Mid-Ohio: Race report

PENSKE, PORSCHES FINISH 1-2 AT MID-OHIO Lexington, Ohio - The Captain's cars have made American Le Mans Series history. Penske Racing's two Porsche RS Spyders finished 1-2 overall in the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, becoming the first LMP2...

PENSKE, PORSCHES FINISH 1-2 AT MID-OHIO

Lexington, Ohio - The Captain's cars have made American Le Mans Series history. Penske Racing's two Porsche RS Spyders finished 1-2 overall in the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, becoming the first LMP2 class team to post such a result in the Series.

Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard captured their first overall Series race in the No. 7 Penske Porsche, coming from the back of the field for a monumental class and overall victory. Dumas went across the finish line by 0.424 seconds ahead of Lucas Luhr in the No. 6 sister car.

"As we came in to this weekend, we were most concerned about reliability from the last two weekends," team owner Roger Penske said. "I think this broke the ice, running against the Audis and the Dysons. You'll notice we've been real lucky with the four drivers we have; not one of them have made a mistake. Now we can say we've arrived and let's go racing."

The two Porsche RS Spyders showed their true potential as they were the only cars to lap in the 1:13-1:14 range. This was the first overall win for Porsche in the American Le Mans Series. The No. 7 Porsche is only the second LMP2/P675 car to win an overall race in the Series.

"When I had dinner last night with Timo, we decided the No. 1 target was clear: to win in the LMP2 class, just like in the first couple of races," Dumas said. "We figured we'd have to finish the race the best way we can. Then when I saw Timo had such a great start, I thought, 'Oh, now we have a chance.' Then with a good strategy of coming in a little bit earlier than we needed, and then with luck and the competition with our teammate, we got to finish first. It was for sure a great race between the team cars."

The deciding move came with an hour left. After Luhr pitted for tires and fuel at the 1:40 mark, Dumas came in for a fuel-only stop about 10 minutes later. Dumas felt the tires would be fine the rest of the way, and he was proven right. Needless to say, the mood from 24 hours earlier was completely opposite.

"Last night when I heard I had to move back because I was too light, I was disappointed," Bernhard said. "It was the perfect car. Then it became a matter of how we could get around the other competitors."

Intersport Racing's Lola B05/40-AER finished third in class and fourth overall at its home race. As a result, Clint Field and Liz Halliday retained 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.

Dyson's Butch Leitzinger and James Weaver finished fifth overall and second in P1, followed by Autocon Motorsports' Lola EX257-AER and drivers Chris McMurry and Mike Lewis.

Capello and McNish are now off to the 24 Hours of Le Mans and a return to the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI that won at Sebring in March. Meanwhile the R8 has one more race left in its competitive life, that coming July 1 at Lime Rock Park.

"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."

History wasn't limited to the P2 class. 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.

Beretta and Gavin moved past Karl Wendlinger, who won seven times between 1999 and 2000. Ironically, he teamed with Beretta in an ORECA Viper for several of those events.

"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 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 won in class for the second time in three years at Mid-Ohio in its Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Johannes van Overbeek and Wolf Henzler came back to win after an early off to beat the No. 50 Panoz Esperante GTLM of David Brabham and Scott Maxwell.

"I was almost next to him when I turned into his turn and drove a little on the curb and then on the grass," Henzler said. "Then he drove on the grass and shut the door on me. I thought the race was over, but I had a couple of good laps and came back behind him."

The Panoz finished second, a lap back. The other Flying Lizard Porsche, the No. 44 of Seth Neiman and Darren Law, was third. Henzler and van Overbeek were running second when the pole-winning car of Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister came into the pits while leading with a broken driveshaft.

Van Overbeek added to his lead in the class' drivers 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 offseason 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.

"This year in every department we are trying to maximize performance, from mechanics to tire performance, to be the best we can be," he added. "We're not there yet, but we are making great strides."

The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the New England Grand Prix, set for July 1 at Lime Rock Park. The race is scheduled for a 3 p.m. EDT start. CBS Sports will televise the event from 4 to 6 p.m. EDT on July 2. Live coverage will be available at www.americanlemans.com with American Le Mans Radio and IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Allan McNish , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Karl Wendlinger , Darren Turner , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Lucas Luhr , Scott Maxwell , Oliver Gavin , Darren Law , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Johannes van Overbeek , Clint Field , Chris McMurry , Romain Dumas , Seth Neiman , Olivier Beretta , Liz Halliday , Wolf Henzler , Roger Penske , Dindo Capello
Teams Team Penske , Corvette Racing , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports