PENSKE PORSCHES WIN HISTORIC MID-OHIO OPENER Lexington, Ohio (May 21, 2006) - The ...
PENSKE PORSCHES WIN HISTORIC MID-OHIO OPENER
Lexington, Ohio (May 21, 2006) - The #7 Penske Porsche RS Spyder, forced to the rear of the grid after pole-setting qualifying times because of a vehicle weight violation, used spectacular driving at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by German Timo Bernhard and Frenchman Romain Dumas to score Porsche's first overall win in the American Le Mans Series since its inception in 1999.
The Bernhard/Dumas Porsche also won the LMP2 class, its first class win of the season. The team #6 RS Spyder of Sascha Maassen and Lucas Luhr, which led the race from the green flag until the one hour mark, finished second overall and second in LMP2 - the first time that LMP2 cars have finished one-two overall in the history of the series.
After offsetting pit stop strategies between the two Porsche RS Spyders, Dumas and Luhr were dicing for first place, with Dumas holding on for the win with a half-second victory.
For Timo Bernhard, the victory was particularly sweet because of the run he had to make from the back of the pack after yesterday's disappointing disqualification.
"The track was still slippery from the morning rain and lack of rubber on the new surface, so I had to be careful as I started to pass the slower GT2 and GT1 cars, but the track dried quickly and I was in fourth place in less than three laps," said Bernhard, who was the ALMS GT Champion in 2004 in the Alex Job Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
"I had a good battle with Lucas in the last half of the race, but I thought our car was set for victory after Lucas' pit stop, only to find him on my tail again after the late yellow flag. Fortunately, our car was working so well that we were able to take home the win," said Dumas.
For team owner Roger Penske, this was a special win as it brought together the efforts of the crew, the drivers, and the engineers after more than a year of development.
"Even in Indy car racing, we have always liked endurance events because they require strategy, smart driving, and crew involvement to gain victory. We knew this car was capable, but needed a good win to show that it met the reliability standards that Porsche sets for all its race cars," said Penske, who earned his 13th career team win at Mid-Ohio including Can-Am, Trans-Am, and CART events.
For Maassen and Luhr, who started the race on the pole, and led overall for the first hour, it was a good win for the team, but they would have rather won than finished second.
"The first yellow flag really opened the door for our team drivers as Sascha had built an 18-second lead which disappeared under yellow. Romain and I had a good competition, but when I was called into the pits for tires and fuel, our car fell behind. I caught up again under the late yellow, but did not pass. I am glad for the team, but Sascha and I don't like to finish second," said Luhr.
Between Maassen/Luhr and Bernhard/Dumas, the Porsche RS Spyder led every one of the race's 119 laps. For Porsche, Mid-Ohio is also a special place, as it won its only Indy car race here (Teo Fabi in 1989).
Columbus-based Intersport Racing's Lola B05/40-AER finished third in class and fourth overall at its home track. As a result, Clint Field and Liz Halliday retain their lead in the P2 championship standings over Maassen and Luhr.
The Audi R8 finished third overall and claimed its third straight LMP1 class victory. Dindo Capello and Allan McNish again drove a smooth and steady afternoon as they outlasted Dyson Racing's No 16 Lola, which went off track at Turn 3 near the two-hour mark and lost time in the pits during the resulting stop.
"It is a great result for us -- another maximum points score to extend our championship lead," Capello said. "It was a struggle to get temperature into the tires; once we had some heat it was OK. But after each full-course yellow safety car period it took about five laps to get good grip."
Despite the class win and the 20 championship points, both drivers were disappointed not to take the overall victory. McNish said the Mid-Ohio track suited the RS Spyders with their lighter weight and nimbleness.
"We saw on Friday and Saturday that it wasn't going to be possible in our current situation to attack the RS Spyder around here," McNish said. "The weight difference is quite different. The start was a bit bizarre. Within 6 or 7 laps the Porsche had a good gap. I had Butch right behind me and from that point of view I was more in defense mode. We were struggling with grip and balance."
Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin won for the eighth straight time in the Series, back to Portland last year. Beretta and Gavin finished ahead of their Corvette Racing teammates Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell.
"It's luck, and we've had that for sure," Gavin said. "But it's also that the team has done a fantastic job. We just seem to be getting it right. I look back when we first started driving together, we did make some mistakes and things weren't working so well. We knew that if we put everything together we'd get it right."
Gavin also said the race may have been won in large part at the start. He moved past the pole-sitting Aston Martin DBR9 of Darren Turner at the green flag. The move paid off in the end despite a couple of late yellows that bunched the field together. But Beretta, who drove the last stint, held strong.
"It was a great race, and Oliver did a fantastic job," Beretta said. "The only problems were the yellows. It was difficult for us the first four laps or so after the yellows (to keep the tires warm). It was a great race, and Oliver did a fantastic job."
Turner and Tomas Enge finished third in GT1, beating out teammates Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin by a scant 0.338 seconds. The Corvettes and Aston Martins will meet next at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
In GT2, Flying Lizard Motorsports drivers Johannes Van Overbeek and Wolf Henzler won in class for the second time in three years at Mid-Ohio in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR beating the No. 50 Panoz Esperante GTLM of David Brabham and Scott Maxwell.
Van Overbeek added to his lead in the class' driver's championship standings, as did Flying Lizard in the team rankings. The team has two Series victories in its three-year existence, both coming at Mid-Ohio.
"The Flying Lizards worked so hard during the off season to get here," van Overbeek said. "The key for me was keeping it on the race track and bringing it home. The resurfacing job was fantastic, and the Michelins were great."