LIZARDS BANKING ON LE MANS EXPERIENCE Even after two straight starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, its aura has had a lasting impact on Flying Lizard Motorsports. No longer is the team considered a Le Mans newcomer with a fourth-place showing in...
LIZARDS BANKING ON LE MANS EXPERIENCE
Even after two straight starts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, its aura has had a lasting impact on Flying Lizard Motorsports. No longer is the team considered a Le Mans newcomer with a fourth-place showing in 2006 and a third-place podium result in its first outing at La Sarthe in 2005. Expectations this year are much higher.
Still, there's something about Le Mans that brings out the aspirations of every driver, team and manufacturer that dreams of competing in the famed event.
"It's the premier endurance event in the world," said Johannes van Overbeek, who will team with Jörg Bergmeister and Seth Neiman in the team's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR as part of a stellar GT2 field at the 24 Hours. "If you're making a living in sports car racing, it's at the top of the list. We finished on the podium our first year which is great but I can't imagine how it must feel to win it."
He can ask Bergmeister, who won with Petersen/White Lightning in 2004. The Porsche factory driver joined the Lizards' roster at the start of the season, and he and van Overbeek have represented Porsche's strongest challenge to Ferrari and its F430 GT in the American Le Mans Series so far. The duo have finished second four times in GT2 during the first five rounds of the Series with the new 997 version of Porsche's famed GT2 racer.
Right out of the box, the Porsche showed tremendous potential for endurance events like Le Mans with a runner-up finish at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Bergmeister finished 0.202 seconds behind Risi Competizione's Jaime Melo in the closest finish in the race's 55-year history.
"The reliability is good on the RSR," Bergmeister said. "We haven't had any issues so far. The last couple of years we always have had an advantage on straight-line speed. This is not the case now. But our car can handle quicker in the corners we think than the Ferrari. It won't be easy. What you need in a 24-hour race is luck."
The Lizards certainly will be well-prepared. Each of the three drivers are confident that the battles they have fought against other Porsches, Ferraris and Panoz Esperantes in the Series will pay dividends at Le Mans.
"If you look at the class results and who has won in the last few years, it's been largely dominated by American teams," van Overbeek said. "Whether you look at qualifying, race pace or pit stops, the teams that compete in the Series and compete at Le Mans are always at the head of the grid. There's nothing like competition to improve your game."
The 75th running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans is scheduled for 3 p.m. CET (9 a.m. ET) on Saturday, June 16 from the Circuit de la Sarthe. SPEED will provide 17.5 hours of coverage in North America starting at 8:30 a.m. ET on June 16. MotorsTV will air week-long coverage throughout Europe. Live coverage can be found on Radio Le Mans through americanlemans.com.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. CBS Sports will televise the race at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.