Portland: Porsche preview



--Although the American Le Mans Series will find Portland, Oregon to be sunny and cool this weekend - a change from the 100-degree weather of two weeks ago - the battle for the GT2 championship is heating up as Alex Job Racing's Hyatt Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas is closing in on points leaders Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister's Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche--

PORTLAND, Ore. - July 27 - A unique dusk event, cool temperatures, and a hot points battle in the American Le Mans Series GT2 class will all converge on Portland International Raceway this Saturday for the ALMS Portland Grand Prix.

The event, a two-hour, 45-minute sports car race, will begin Saturday, July 30, at 5:00 PM local time (8:00 PM EDT), and will be broadcast live by The Speed Channel. For Las Vegas' Patrick Long, the only American employed by the Porsche factory as a works driver, this race could be the key to the championship.

"The Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche has lead the GT2 class points since the first race of the season, when Jorg Bergmeister and I won the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Alex Job Racing Porsches did not finish, but since then, they have won three races in a row. Although we have finished either second or third in those races, and still hold a 16-point lead, we have to win one of these next events to solidify our championship position," said Long, who also has a win and a second-place finish at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to his credit with the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche team, which is also based in Las Vegas.

Long's co-driver, Jorg Bergmeister, from Germany,has additional pressure on him this weekend as he will leave Portland right after the race to fly to Birmingham, Alabama, to drive in Sunday's Grand-Am event there. Jorg is one of several drivers who is running both events this weekend.

The weather, which has been hot and humid for most of the ALMS events so far this year, is promising to be more pleasant in Portland this weekend, with sunny skies, low humidity, and temperatures in the 70's F. Defending ALMS GT2 champion Timo Bernhard, from Germany, is glad that the heat is one competitor he will not have to deal with this weekend.

"For the last three events - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the ALMS events at Lime Rock and Infineon Raceway - we have had to fight the heat both in the engine compartment and inside the car. It will be a relief to forget about the weather," said Bernhard, who is the youngest driver ever to win his class in the "Big Four" of sports car endurance racing - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 24 Hours at Daytona, the 12 Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans.

"Since our bad luck at Sebring, the Alex Job Racing Porsche team has worked very hard to make sure our car is both fast and reliable, and a second and three firsts have rewarded everyone for their efforts. With Long/Bergmeister still ahead by 16 points - almost a whole race worth of points (20 points for first) - we must continue to win every event and take advantage of any mistakes they might make," said Bernhard, whose co-driver is Romain Dumas, from France.

Alex Job Racing and Bell Microsystems has fielded a second car for the 2005 season, which has been driven by veteran GT driver Randy Pobst, from Atlanta, and defending U.S. Formula Ford 2000 champion Ian Baas, from Noblesville, IN. Pobst is leaving the team, however, to concentrate on his pursuit of the Speed World Challenge Touring car championship, so Darren Law, from Phoenix, has been hired to run the rest of the season - except for Petit Le Mans - in the second AJR Porsche. Law, a regular on the Brumos Porsche team in Grand-Am, will catch that same night flight with Jorg Bergmeister to Birmingham after the race,

Flying Lizard Motorsports 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, who have a third and a fourth-place finish in the last two events, are trying to stay in points contact with the GT2 leaders, while Seth Neiman, from Burlingame, CA, and Lonnie Pechnik, from Pacific Grove, CA, driving the second team car, lead the Mid-Ohio event into the last hour of the race before falling back, and were in the top three two weeks ago at Infineon raceway when a loose wheel lug caused an extra pit stop, pushing them back in the field,

The BAM! Racing team, from Stuart, FL, is not in the season championship points race at it has employed a selection of different drivers for the first five events, but for Portland, it has recent 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, from Germany, co-driving with defending Porsche Michelin Supercup champion and current SCCA Speed World Challenge contender Wolf Henzler, also from Germnay, in their Le Mans-winning Porsche. The pair drove together two weeks ago at Infineon raceway, finishing third, but contending for the lead before tire wear problems set in. Rockenfeller, along with Martin Jensen and Tony Burgess, were running in the top three at Sebring when drive train problems sidelined their effort. Henzler, who is currently in fifth place in the World Challenge series in his Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, has one win and three pole positions in that series, as well as two 2005 Grand-Am GT wins, including a victory at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. Rookie Ricardo Imery, from Venezuela, will run a second Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche in the Speed World Challenge event,

The other Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driver with a win in World Challenge is Robin Liddell, from Scotland, in his Jon Groom Racing Porsche, currently third in the championship points. After the Portland World Challenge event, Liddell, like Henzler, will jump into an ALMS GT2 car, but Liddell's mount is the Panoz Esperante, which beat the Porsches at Road Atlanta, and is a competitive threat at every event. Team owner Jon Groom, from New Jersey, will also race his Porsche in the event.

Currently, Porsche trails Cadillac by four points in the Speed World Challenge manufacturers championship race.

All the GT2 teams mentioned above had a role in the American Porsche team sweep of the GT2 podium at last month's 24 Hours of Le Mans. The winning car is the same BAM! Porsche fans will see at Infineon, entered by Alex Job Racing, and driven by Rockenfeller along with his FIA-GT teammate Marc Lieb and American TV executive Leo Hindery. Second was the same Petersen Motorsport/White Lightning Porsche driven by Patrick Long/Jorg Bergmeister/Timo Bernhard - contenders all the way despite an engine which was down on horsepower because of cooling problems. Completing the American sweep was the third place Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche of Seth Neiman/Lonnie Pechnik/Johannes van Overbeek - all drivers from the San Francisco Bay area and all first-timers at the French classic.

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.

As Sugden has a conflict this weekend with a race in Europe, Speed World Challenge Touring star Michael Galati, from Olmsted, OH, will share the driving chores with Jackson at Portland.

The weekend also marks round #3 of the five-race IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin, with the Portland event to run Sunday afternoon right after lunch. More than 20 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 Portland 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, Wolf Henzler, David Salaens, 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; American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio, May 20-22 (both already completed); Portland International Raceway, July 31; Road America, August 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 Portland summary will run during the Road America broadcast on August 21).

The official Porsche media web site - www.press.porsche.com - will have qualifying information for the Portland event for the Porsches entered, and will post stories and photos during and after the race. Porsche media web site users enter the word "carrera" for both user name and password, then choose "motorsports news" and "ALMS" to find the Portland updates. The same information is posted for consumers on Porsche's main site www.porsche.com/motorsport (click on Porsche Motorsports North America and "race reports").

The official race notes and results for all the classes at the American Le Mans event at Portland can be found on the official site for the American Le Mans Series (www.americanlemans.com), where fans can follow the qualifying sessions and the race with live timing and scoring on-line.

Speed World Challenge information is available on www.world-challenge.com, while IMSA GT3 Cup material can be found on www.imsaracing.net.


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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Alex Job Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports