PORSCHE, PANOZ TO BATTLE IN ALMS GT2 CLASS AT MID-OHIO IN PREPARATION FOR THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS MORE THAN 35 PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CARS TO COMPETE IN SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE, IMSA GT3 CUP EVENTS --The American Le Mans Series GT2 class has...
PORSCHE, PANOZ TO BATTLE IN ALMS GT2 CLASS AT MID-OHIO IN PREPARATION FOR THE 24 HOURS OF LE MANS
MORE THAN 35 PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CARS TO COMPETE IN SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE, IMSA GT3 CUP EVENTS
--The American Le Mans Series GT2 class has produced two different winners so far for 2005, the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche of Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister, and the Panoz Esperante of Bill Auberlen/Robin Liddell, but the other Porsche teams are still in the hunt for a championship, including defending titleholder Timo Bernhard with Romain Dumas for Alex Job RacingThe ALMS race will be broadcast live on CBS-TV on May 22 at 1:00 PM EDT.-
ATLANTA - May 19 - Since the BMWs won the GT class at Petit Le Mans in 2001, the Porsche 911 GT3 RS/RSR had won every ALMS GT2 class event - except for a Ferrari victory at Lime Rock last year - until last month at Road Atlanta, when the Panoz Esperante nosed out the Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas Alex Job Racing Porsche for its first ALMS win. Even Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel was impressed.
"Not only did the Panoz show that it can go fast for the entire event, but its handling and braking made it very competitive at Road Atlanta. Our customer teams now know that they cannot take a win for granted just because they drive a Porsche," said Brettel.
For those who missed the battle during the last 20 minutes of the CBS-TV broadcast from Alanta, defending ALMS GT2 champion Timo Bernhard from Germany tucked in right behind Liddell's Panoz and tailed him for eight laps, finally nudging the Panoz in a corner and taking the lead. The officials ruled, however, that Liddell already had position in that corner, and penalized Timo with a stop-and-go penalty on the white-flag lap, enabling the Panoz to win. The second-place finish, however, put Bernhard and Dumas back in the points chase after a DNF at Sebring.
Randy Pobst, originally from Ohio and now from Gainsville, Gerogia, and Ian Baas, from Nobelsville, IN, will be driving the other Alex Job Porsche. Pobst, an Alex Job team driver for many years, has re-joined the team with Baas, the defending U.S. Formula Ford 2000 champion.
The Las Vegas-based Petersen/White Lightning Motorsports team, which teamed with Alex Job to win the Le Mans 24-hour event in 2003 and then won the Le Mans event themselves in 2004, combined with their 2001 win at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, completed racing's triple crown of endurance sports car racing with its win at the 2005 Sebring event. Long, who recently moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, and Bergmeister, from Germany, will drive the car at Mid-Ohio and for the rest of the ALMS season (Jorg is also driving in the Rolex Grand-Am series, and will be flying in from Canada to race this weekend right after a Grand-Am event). As a result of that Sebring win and a third place at Road Atlanta, Bergmeister/Long lead the ALMS GT2 point standings by ten points.
J3 Racing, from Buford, GA, had its best ALMS finish ever at Sebring, finishing second in GT2 with regular Tim Sugden, from Leeds, England, and guest driver Nic Jonsson, from Atlanta. Ironically, team owner and lead driver Justin Jackson, was sick the day before the race, and was not allowed to race in the J3 Racing Coca-Cola Porsche, although he was in the pits cheering the team on.
Flying Lizard Motorsports, based in Sonoma, CA, has entered two Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, including the lead "Lizards'" entry with drivers Johannes van Overbeek, from San Francisco, and Jon Fogarty, from Petaluma, CA, sharing the racing duties. Fogarty and van Overbeek are looking to build on a third place finish at Sebring, which might have been even higher if they had not spun out early in the event, and then encountered brake problems. Only in their second year of ALMS competition, the team made an impact in last year's action by winning one race (Mid-Ohio) and finishing in the top three all season. Fogarty, the 2003 Formula Atlanta champion will replace Law as van Overbeek's regular driver for the 2005 season as Darren has committed to the Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar Grand-Am ride for the season. Last year at Mid- Ohio, the Flying Lizard Porsche of van Overbeek/Law won the GT class in their second ALMS race ever.
