Dirk Muller Named to Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari 2000 American Le Mans GT2 Champ Steps-In at Long Beach, Houston for Injured Enge LONG BEACH, Calif., April 7, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing announced...
Dirk Muller Named to Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari
2000 American Le Mans GT2 Champ Steps-In at Long Beach, Houston for Injured Enge
LONG BEACH, Calif., April 7, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing announced today that Dirk Muller (a native of Germany, living in Monaco) will fill-in for regular team driver Tomas Enge (a native Czech who also lives in Monaco) at the next two rounds of the American Le Mans Series. Muller, the 2000 GT2 (then known as GT) class champion, will co-drive the No.31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT at the April 14th Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Grand Prix of Houston on April 21st with Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany). Enge is recuperating from injuries sustained at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 31. Despite overwhelming obstacles, the Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) owned team plans on fielding a fully competitive car in the one hour and 40-minute American Le Mans debuted on the streets of Long Beach.
Muller, who raced three seasons in the American Le Mans Series from 1999-2001, has been competing in Europe since 2002. Most recently, he has found a home driving a Michelin-shod, Ferrari F430 GT in FIA GT competition winning the first round of the 2007 GT2 championship at Zhuhai. Muller has eight American Le Mans Series victories including the '99 Petit Le Mans and the 2000 12 Hours of Sebring in 27 starts driving GT cars. The native of Burbach, Germany is tied for fourth on the all-time list for fastest qualifiers with 13 Series pole positions. That distinction also ranks him as the leader in most career GT2 poles, winning at least one pole in each of his three years of competition in the Series to-date. Muller's string of eight-straight class pole positions- dating from Infineon Raceway in 1999 to Silverstone in 2000- is an American Le Mans Series record for any class.
Bergmeister and Muller will be sliding behind the wheel of an entirely new Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing-built Ferrari. Unlike the machine that was unloaded from the plane in February and used in the first two events of the year, the car that will grid at Long Beach will have appeared in its roughest of forms, nothing more than a painted tub. The Ferrari F430 GT tub will arrive from Michelotto in Italy on Sunday accompanied by a complement of parts. That, in addition to the pieces that the Dale White (Bozeman, MT) managed team has on hand and what can be salvaged from the St. Pete wreck, will be used to assemble a fully competitive car in just three days. The full crew will convene at the team's Pahrump, Nev. shop to begin a multi-day, 24 hour- a-day thrash to ready the car to leave for California on Wednesday morning.
Making the challenge even tougher is the schedule. The 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary track in Long Beach is the second of three street courses that Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing will visit in just four weeks. The narrow, concrete-lined courses are great for spectators looking for an exciting event in downtown but puts a strain on crews because of less than ideal working conditions. For the drivers, the tracks pose the challenge of never making a mistake because, unlike a natural terrain course, there is little margin for error. Once the race is run in Long Beach, the team must prepare the No. 31 to travel to Houston where the two native Germans will again navigate through the tightest of paths on the JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park. The Houston facility is 1.7-miles holding 10-turns around Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome.
Enge continues his impressive recovery from the St. Petersburg injuries. He was transported from St. Petersburg's Bayfront Medical Center to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis in recent days and underwent surgery for his shattered left elbow on Friday morning, April 6th. Dr. Tim Weber was "very pleased" with how the surgery went and anticipates a full recovery. Enge will remain in Indianapolis for rehabilitation and is expected to return to the two-time American Le Mans Series Champions as early as July. Electronic well wishes for Enge are welcome and can be sent to Tom@PetersenMotorsports.com and will be forwarded to Enge.
Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant:
(About Dirk Muller): "They say if you are given lemons make lemonade. I believe Dirk is just the guy to help us make lemonade. Obviously, having Tomas injured was a serious blow to the program and to morale but to have a driver the calibre of Dirk Muller waiting in the wings is something that we could have never even hoped for. Dirk is as fast today as when we raced against him in the early years of the program. He is also smart, even smarter now; he has Ferrari experience and knows how to win races. No one can replace Tomas, not even in the short-term, but we feel confident that we can add a few victories and get back into the championship chase with the combination we will field for the next two events. We are anxious to get Tomas well and back in the No. 31 and, following Houston, Tomas and the doctors will let us know where he is at and we'll chart our course from there. In the meantime, I couldn't have dreamed of a better driver than Dirk to add to our team." (About preparations for Long Beach): "I am proud to say that Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing is actively working to race at Long Beach. We are awaiting various pieces and parts, including a tub, from Ferrari but we are moving ahead with our plans to race. We will begin assembling the car as soon as pieces start arriving [currently scheduled for Sunday] at the shop. We will work on the Ferrari at our shop in Nevada before leaving on Wednesday morning for Long Beach. We will then continue to work on the car in Long Beach for as long as it takes to get the car on track and competitive. A lot of things, a lot of problems, can still present themselves, but at this time, we have every intention of competing in the Long Beach Grand Prix and in fielding a car that can win the race."
Dirk Muller, Driver:
"The situation is not the nicest but I'm really looking forward to helping out Petersen/White Lightning for sure. It is a strange situation to replace an injured driver. But that is part of our job and I cross my fingers for Tomas to get well very soon and very quick. I just want to make him happy winning with this car. I am really, really happy and looking forward to Long Beach. For me, that will be the first time on that street circuit. I do know the Ferrari F430 having set the first pole and having won the first round of FIA GT. I am feeling very well in this car. I like to thank Ferrari and the team giving me the opportunity to do this. I know Petersen/White Lightning from the past so I know that the team is very professional. I am very happy and very proud. The last time I raced in the ALMS was 2001 and I won the 2000 GT championship so I am very excited to be returning with such a good team and good car."