes was able to pull off course and quickly exited the car and was not injured. The rear of the car was engulfed in flames and dense black smoke. The safety crews were able to extinguish the fire quickly, but the car sustained significant damage and is not repairable.

Darren, in the No. 44, then pitted under yellow, but was directed back out by the crew without tires and fuel (after stopping in his pit stall and turning off his engine) in order to maintain his position under the caution and benefit from the safety car wave-by. Unfortunately, he was assessed a penalty for exceeding the pit lane speed limit. The No. 44 crew then called Darren -- who was now in P2 behind the No. 62 Ferrari -- into the pits under the caution for driver change to Patrick Long, tires and fuel. Patrick exited the pits under yellow and immediately pitted again (still under yellow) to serve the stop and go penalty for the earlier pit lane speed infraction.

The No. 44 was able to retain its second place position through yet another yellow flag with just 30 minutes to go. At green flag, the No. 44 was just 2.5 seconds behind the No. 62 Ferrari. The No. 31 had also gained a lap back under yellow and, now in third, was just four seconds behind Patrick. The No. 61 Ferrari, now in fourth place, was still one lap down. It was shaping up to be a battle between the No. 62, the No. 44 and the No. 31 when the No. 31 got a stop and go penalty for an on-track incident with the No. 73 Tafel car, putting the No. 31 effectively out of contention for the lead.

With just 20 minutes to go, Long pushed the No. 44 to the limit, keeping pressure on the No. 62 Ferrari until the tire performance began to fall off. He crossed the finish line second in GT2. The No. 31 Ferrari was third.

Long commented, "The second podium for the No. 44 with Darren and the Lizards this year! I'm elated about that result. The battle that I had with the No. 62 car was one of the most exciting all season for me. I wish I'd been able to throw the nose inside to pass. I was able to keep the pressure on him and force him into a few small errors and I hoped that one of those was going to be able to let me get by him but he was able to string several laps together with created a large gap and broke away. I just wish it would have been a 44 and 45 dual podium."

van Overbeek added, "We struggled all weekend with the setup but by raceday we had a fast and consistent car. Race start was great: we quickly went from sixth place to second. We were the fastest Porsche in GT2 while we were on track and on average not that far off of the pace of the lead Ferrari. It all went wrong when I caught a lapped car and unfortunately made contact as I passed, which started the whole chain of events. It was a very frustrating and unbelievable setback. Once again, the crew did everything right today but we don't have the result we had hoped for."

Team principal Seth Neiman commented, "A strong run for the 44 today -- congrats to the team on a well deserved second place. Great work by the engineer, crew and drivers. Unfortunately, it was a very difficult race weekend for the No. 45. Thankfully everyone is OK."

Reflecting on last week's race at Mosport, in which the No. 45 was assessed a lengthy penalty for passing the leader under yellow (see the Mosport results release), Neiman continued, "I probably shouldn't be surprised about today given the disturbing start to the weekend. Although it pales in comparison to the fire, the issues from Mosport were heavily on our minds. After acknowledging the excessive penalty given the No. 45 car for passing under yellow at Mosport, the stewards strangely elected to do nothing to correct it. Even stranger is the rationale given -- that they didn't wish to guess at what the results would have been after the fact. Their reasoning was the exact opposite when they took the victory from us at Infineon in 2004. I have instructed the team for years to accept these decisions and keep racing hard -- but it is tough to avoid feeling that things are not as consistent this season as they could be. We'll continue to fight the Ferraris with everything we've got, but this decision -- and of course the retirement -- are serious blows in what has clearly been an uphill battle for us."

-credit: flm

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Mika Salo , Darren Law , Patrick Long , Johannes van Overbeek , Seth Neiman