The BAM! Racing team, from Stuart, FL, is back for its second season with Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller along with Canadian Tony Burgess driving the car at this event. Burgess, along with Martin Jensen and Mike Rockenfeller, were running in the top three at Sebring when drive train problems sidelined their effort. Their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR will also be shod with Yokohama Tires, the company's first effort in ALMS GT2 in several years.
Three American Porsche Teams to Le Mans
Alex Job Racing (in partnership with BAM!) are entering the BAM! Porsche at Le Mans next month with Mike Rockenfeller/Marc Lieb/Leo Hindery driving, while Flying Lizard Motorsports will have Seth Neiman/Johannes van Overbeek/Lonnie Pechnik driving a brand-new Lizard Porsche, and the Petersen/White Lightning team will defend its Le Mans GT2 championship in the same Porsche which won at both Le Mans and Sebring with Timo Bernhard joining regulars Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister.
"It's great to have three strong American Porsche teams at Le Mans," said Brettel, who was project manager of Porsche's factory GT1 Le Mans effort the last time a Porsche factory effort won the race overall in 1998.
"Because the practice day and the race are so close together in June at Le Mans this year, the Porsches will all stay at the track instead of heading to Germany for last-minute preparation," he said.
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racers - In two events this weekend
The SPEED World Challenge and the second event for the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge this weekend at Mid-Ohio will showcase another Porsche race car, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
In the SPEED World Challenge, Jon Groom Racing, from Boonton, NJ, has two AXA Financial/Pfaff Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars entered, one for himself and one for Scotsman Robin Liddell. Liddell, in his first full season of World Challenge, has finished third and second in the first two races of the season, but DNFed at Road Atlanta after he was pushed off the track while in the lead late in the race. The offending driver was fined and points were deducted from his win, but Liddell crashed and did not finish. SPEED TV will carry the World Challenge event on a delayed basis - see www.world-challenge.com for TV scheduling details.
Defending Porsche Michelin Supercup champion Wolf Henzler, from Germany, who aas been on the pole for the first two rounds of the SPEED World Challenge, has a fourth and a fifth place to his credit in the Farnbacher Loles Racing Applied Materials Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. This is the same car that the team entered for Henzler and three co-drivers at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, with Shawn Price, Pierre Ehret and Dominik Farnbacher helping Henzler to the GT class win.
The weekend also marks round #2 of the five-race IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin, with the Mid-Ohio event to run Sunday afternoon right after the completion of the ALMS race. More than 30 Porsches from around the country have entered to compete in this 45-minute event, which features the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars.
The car which Mid-Ohio fans will see in the series is a purpose-built racecar manufactured by the Porsche factory on the same assembly line as Porsche's complete line of sports cars for the consumer. The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge car is based on the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup street car (996), while the Porsche Michelin Supercup series - which runs with Formula One around the world - has moved to the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car based on the newly-introduced 997 model.
The competitors will have sealed engines and transmissions, providing for close racing where the driver's talents are exemplified. Porsche Motorsport will provide technical support for the series with personnel, parts and expertise both away from and at the track, and Michelin will provide the spec tires for all competitors.
"There are over 100 of these cars already in North America," said Brettel. "Last April, during Porsche's Rennsport Reunion at Daytona, we had more than 65 cars entered in the Cup class, and we realized a lot of these competitors will be interested in running this new series."
According to Brettel, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car runs in many race series around the world, including the Porsche Michelin Supercup series, which has two rounds during the Formula One weekend at Indianapolis in June, as well as races with many of the other F1 races in Europe and Asia. IMSA stars Jorg Bergmeister, Timo Bernhard, Marc Lieb, Sascha Maassen, Lucas Luhr, Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller have all won Porsche Michelin Supercup races in GT3 Cup cars in the past.
The 2005 IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge series schedule includes races at the Grand Prix of Atlanta, Apr. 15-17 (already completed); American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, May 20-22; Portland International Raceway, July 29-31; Road America, August 20 - 21; and Mazda Laguna Seca, October 14 - 17. Each event will receive a one-minute TV summary on the corresponding ALMS broadcast, except when the event runs after the ALMS race, when the summary will air during the following program (i.e. the Road Atlanta summary will run during the Mid-Ohio broadcast on May 22).
What to Watch and Listen
The American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio event will be televised live by CBS starting at 1:00 PM Eastern Daylight time (the race starts at noon, with CBS joining at 1:00 PM and filling in with the first hour highlights) on Sunday, May 22.