PORSCHE-ACURA BATTLE IN LMP2 AND PORSCHE-FERRARI RIVALRY IN GT2 BOTH IN FULL SWING AS THE AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES HEADS FOR THE STREETS OF HOUSTON HOUSTON, Texas - April 18, 2007 - As the American Le Mans Series travels to the Southwest for...
PORSCHE-ACURA BATTLE IN LMP2 AND PORSCHE-FERRARI RIVALRY IN GT2 BOTH IN FULL SWING AS THE AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES HEADS FOR THE STREETS OF HOUSTON
HOUSTON, Texas - April 18, 2007 - As the American Le Mans Series travels to the Southwest for round number four, the Lone Star Grand Prix of Houston this Saturday evening, Porsche teams involved in both the LMP2 and GT2 classes have tough challenges from worthy rivals on both the prototype and GT levels as the fight for the season championships is now in high gear.
In the LMP2 class, the Porsche RS Spyders have earned class wins and an overall win in the past two street races, but the rival Acura prototype earned the pole at Long Beach and won the opening ALMS round at Sebring. In GT2, the 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - new for this year - has finished second to the Ferrari in all three races so far, but Porsche trails the manufacturers chase by only 12 points (20 points awarded for a win) going into Houston. Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel would rather be way ahead in both categories, but points out the close competition is good for the classes and good for the series.
"We would like to be far ahead in the points - especially in the GT2 class - but the fans come to the races to see good racing, and Porsche customers teams have provided just that during the first three events. Patrick Long and Darren Law were less than five seconds short of winning Long Beach in their Flying Lizard Porsche, while Jorg Bergmeister in the Lizard team Porsche lost to the Ferrari by two-thousandths of a second at Sebring. Our overall win by the Penske Porsche RS Spyder at Long Beach was exciting, but the Acura provided stiff competition by taking the pole and turning the fastest race lap," said Brettel.
Brettel also pointed out that, with the street course in Houston being repaved for this year's event, and the race being run in April instead of July, the heat and roughness of the course which plagued teams a year ago should not be a factor this year. In 2006, both Penske Porsche RS Spyders did not finish the Houston event due to transmission problems traced to the beating the cars took from the bumpy track surface.
For Porsche, the Long Beach overall victory by Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard in the LMP2 class Penske Porsche RS Spyder was its second one-two overall finish in the American Le Mans Series (the same Dumas/Bernhard combination accomplished the feat at Mid-Ohio last year), and it was the first time any manufacturer has swept the overall podium in ALMS.
In the LMP2 driver points, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard - with their win in the number seven Penske Porsche RS Spyder at Long Beach and second-place at St. Petersburg - lead the LMP2 class with 55 points, while Sascha Maassen and Ryan Briscoe, with their win at St. Petersburg and a second at Long Beach in the number six team RS Spyder, have 45 points. Maassen and Briscoe trail their teammates due to their eighth-place finish at Sebring resulting from long pit stops for mechanical issues.
Tied for fifth place in the drivers points after its first podium finish of the year at Long Beach are the Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder drivers Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger, who were also poised for a podium finish two weeks before at St. Petersburg when a suspension bolt broke with 20 minutes remaining in the event. Wallace and Leitzinger will drive the number 16 Porsche at Houston, while teammates Chris Dyson and Guy Smith will pilot the number 20 Dyson Racing Porsche.
In GT2, the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR team cars have finished second to the winning Ferrari at all three events so far this season, with the Jorg Bergmeister/Johannes van Overbeek number 45 racer second at Sebring and St. Petersburg, and the number 44 team car of Patrick Long and Darren Law second last weekend in Long Beach. Both cars will be seeking their first win of the season at Houston, with team principal Seth Neiman replacing Long in the 44 Porsche.
The number 71 Tafel Racing Porsche of Robin Liddell/Wolf Henzler, which has lead during parts of all three races, hopes to improve on its fourth-place Long Beach finish, while the team number 73 Porsche of Jim Tafel and Dominik Farnbacher also hope to better their eighth place finish at Long Beach.
The number 18 Rahal Letterman Racing Porsche, with Ralf Kelleners and Tom Milner, Jr. at the wheel, has had bad luck in the first few laps of both Sebring and Long Beach, and was headed for a second-place finish in class in St. Petersburg when the car crashed with just nine minutes left in the event. As a new team this year, Rahal Letterman is just beginning to feel comfortable in the ALMS series, and is looking to Houston as their break-out event, as is the new Boston-based Team Trans Sport Racing entry of Tim Pappas and Terry Brocheller, which looks to improve on their seventh and eighth place finishes over the last two events.
The Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR family of race cars has won the American Le Mans Series GT/GT2 drivers and manufacturers class championship every year but one since the series inception in 1999. Last year was no exception, as Jorg Bergmeister won the championship, and with the aid of his co-driver Patrick Long and his Petersen/White Lightning Porsche GT3 RSR, helped Porsche win the manufacturers title.