Flying Lizard Finish 5th and 7th at Petit Le Mans; Retain Drivers' Championship Lead, Now 2nd in Team Points Chase September 30, 2006--Braselton, Georgia--Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 45 and No. 44 Porsches finished 5th and 7th, respectively,...
Flying Lizard Finish 5th and 7th at Petit Le Mans; Retain Drivers' Championship Lead, Now 2nd in Team Points Chase
September 30, 2006--Braselton, Georgia--Flying Lizard Motorsports No. 45 and No. 44 Porsches finished 5th and 7th, respectively, in today's 1000-mile Petit Le Mans endurance race. Eight of the 10 GT2 cars finished the race: quite an accomplishment in a contest of attrition like Petit. The Lizards still retain the drivers' championship (Johannes van Overbeek is 4 points ahead of Jorg Bergmeister of Petersen White Lightning) but they are now second in the team championship (Risi Competizione now leads by six points).
"It was a tough race for the Lizards: we had fast cars, fast drivers and a great crew, but it wasn't to be our day," said crew chief Tommy Sadler. "We have just one race left to fight for the championship so it all comes down to October 21 at Laguna."
The first half of the race saw the 28-car field claw its way through one incident after another. The tone for the race was set early on, when the race was delayed by one lap to allow the field to form properly behind the pace car. Over the next few hours, there were multiple yellow flags caused by incidents across the entire field. The GT2 field had its share of problems. The No. 44 encountered them first when Darren Law, who started the race seventh on the grid, was bumped on the "waved-off" green flag lap by the No. 23 Alex Job Porsche, then was hit by a prototype just 10 minutes later, which caused damage to the right front wheel. However, he was able to continue through his stint.
Meanwhile, Marc Lieb, who started in the No. 45 in sixth, had a strong stint, moving up the field to P1 as the field adjusted and early leaders pitted. Problems began at the end of his stint, when he reported an engine misfire. The crew called Marc in early, and sent Johannes out after making a repair and downloading data in order to fully analyze the problem. At pit out, Johannes reported the misfire was still occurring and again pitted. The crew diagnosed a shifter electronics problem, and was able to adjust and eventually replace the entire shifter mechanism over the next several pit stops. Luckily, most of the work was done under yellow, and although the No. 45 lost several positions, it was only one lap down on the GT2 leader when the problem was fully resolved.
Two and a half hours into the race, Johannes turned the wheel over to Wolf Henzler for his first stint in the No. 45. Over the next 20 minutes, as GT2 cars pitted and reshuffled, Wolf moved up the pack to P2, chasing the No. 23 Alex Job Porsche for P1. The Lizards luck seemed to be turning as Wolf closed the gap between him and the No. 23, waiting for the right opportunity to pass. Unfortunately, just over 3 hours into the race, Wolf was caught up in a prototype battle and hit by one as they moved to overtake him. He pitted immediately for tires and fuel. Wolf went out again quickly, and immediately reported steering problems from the impact. He pitted again, and the crew determined they needed to go behind the wall to repair it. In the paddock garage, the crew was able to realign the car and make repairs. As a result of the 20 minute repair, Wolf went out again 5 laps behind the leader, now in P9, at the back of the field.
"It was very frustrating to be doing so well and having overcome our earlier shifter problems, then be effectively taken out of the running so early in the race. The crew gave us a really fast car today and we were running competitively out there," Wolf said. "I fought for the next hour after that but was only able to move two positions to P7. It was a long stint." Meanwhile, the No. 44 was having its share of problems. Approximately four hours into the race, Lonnie impacted the wall, damaging the front of the No. 44. The crew was able to quickly repair the damage, including a broken radiator, but he was pushed to the back of the pack.
Over the next four hours, the No. 44 and the No. 45 pushed onward, rotating through the driver lineup, but were both unable to climb out of the hole of the first few hours. Meanwhile, the rest of the field had suffered its own problems: the No. 62 Risi Ferrari was out early in the race after impacting the wall on the front straight, the No. 22 PTG BMW was off track for over an hour to resolve an electrical problem (caused by a fire bottle problem), and the No. 23 Alex Job Racing was knocked out of the running after a front end suspension problem kept them in the pits for a lengthy repair.
"At the end of the race, watching the final battle of the GT2 leaders on TV it was clear how exciting this class has become. Three manufacturers finished on the podium, with four manufacturers represented in the top five," said Thomas Blam, Lizard chief strategist.
Johannes, who still retains the drivers' championship lead, added, "The No. 31 Petersen Porsche deserved their win. They were able to overcome some incredible on-track spins and avoid disaster, and the No. 61 Ferrari ran a really clean and solid race. The Panoz and the BMW were battling it out to the end -- with the No. 50 Panoz finally winning out. It was an amazing finish to one of the most exciting Petit Le Mans that I can remember."
Seth Neiman, principal and driver of the No. 44 Porsche said, "Thanks to the crew for another incredible race. They persisted over multiple different problems during the race -- quickly diagnosing them and getting both cars back on track. The result wasn't what we had hoped for, but both cars finished and are still in the chase for both championships heading into our final race."
Up next for the Lizards is the season finale at Laguna Seca, October 21 in Monterey, California.
-credit: flying lizard motorsports