Petersen/White Lightning shakedown Ferrari in Italy

Petersen/White Lightning Passes Major Milestone at Ferrari Test Track Two-Time Le Mans Class Champions Shakedown Ferrari F430 GT at Fiorano Circuit FIORANO, Italy, February 11, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing passed ...

Petersen/White Lightning Passes Major Milestone at Ferrari Test Track

Two-Time Le Mans Class Champions Shakedown Ferrari F430 GT at Fiorano Circuit

FIORANO, Italy, February 11, 2007 -- Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing passed another major milestone with the Ferrari F430 GT on Saturday, February 10, at the Fiorano Circuit in Italy. The official Ferrari test track played host to the two- time 24 Hours of Le Mans class victors, as well as officials of Ferrari Corse Clienti and Michelotto Automobili- the official GT competition car builder for Ferrari- as the team did its initial shakedown run of the American Le Mans Series GT2 class car. Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) piloted the machine that will be the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT for nearly 190 miles (300 km) on the 1.87 mile (3.02 km) Fiorano Circuit in damp and overcast conditions. Despite the weather, the Michael Petersen-owned team had a trouble-free run and gained valuable experience and knowledge of the V8-powered Ferrari. Petersen/White Lightning announced the change to the F430 GT on December 20, 2006 and drivers Bergmeister and Tomas Enge (of the Czech Republic now living in Monaco) on January 12.

The pristine, white F430 GT awaited the 2005 and 2006 American Le Mans Series GT2 Driver Championship-winning group this morning in the trackside garage at Fiorano. It was delivered to the facility by Michelotto after the renowned company built and prepared the car for today's test. Ferrari had reserved six hours of private testing here at Fiorano and, despite the wet conditions, the team took advantage of the laps to experience and experiment with the mid-engine, 1100 Kg (2,425 lbs) race car derived from the road-going Italian exotic.

Today's test was Bergmeister's first in a Ferrari and his first as a fulltime driver for the Nevada-based organization- he raced at Sebring last year for the team as a co-driver to his brother Jorg who won two consecutive driver championships for Petersen/White Lightning. He turned the bulk of the laps in the car working closely with team engineer Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany), Michelotto principal Cristiano Michelotto and Ferrari Corse Clienti technical director for the F430 GT program, Maurizio Nardon. The changing weather allowed Bergmeister and Funke to experience a wide mixture of track conditions ranging from full wet to nearly dry. While optimum setups were not sought-after, the challenging environment allowed the team a taste of what is possible with the car's handling in a variety of circumstances.

Ferrari test driver Maurizio Mediani (Reggio Emilia, Italy) also had seat time in the Michelin Tire-shod car. Mediani did much of the initial development of the F430 GT for Ferrari and Michelotto in recent years and ran three American Le Mans Series GT2 races last year in the car.

The Petersen/White Lightning machine now returns to Michelotto in Padova, Italy where Crew Chief Dennis Chizma (Las Vegas, Nev.) and No. 31 Lead Technician Nico Castellaccio (Tracy, Calif.) will learn the car before it is shipped back to Nevada. Once at the team's shop, Petersen/White Lightning technicians will do a complete tear-down of the car and rebuild it. They will also put the finishing touches on the Ferrari including endurance racing secrets unique to Petersen/White Lightning learned from decades of competition not only in sports car racing but also in off-road competition. Petersen and White won three consecutive Baja 1000s overall in the '90s and completed the Dakar rally this year in their first attempt at the world's most daunting motorsports event. Sports car class wins include not only the Le Mans class victories ('03 and '04), and American Le Mans Series championships but the 12 Hours of Sebring ('05), Petit Le Mans ('05, '06) and 24 At Daytona ('01) among others.

Before leaving for Sebring, the last details will transform the car from its present white base to the familiar neon yellow and red lightning bolt livery that has become one of the most popular paint schemes in international sports car racing.

The North American debut of the Dale White- managed team's Ferrari F430 GT will come at the American Le Mans Series season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17. Prior to the 12 Hour, Bergmeister, Enge and Sebring reserve driver Memo Gidley (Novato, Calif.) will begin an intensive testing program at Sebring International Raceway on March 9.

Quotes:

Michael Petersen, Owner: "This is a major weekend for myself and the team. It was very exciting for Dale and me when we ordered the Ferrari. Now, for me, it all feels that much more real. There are so many cool things we have experienced in our careers but to actually take delivery of the car and to have our first laps with it at Fiorano is right up there. It has been such an exciting couple of months on both a personal and professional level for Dale and I it is pretty hard to imagine what could come next. However, there are some major things we haven't even made public yet. We are all looking forward to the next couple of weeks and getting to Sebring to put this Ferrari up against our competition in the GT2 class."

Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "For Mike and I, and the whole Petersen/White Lightning team, this is a major moment. It is the first real, hands-on experience our team has had with the Ferrari and it is very exciting. Frank and Tim were both very pleased with how the test went and I believe Michelotto and Ferrari were as well. The car will spend a few more days in Italy before being shipped to the States where we will begin the pre- Sebring prep work. This was a very good and important first step."

Tim Bergmeister, Driver: "The car was running without any problems and we did around 300 kilometers. It needs a different driving style than I have had in the past but I had a good chance to adapt myself to the car in wet and nearly dry conditions. I was not pushing too much but it is different to drive than the Porsche in the rain. Fiorano is a nice facility with the garage next to the track. It is not a very fast track [in top speed] but there is a bit of everything; first, second, third and fourth gear corners. It is a very good track to learn the car because of the different types of turns. From what we experienced today, I am very optimistic for the season."

-credit: pm/wlr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Tomas Enge , Memo Gidley , Michael Petersen , Maurizio Mediani , Tim Bergmeister