FRESH FROM A ONE-TWO-THREE FINISH AT LE MANS, ALMS PORSCHE GT2 TEAMS RENEW FIGHT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP --In an historic showing at the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, the top three places were taken by American-based Porsche GT2 class competitors in...
FRESH FROM A ONE-TWO-THREE FINISH AT LE MANS, ALMS PORSCHE GT2 TEAMS RENEW FIGHT FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP
--In an historic showing at the recent 24 Hours of Le Mans, the top three places were taken by American-based Porsche GT2 class competitors in the 2005 American Le Mans Series. Now, only two weeks after the French classic, the teams must get back to the business of a GT2 class championships points fight as the series moves to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut for the two-hour, 45- minute New England Grand Prix (live TV on the Speed Channel on Monday, July 4, at 3:00 PM)--
LIME ROCK, Conn. - June 30 - In a series class dominated by one team over the past several years (Dick Barbour Racing in 2000, the BMW factory team in 2001, and Alex Job Racing in 2002 - 2004), the competitors in the American Le Mans Series find themselves in a dogfight for the championship as round #4 comes to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut for a Fourth of July race this Monday,
For the first three events, there have been three different winners, with defending champion Timo Bernhard and co-driver Romain Dumas having to come from behind at Mid-Ohio last month to notch their first win of the season in the #23 Alex Job Racing Hyatt Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The previous events were won by the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche of Patrick Long, Jorg Bergmeister with guest driver Lucas Luhr (12 Hours of Sebring), and the Panoz Esperante of Bill Auberlen/Robin Liddell (Road Atlanta).
By finishing second at Mid-Ohio and third and Road Atlanta to go with their Sebring win, Long and Bergmeister have a 19-point lead over Bernhard and Dumas - the difference being the Alex Job Racing's DNF at Sebring. Patrick Long, the only American driver current employed by Porsche as a factory driver, knows the points lead could disappear in one afternoon.
"We can't act like we have a 19-point lead as one mistake on our part and an Alex Job win and it's back to even," said Long, who finished second with Bergmeister and ALMS rival Bernhard at Le Mans. "This is the shortest track on the circuit, and there is no place to relax. It will be a long two hours and 45 minutes."
Bernhard, the defending American Le Mans Series GT2 champion and Dumas, who won four poles in four tries a year ago, have been pushing the rock uphill since their transaxle problems put them out of the opener at Sebing. Timo knows that it will be a contest until the end of the year.
"If we win again this week and Petersen finishes third, we only make up seven of the 19 points. If they finish second, we make up only four points. We must aim to win every event with no mistakes, and then capitalize on their mistakes to win the championship," said Bernhard.
Randy Pobst, originally from Ohio and now from Gainsville, Gerogia, and Ian Baas, from Nobelsville, IN, will be driving the other Alex Job Porsche. Pobst, an Alex Job team driver for many years, has re-joined the team with Baas, the defending U.S. Formula Ford 2000 champion. Baas is hoping to recover from his bad luck from Mid-Ohio, where he spun over a blind hill, and was hit by another car and put out of the race.
Two weeks ago at Le Mans, Alex Job Racing entered a Porsche GT3 RSR sponsored by BAM!, with factory drivers Mike Rockenfeller and Marc Lieb driving with American TV executive Leo Hindery, and the trio won the GT2 class over the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche. Third was the Flying Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek/Lonnie Pechnik/Seth Neiman.
"We had a great Le Mans experience, and we learned a lot both as individuals and as a team," said Paul Truess, one of the Flying Lizards' crew supervisors. "All three drivers really pulled their own weight during the long, humid event, and the car ran great. We were proud to finish on the podium - a reward that our crew really shares with the drivers and Porsche."
Flying Lizard Motorsports, based in Sonoma, CA, has entered two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, including the lead "Lizards'" entry with drivers Johannes van Overbeek, from San Francisco, and Jon Fogarty, from Petaluma, CA, sharing the racing duties. Fogarty and van Overbeek are looking to build on a third place finish at Sebring, which might have been even higher if they had not spun out early in the event, and then encountered brake problems. Seth Neiman and Lonnie Pechnik, driving the second team car, lead the Mid-Ohio event into the last hour of the race before falling back, while van Overbeek/Fogarty were heading for a second-place finish there when a deflating right-front tire and a communications problem with their pit resulted in a front-straight-away spin into the gravel, ending Fogarty's day with only 13 minutes remaining.
J3 Racing, from Buford, GA, had its best ALMS finish ever at Sebring, finishing second in GT2 with regular Tim Sugden, from Leeds, England, and guest driver Nic Jonsson, from Atlanta. Ironically, team owner and lead driver Justin Jackson, was sick the day before the race, and was not allowed to race in the J3 Racing Coca-Cola Porsche, although he was in the pits cheering the team on. The team's third-place finish at Mid-Ohio has put Sugden in third place in the point standings, just a point behind Bernhard and Dumas.
The BAM! Racing team, from Stuart, FL, fresh from its win at Le Mans with Alex Job Racing, has Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, who drove triple stints in the French heat, co-driving with defending Porsche Michelin Supercup champion and current SCCA Speed World Challenge contender Wolf Henzler in their Le Mans-winning Porsche. Rockenfeller, along with Martin Jensen and Tony Burgess, were running in the top three at Sebring when drive train problems sidelined their effort. Their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR is also be shod with Yokohama Tires, the company's first effort in ALMS GT2 in several years. At Le Mans, the team took the class lead in the sixth hour, and held off the Petersen/White Lightning challenge to win the event.
What to Watch and Listen
The American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio event will be televised live by the Speed Channel starting at 3:00 PM Eastern Daylight time on Monday, July 4 (a church across the street from the start-finish line precludes racing at Lime Rock on Sunday).