Sears Point: Porsche Saturday report

Porsches Capture Top Seven GT Qualifying Positions at Infineon Raceway; Traction Control Added for Many Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Competitors; Henzler Surprises Speed World Challenge Regulars With Fastest Lap --Besides the ALMS GT pole going to Romain...

Porsches Capture Top Seven GT Qualifying Positions at Infineon Raceway; Traction Control Added for Many Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Competitors; Henzler Surprises Speed World Challenge Regulars With Fastest Lap

--Besides the ALMS GT pole going to Romain Dumas in his Alex Job Racing McKenna mail2web.com Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for the second race in a row, Wolf Henzler, the current Porsche Michelin Supercup leader, matched the Corvettes, Audis and Cadillacs in the Speed World Challenge GT qualifying session to start on the front row for that race. Also, many of the ALMS Porsche GT teams now have the optional traction control on their race cars -

Sonoma, Calif. - July 17 - Romain Dumas, from France, driving the Alex Job Racing McKenna mail2web Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, took advantage of a new American Le Mans Series qualifying system to gain the GT pole for Sunday's Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway.

Dumas, who will be driving in Sunday's event with German Marc Lieb, lead a group of seven Porsches which earned the top seven positions on the GT grid. The Panoz Esperante was eighth, and the Ferrari 360 was ninth.

"Although this is my first trip to Infineon Raceway, and the course is quite difficult, I felt comfortable here right away as the circuit is more like a European venue with a smooth surface and lots of elevation changes," said Dumas, who has one ALMS win to his credit (2003 Petiti Le Mans). His speed of 96.643 mph is a new track record for the GT class.

"I liked the new qualifying regulations, as I am used to trying for my fastest lap at the beginning of the session," said Dumas.

--New Qualifying Format

Instead of the usual group qualifying session, the ALMS decided to have the cars go out in groups of five at 20-second intervals to give the racers more open track qualifying space. The drivers in each group got a warm-up lap, two green-flag laps, and a cool-down lap, similar to the single car qualifying format used by other sanctioning bodies.

--Other GT Qualifiers

Second on grid is the Alex Job Racing Porsche of Timo Bernhard, who will be driving on Sunday with Jorg Bergmeister, while Craig Stanton was third in the Petersen/White Lightning Porsche. David Murry will co-drive with Stanton on Sunday.

The two hometown teams were next on the grid - The Racer's Group Porsche of Cort Wagner/Patrick Long was fourth and The Flying Lizard Porsche of Seth Neiman and Lonnie Pechnik was fifth. Both teams have their headquarters on the grounds of Infineon Raceway in Sonoma. Sixth was the BAM! Porsche of Leo Hindery/Lucas Luhr, while The Flying Lizard Porsche of Darren Law/Johannes van Overbeek - the current GT points leaders - were seventh.

The rest of the GT class field is listed below.

--Traction Control

This weekend at Infineon Raceway also marks the first time many of the Porsche GT cars are making use of the new Porsche traction control units which were homologated by the ACO for 2004. Most of the teams took delivery of the cars before Sebring without the traction control because it was not available yet, and have added the units as Porsche could deliver them.

Henry Hsu, technical director for Porsche Motorsport North America PMNA, pointed out that traction control is an option when the teams order their 911 GT3 RSR race cars, but most teams have ordered it.

"A traction control program allows the electronic control unit (ECU) to sense when the rear tires are slipping as the drivers are applying the throttle, " said Hsu, who is PMNA's computer and data acquisition expert.

"The Traction control software will compensate for the loss in traction by reducing the power output of the engine until the tires can grip the surface again. This is a delicate balance and requires our engine computer to recalibrate and adjust at up to 200 times a second," said Hsu.

Uwe Brettel, PMNA President, added that traction control might not convert to faster single lap times but will allow the tires to last longer (due to less wear). Therefore, according to Brettel, it will allow drivers to run a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at the limit for a longer period during the race.

A survey of teams in the paddock at Infineon Raceway shows that most drivers are choosing the adjustable traction control level of one or two (the dial goes from one to 12). Those teams who had the feature at Le Mans used a maximum setting of three or four.

--Henzler Matches Corvettes and Audis for Front Row in Speed World Challenge Grid

Wolf Henzler, the current leader of the Porsche Michelin Supercup series including two victories last month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, stunned the regulars in the Audis, Corvettes and Cadillacs to turn the fastest time in both practice and qualifying for tomorrow's Speed World Challenge GT race early Sunday morning. One of the Corvettes also turned an identical qualifying time, and based on the fact it turned that lap earlier in the session, the Corvette was awarded the pole over Henzler.

Another Corvette was third, followed by the Cadillac CTS-V, a Viper, another Cadillac, and an Audi RS-6.

The Grand Prix of Sonoma will be televised live on CBS-TV starting at 4:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time on Sunday, July 18 (the race begins at 3:00 PM EDT - the network will join the race in progress and edit-on-the-go to catch up to real time action).

-porsche-

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Murry , Lucas Luhr , Leo Hindery , Darren Law , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Johannes van Overbeek , Marc Lieb , Craig Stanton , Romain Dumas , Seth Neiman , Lonnie Pechnik , Wolf Henzler , Alex Job
Teams Alex Job Racing