STEADY COURSE HAS PUT GT2 TITLES IN REACH FOR PETERSEN/WHITE LIGHTNING Braselton, Ga. - Asked to point out one thing that has put the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing team on the cusp of a class championship, Patrick Long instead...
STEADY COURSE HAS PUT GT2 TITLES IN REACH FOR PETERSEN/WHITE LIGHTNING
Braselton, Ga. - Asked to point out one thing that has put the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing team on the cusp of a class championship, Patrick Long instead gave four.
"Probably persistence, preparation and just that never-say-die attitude combined with a family atmosphere," said Porsche's only American factory driver. "Everyone wins together and everyone loses together. That gel we've created has allowed us to succeed."
To be more specific, succeed to the tune of three wins, eight podiums and a 22-point lead for Long and teammate Jorg Bergmeister in the American Le Mans Series' GT2 drivers championship standings over Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche. In order to clinch the first drivers title for both, the No. 31 Porsche needs only to complete 70 percent of the season-ending Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Oct. 15.
The performance of the Petersen group has been almost as level as a tabletop. Even aside from the final race results, other numbers are impressive. The Petersen/White Lightning Porsche has started every race but one in the class' top three, including starting first at Sebring and Lime Rock. The lone exception was Mid-Ohio, where the car qualified second but was sent to the back of the field due to a technical infraction.
Long and Bergmeister also have completed 98.97 percent of all class laps, best in GT2. So the bottom line is that the car is fast and stays out of trouble. That was especially true at the ALMS' two longest races of the year: Petit Le Mans and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, both Petersen/White Lightning wins.
"All year, what it came down to was that we were able to run a leader's pace but also protect the race car," Long said. "(At Petit) the race car came back without a scratch on it, and (Bernhard and Dumas) had a couple of big hits. That's been the biggest issue in the longer races."
Long and Bergmeister used their speed and consistency to lead the points battle from Sebring through Portland, when they finished a disappointing eighth with tire problems. After watching Bernhard and Dumas win there for their fourth straight win, the Petersen/White Lightning pair reeled off three straight wins of their own to take a commanding lead to Monterey.
"The championship is still open but it looks really good now for us," Bergmeister said. "The goal for Laguna will be to win the driver and the team championship. But therefore, we will have to keep doing what we have done the last three races."
Then the championship race will shift to the GT2 team title, which sees Petersen/White Lightning ahead of AJR by 6 points. A win next weekend by the Las Vegas-based privateer team would snap a three-year reign in class by Alex Job Racing and this year's factory-backed effort of Bernhard and Dumas, along with the No. 24 privateer entry.
Such a storyline - having independent teams matching up and competing with factory teams - is what sets Porsche apart from other manufacturers in the ALMS, Long said.
"What I see in that huge story is Porsche's ability to produce a customer program that is tops among any in the sport," he said. "We buy a car from Porsche and receive at-track support. You get the same shot at it with Porsche. That's something they've been able to capitalize on unlike anyone else in the sport. You don't have to have a huge engineering staff, dyno and wind tunnel. You can buy something that is ready and race-proven and run the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Sebring.
"This is a huge point that a lot of teams have wondered about," Long added. "Can a customer team compete against the factory? In Porsche's case, I think it has been proven, regardless of the outcome, that this is a level playing field. That's what makes this, I think, the toughest class in sports car racing."
The final round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series is the Monterey Sports Car Championships on Oct. 15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. The race is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. PDT Oct. 15, with SPEED TV broadcasting the race from 3 to 7 p.m. EDT Oct. 16. Qualifying scheduled for 2:10 p.m. PDT. Oct. 14. American Le Mans Radio, and IMSA Live Timing and Scoring, will be available at www.americanlemans.com.