Mid-Ohio: Petersen/White Lightning Racing race report

Petersen/White Lightning Finishes Seventh in Mid-Ohio ALMS Event Dominating Performance Turns Sour as Driveshaft Snaps LEXINGTON, Ohio, May 21, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing dominated the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio...

Petersen/White Lightning Finishes Seventh in Mid-Ohio ALMS Event

Dominating Performance Turns Sour as Driveshaft Snaps

LEXINGTON, Ohio, May 21, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing dominated the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio American Le Mans Series (ALMS) GT2 weekend until one hour and 50 minutes into the race. The No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR topped the speed charts in every session this weekend except for this morning's rain soaked warm-up session until that point in the two hour and 45 minute event. Then, it all came to a painful stop as the left rear driveshaft twisted and snapped cresting the hill at the eighth corner of the 13-turn course. Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) was behind the wheel and leading by over 15 seconds when drive from the Porsche flat-six 3.8-liter engine ceased to reach the rear wheels. Despite a spectacularly-quick pit stop to make repairs, the Michael Petersen-owned team would finish seventh in GT2 class, 19th overall, 18 laps down to the leader. Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) led from the pole position and set the race's fastest lap (1:22.720 versus his pole-winning time of 1:22.638) of the race driving the Dale White-managed car before turning the wheel over to Bergmeister.

Bergmeister was leading and pulling away when he reported that power was no longer reaching the left rear wheel. He pitted immediately and the 2005 ALMS GT2 Championship-winning team set to work finishing a complete driveshaft change in just over 28 minutes, 30-seconds. Making the stop even more impressive is that typically the component is never changed in such a fashion. It is standard to remove the transmission to swap an old driveshaft for new. However, without the option of taking an hour to make the change, the Dennis Chizma-led crew worked within the hot, narrow confines of the rear suspension and transmission to replace the shaft and boots. Once back on track, Bergmeister was able to pick up where he left off turning devastatingly quick lap times including a 1:22.922 circuit as his fastest for the day- a lap turned on full fuel tanks and high mileage Michelin Pilot racing slicks.

The American Le Mans Series will now take a hiatus during the month of June while many of the teams, including two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winning Petersen/ White Lightning, travel to France for the 24 Hours on June 17-18. The Las Vegas-based team will return to round four of the ten race ALMS season at Lime Rock Park on July 1.

Mike Petersen, Owner: "We have nothing to hang our heads about. We had everyone covered here this weekend. It is frustrating as we really thought we had our luck changed today. But, we'll have to wait until Lime Rock."

Dale White, Team Manager: "Most importantly, I am really proud of our guys. They really worked hard out there. You just don't make a driveshaft change like that on pit lane. I don't think anyone else would have ever tried that. Even if they did, I don't think they could do it in less than 30 minutes. Normally we change the driveshaft when the transmission is out because it just doesn't fit because the snub axle goes all the way through the hub. They had to pull the suspension completely out, put the driveshaft in, reach all the way in because the inner axle flange is clear on the inside of the car against the transmission. It is very difficult to do it in the pit lane. To change that in pit lane is amazing. The guys just kept working. They never gave up."

Jorg Bergmeister, Driver: "It's really disappointing. We were the quickest; I'd even say by far. When I got in the car I just controlled the field and got a gap of 18 seconds quickly. When we got back out again on full tanks, the car was good with used tires. I was quite a bit quicker than anyone else again. Tough luck." About when the driveshaft broke: "Over the rise going to turn eight the driveshaft just broke. I had no warning. I was at least able to get back into the pits. If it had happened a little earlier and we would have had to go uphill, we probably wouldn't have made it. It is really disappointing."

Patrick Long, Driver: "That was the way the racing cards were dealt today. But, you can't help but be excited about how dominant the car was all week. It was strong in practice, strong in qualifying. Any question marks were answered quickly in the race about how dominate the setup, the team and Jorg and I working together were this weekend. Just sort of a bummer. All we can do is try and keep this pace up for the next race and push on from there."

-www.PetersenMotorsports.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long