3 Champions, 2 Porsches for Flying Lizard Team at Sebring March 9, 2004 -- SONOMA, Calif. - Peter Cunningham, Jon Fogarty and Darren Law, three of the six drivers on the Flying Lizard Shoreline-Brocade Porsche team in the 12 Hours of Sebring,...
3 Champions, 2 Porsches for Flying Lizard Team at Sebring
March 9, 2004 -- SONOMA, Calif. - Peter Cunningham, Jon Fogarty and Darren Law, three of the six drivers on the Flying Lizard Shoreline-Brocade Porsche team in the 12 Hours of Sebring, have eight road racing championships between them.
Cunningham, who will share the #44 Flying Lizard Porsche with Sebring novices Lonnie Pechnik and Seth Neiman, leads the team's experience factor with six SCCA Pro Racing titles, and five starts at Sebring.
More important, his 75 career race wins exceeds the total wins for drivers in every North American pro road racing series since 1963. Ten of those wins are in 12 and 24-hour races, including a pair of 12-hour Street Stock wins at Sebring.
"From many aspects, Sebring is a 12-hour sprint race," Cunningham says, "but one of the main things to be concerned about is to not drive into people and damage the car."
Cunningham, on Friday of the Sebring weekend, starts his quest for a fourth driving championship in the Speed World Challenge Touring Car series with his Nissan Sentra.
"I don't have to sit for a minute and think when going from one car to another, because I've done that for years," he says. "The most obvious mental note is remembering the Flying Lizard Porsche is a rear-engine, rear-wheel drive car on Michelin slicks, and the Nissan is front-engine, front-wheel drive on street-based tires. They behave very different."
Jon Fogarty, the 2002 CART Toyota Atlantic series champion in his rookie year, joins Johannes van Overbeek and Darren Law in the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche.
Sebring will be Fogarty's first race in a car with a roof on it. "I was pleasantly-surprised," he said after a Sebring test of the new car. "The Porsche felt a lot more like a race car than I imagined. After looking at race tracks between my front tires in open-wheeled cars, I was happy to have a great field of view. It isn't the adjustment you'd think it is; it's a lot like a street Porsche."
Fogarty added that despite spending his pro racing time in short races, "I'm not a 'sprint type' of guy in real life. Yes, in Atlantic cars you're going 11/10ths all the time because you have such a small window of opportunity to accomplish anything, but I'm very comfortable at 9/10ths."
Endurance racing requires a driver to conserve resources, and Fogarty has that experience. "I've tested some champ cars, and that has given me a feeling for fuel and tire conservation," he said.
"I'm thrilled to even participate in the Sebring race," he adds. "I'm proud of my Atlantic championship, but the GT class win at Sebring would go right to the top of my chart of personal accomplishments."
Darren Law, the 2001 GT class titlist in the Grand-Am series, agrees about the conservative nature of endurance races. "Whether or not you make a hero effort to pass somebody depends on your relative positions in the class, and how much time is left in the race," he says.
"You don't even think of doing anything risky early in the race, but if you have an hour left and a win or podium finish is in sight, then maybe it is worth taking risks. That's when you pat yourself on the back for doing your part to make sure the car has something left."
Law spent his early years in sprint races. "In 1996-97, when I was in the North American Touring Car Championship, the races were so short you had to abuse the equipment right from the start. The tires were good for 30 minutes, so burn 'em down. In the American Le Mans Series, a tank of gas lasts 90 minutes, so you have to manage the equipment."
"The odds for a solid finish at Sebring are increased by our ability to have a champion in each of our cars," notes driver Lonnie Pechnik. "Each driver brings a unique perspective to the table. One thing they have in common is the far-sightedness on the end goal. You can't be a champion without that. And you can't finish Sebring without that."
The 52nd annual running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race will be March 20 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Fla.