Road Atlanta: Porsche preview

PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR TEAMS RECOVER FROM "SEBRING SHOCK," PREPARE FOR REMAINER OF ALMS SEASON STARTING THIS WEEKEND AT ATLANTA; PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CAR TO RUN IN IMSA SERIES DEBUT AS WELL AS SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE --Between three series running...

PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSR TEAMS RECOVER FROM "SEBRING SHOCK," PREPARE FOR REMAINER OF ALMS SEASON STARTING THIS WEEKEND AT ATLANTA; PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP CAR TO RUN IN IMSA SERIES DEBUT AS WELL AS SPEED WORLD CHALLENGE

--Between three series running this weekend at the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta, 38 Porsche 911s will be on the racetrack, including seven Porsche drivers who have won American Le Mans Series races, the recent 12 Hours of Sebring winners, two ALMS series champions, the defending Porsche Michelin Supercup champion, and the 2004 Daytona 24 Hour winners. The ALMS race will be broadcast live on CBS-TV on Sunday, April 17 at 1:00 PM EDT.-

ATLANTA - April 12 - Heading into the April 15 - 17 Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Altanta, the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR teams are breathing a sigh of relief and gearing up for the rest of the American Le Mans Series season.

The first race of the 2005 ALMS season was last month's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and heading the list of teams that are glad that race is in the past is the two-time American Le Mans Series defending GT2 champion Alex Job Racing, from Tavaras, Florida. As a driver and team owner, Alex Job has always considered Sebring his home track, and his Porsches had won the event five of past six years, but the 2005 Sebring is one he would rather forget.

"We had bad weather during the week which limited our track time, but these same cars had finished one-two at Sebring in 2004, and we had the setup dialed in for the race. Timo Bernhard took the #23 mail2web/Hyatt Porsche out to an early lead, and we were pleased with the car's performance. Randy Pobst, another veteran ALMS driver, was running in fifth place in the #24 Bell MicroSystems Porsche, and we were right where we wanted to be in the second hour," said Job, whose team is the most successful ever in the history of ALMS and only team to have entered every event since the start of the series.

"Then, we had two unrelated drive train problems within an hour of each other, and suddenly, we were out of the race. In 17 years of IMSA racing, that has never happened to our team, but it's a long season, and we are competing for the championship, so we must put that behind us and start anew in Atlanta. If a couple of the other teams have similar bad luck down the road, we'll be right back in the hunt," said Job.

It will be defending ALMS GT2 champion Timo Bernhard from Germany and Romain Dumas from France in the #23 Alex Job Porsche, while Gainsville, GA's Randy Pobst and rookie Ian Baas, from Nobelsville, IN, will be driving the #24 Alex Job Porsche. Bernhard, who captured the ALMS GT2 championship a year ago with German Jorg Bergmeister as a co-driver, won the drivers title outright as Jorg missed on race (Sebring '04) due to illness. Dumas earned four ALMS GT2 pole positions in four tries last year as the Alex Job Porsche teammate of German Marc Lieb. Pobst, an Alex Job team driver for many years, has re- joined the team with Baas, the defending U.S. Formula Ford 2000 champion.

Even the team that won the GT2 class at the Twelve Hours of Sebring is glad the series has moved on to a different venue. Dale White, team manager of the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, saw his car take over the lead in the second hour after the Alex Job car retired, but the lead was never comfortable.

"During the first hour, our Porsche was hit on the right front wheel by one of the Audi prototypes, and we broke a shock absorber. For the next 11 hours, the car didn't handle right, porpoising down the straight-aways and difficult handling in the corners, but Lucas Luhr, Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister hung on and we got the win. If we had a huge lead, we could have come in to change the shock, but the J3 Racing Porsche and the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche were too close for that. Our guys had to tough it out," said White.

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 Sebring. Long, who recently moved to Las Vegas from Los Angeles, and Bergmesiter, from Germany, will drive the car at Atlanta and for the rest of the ALMA season.

Locally-based J3 Racing, from Buford, GA, had its best ALMS finish ever last month at Sebring, finishing second in GT2 with regular Tim Sugden, from Leeds, England, and guest driver Nic Jonsson, also 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.

"Sure, it was disappointing not get in the car or scoring points at Sebring, but Nic and Tim did a great job - it is a hard race for just two drivers, with no room for mistakes. Probably the best thing is that the setup for our car is really headed in the right direction, and we should be competitive for the rest of the season," said Jackson, whose team's previous best ALMS finish was a third place at Trois-Rivieres in Canada in 2003.

Flying Lizard Motorsports, based in Sonoma, CA, has entered two new 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 last month 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.

The BAM! Racing team, from Stuart, FL, is back for its second season with Porsche factory driver Sascha Maassen 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. Competitor Michelin has won the GT/GT2 class in ALMS all six seasons the series has been in business, while Pirelli is supplying tires to the J3 Racing Porsche.

While he hopes that Porsches will continue their success in the ALMS GT2 class, Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel warned fans not to forget about the two Panoz Esperantes that are entered in the class.

"The Panoz race cars are fast, and they have world-class drivers. One of them qualified second at Sebring, and it is only a matter of time when they solve their reliability problems and compete heads-up with the Porsches. As Road Atlanta is their home track, this could be that event," said Brettel.

Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racers - In two events this weekend

The SPEED World Challenge and the debut of the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge this weekend at Road Atlanta 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, and is currently second in the points to defending champion Tommy Archer. 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 has 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 the debut of the five-race IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin, with the inaugural event to run Sunday afternoon right after the completion of the ALMS event. More than 25 Porsche from around the country has entered to compete in this 45-minute event, which features the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars.

The car which Road Atlanta 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 Uwe Brettel, PMNA president. "Last April, during Porsche's Rennsport Reunion at Daytona, we had more than 65 cars entered in the Cup class, and we think 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; 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).

The ALMS Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta 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, April 17.

The official Porsche media web site - www.press.porsche.com - will have qualifying information for the Atlanta 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 Sebring 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 Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta 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 as well as American Le Mans Radio Web, a live radio broadcast of all qualifying sessions as well as the entire 2 hour, 45-minute event.

Other Web sites that will follow the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta include Daily Sports Car (www.dailysportscar.com), The Race Site (www.theracesite.com), the Speed Channel site (www.speedTV.com), Sports Car Pros (sportscarpros.com), Motorsport.com (www.motorsport.com) , AutoSport magazine's site (www.autosport.com), AutoRacingDaily.com (www.autoracingdaily.com), Motorsport-news.com (www.motorsport- news.com), Crash.net (www.crash.net), racinglines.com (www.racinglines.com), EnduranceSportsCar.com (www.endurancesportscar.com), pitstop.com (www.pitstop.com); and Speed Arena (www.speedarena.com).

For the SCCA SPEED World Challenge, official information can be found on www.world-challenge.com, where fans can follow the qualifying and racing action with live scoring on-line, and the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge information is on www.imsaracing.net, including live scoring.

-porsche-

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About this article
Series ALMS , PWC
Drivers Nic Jönsson
Teams Flying Lizard Motorsports