Sellers/Henzler Top of the Porsche Contingent at Long Beach; Black Swan Wins
Long/Bergmeister Lizard Porsche Crashes at 46-Minute Mark - DNF
Patrick Long, driving the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, was in a fierce battle with the Joey Hand BMW when disaster struck the defending champions. As Patrick, who had just passed Hand to take the class lead, approached a slower car, the unexpected happened.
"This was hard street racing, and we had a great battle with the BMWs and Corvettes. I had just taken the lead the lap before when the #01 Ferrari came out of the pits on cold tires. I thought he would let Joey and I go by, as we were at full speed fighting for the class lead, but he blocked us, forcing both of us to take evasive action. I got by him on one side, but was forced off-line into the rubber marbles, where I lost grip with the extra rubber pickup and went into the wall. I am the first one to own up to a mistake, but we also expect better driving from other competitors as well," said Long, who had won this race the two previous years with co-driver Joerg Bergmeister and the Lizard Porsche.
Long limped the injured car into the pits, but the left front suspension was badly damaged, and the team was forced to retire the Porsche. Hand and co-driver Dirk Mueller went on to win the event in their BMW, which now enjoys a 14-point lead over the second-place Corvette, and 32 points ahead of Long/Bergmeister. In the manufacturers points, BMW has 50 points, Corvette 39 points, and Porsche 28 points.
The Team Falken Tire Porsche of Wolf Henzler/Bryan Sellers had its best run of its short ALMS career, finishing fourth and first among the three remaining Porsches in the GT field. Both drivers felt the results in Falken's effort to increase the endurance of their evolving race tire technology, and both praised new crew chief Derrick Walker and his group for their contribution.
Wolf Henzler. who won this race in 2008 with Joerg Bergmeister, said consistency was the key.
"This was Team Falken Tire's best ALMS finish, and everyone in the paddock and the pits did a good job. We would not keep the pace of the BMWs, but we were consistent. Last year, we led the race, but lost too much time in the pits. This year, we didn't lead, but it was a much better overall effort," said Henzler.
Co-driver Bryan Sellers, had praise for his teammates and team owners as well.
"Falken has been striving to develop a GT tire that has greater longevity, and our lap times at the beginning and at the end show that they are gaining on that goal. Also, a veteran crew chief like Derrick Walker instills confidence in all of us -- if something needs attention, everyone knows he and his team will figure it out," said Sellers.
The Seth Neiman/Darren Law Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had its second top-ten finish in a row, with an eighth-place finish after a fine sixth place at Sebring. The Paul Miller Racing Marquis Jet Porsche 911 GT3 RSR took the lead during the race with Sascha Maassen at the wheel, but, after a pit stop/driver change sequence put them back into seventh place, the car was rear-ended by a Corvette, and finished 12th in class.
The GT Challenge story is a good one, as the Black Swan Racing, Alex Job Racing, Magnus Racing, and TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars all had their moments, but it was the defending champions Tim Pappas/Jeroen Bleekemolen who brought the Black Swan car home to victory. The Battery Tender Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Bill Sweedler/Leh Keen was second, while the Roscoe House of Chicken and Waffles Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driven by John Potter and Craig Stanton was third. TRG drivers who were second and fifth in the points going into the event did not fare as well, with the Duncan Ende/Spencer Pumpelly car finishing out of the points after a lap #2 crash, and the Dion von Moltke/Brendan Gaughan Porsche crashing with eight minutes left in the race, causing the race to end under yellow and pushing the 19-year-old von Moltke back to fourth after a fine run.
The race will be telecast tomorrow, Sunday, April 17 from 5:00 PM -- 7:00 PM on ESPN2.