Petersen/ White Lightning to Challenge for First ALMS Title from Second on GT2 Grid MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 14, 2005 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing will approach the final hurdle for their first-ever team and driver American...
Petersen/ White Lightning to Challenge for First ALMS Title from Second on GT2 Grid
MONTEREY, Calif., Oct. 14, 2005 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing will approach the final hurdle for their first-ever team and driver American Le Mans Series (ALMS) championships from second on the GT2 class grid. In the closing stages of the Grand Touring (GT) class qualifying session, Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) turned a strong lap of one minute, 25.536 seconds to earn second for tomorrow's Monterey Sports Car Championships. Long's lap of the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca facility jumped the No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR from sixth on the provisional grid to second. The time of was just .130 seconds behind championship rival Alex Job Racing (AJR) who won the pole position as the two Porsche teams enter the tenth and final race of the ALMS season. The front-row mimics the season-long battle with Long and Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) behind the wheel of the No. 31 Porsche and the No. 23 AJR Porsche; a battle which will conclude tomorrow evening in the Northern California darkness. The Michael Petersen-owned team has maintained the point lead throughout most the season but came under heavy attack during the middle stages of the year before going on a three-race win streak that the Dale White-managed team hopes to stretch to four-straight this weekend.
Long turned his quick lap following an extended red flag that left only ten minutes to set the 28 car grid for tomorrow's four hour endurance race. It marked the ninth time in ten ALMS races this season that the combination has started from the front row. It is the sixth time the No. 31 has qualified in second-place on the GT2 grid this year. They sat on the pole position twice; the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in March and at Lime Rock Park in July. They started third at the most recent race at Petit Le Mans marking their only trip off the front row in '05. Under the watchful eye of crew chief/ engineer Stefan Pfeiffer(Croatia) and lead technician Dennis Chizma (Spokane, Wash.), the operation has won four events in 2005-- Sebring, Road America, Mosport and Petit Le Mans. They have earned podium finishes in eight of the nine races run thus far and taken eight IMSA Cups awarded to the highest finishing privately-owned team.
With 23 points available, Bergmeister and Long currently hold a 22 point lead in the driver championship. They must complete two hours and 38 minutes of the four hour daylight to night race to win the 2005 ALMS driver title-- the first for both. The team holds a six point lead in the entrant chase. Several scenarios allow for the team to win or finish second for that title. With that in mind, the team will continue to fight for the race win. They have already clinched the 2005 IMSA Cup Championship for privately entered GT2 cars.
The Monterey Sports Car Championships on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca can be seen on SPEED, Sunday, Oct. 16 beginning at 1 PM (EDT). Live timing and scoring for all sessions can be viewed at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
Stefan Pfeiffer, crew chief/ engineer: "The drivers are very happy with the car. It is getting faster from the start to the finish of the runs and that is what we wanted. We want a strong racecar and all the changes we have made this weekend have been to give us that. The whole team is working very well together, very smooth."
Patrick Long, driver:
(about the qualifying run): "It was a good result. We were going towards a consistent racecar. There's a lot of sand and debris out on the race track so the key is going to be keeping a car that handles and keeps the tire happy. We're pretty happy with how the lap came through at the end. It was pretty much go out there and go for broke. It was going to be either a really good lap or a really bad lap and, fortunately, it was a really good lap. In dramatic fashion we ended up in P2 (position two), very close to the pole. To be upfront is the key here."
(about the race strategy): "The same outlook we had going into this weekend continues through and that is to push for wins. We're only out here to do that. Obviously, being smart with traffic but too much caution during a race can turn against you. The track conditions are going to be very tough as the race goes on. Jorg and I have always kept the outlook that there is no need to take unnecessary risks in endurance racing and, if all that sticks to plan, and the racing gods are with us, we look forward to celebrating after the race."
More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Learn more about Porsche at www.Porsche.com.