Sebring Has Multiple Benefits For Petersen/ White Lightning SEBRING, Fla., March 18, 2005 -- The importance of tomorrow's 53rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is significant for reasons deeper than simply winning one of the sport's most...
Sebring Has Multiple Benefits For Petersen/ White Lightning
SEBRING, Fla., March 18, 2005 -- The importance of tomorrow's 53rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is significant for reasons deeper than simply winning one of the sport's most prestigious events. For the race's GT2 class pole position winners, Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing, the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season-opening race- the longest on the ten-stop schedule- acts as a perfect steppingstone to potential team milestones that could occur this season. Included in the Michael Petersen-owned team's objectives for the season is a record third-straight LM GT2 class victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, the ALMS GT2 team and driver championships and the GT2 IMSA Cup for privateer entrants. Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) will pilot the No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR for the full season starting with the 10:45 am (EST) green flag at Sebring. Four-time Sebring winner Lucas Luhr (Monaco) will join the team for 12 hour classic.
Sebring's fast straightaways, variety of turns and the daylight-to-night nature of the event are good indications of what the team can expect to see at Le Mans. While the French classic is twice the length of Sebring and its track is over twice as long, the punishing Sebring track surface puts more strain on the drivers, crew, Porsche race car and Michelin tires. The common feeling is that, if it is going to break, it will break at Sebring before it would break at Le Mans. Sebring, the traditional "baptism by fire" season-opener for the nine-man Petersen/ White Lightning crew, will also prepare the team well for the remaining races of the ALMS season.
With top-three performances in each of the race's dry practice sessions, including the final session today where Luhr put in the fastest GT2 lap of the weekend at two minutes, 4.037 seconds, the Petersen/ White Lightning Porsche has served notice of its intent to fight for control of the GT2 class in 2005. Bergmeister earned the team its first ALMS pole position this weekend when he turned a lap of 2:04.960 seconds in Wednesday morning's opening practice after Thursday scheduled qualifying was rained out.
While rain wreaked havoc with Thursday activities- including canceling qualifying forcing sanctioning officials to revert to the weekend's practice sessions to set the grid- no such problems are expected Saturday. Clear weather and a race strategy honed after years of off-road experience and victories at endurance sports car events at Le Mans (GT2; 2003, 2004), Road America, Watkins Glen and Daytona as well as two-straight podiums at this event, play well into the hands of team manager Dale White (Las Vegas, Nev.) and the Las Vegas-based race team.
Michael Petersen, team owner: "I think it's important to start off the season on a good note. You can't afford to have a bad finish in any of the races. This is a good preparation for the guys for Le Mans. It is only a 12 hour race but it is a 24 hour race on equipment. We're looking forward to the race. If we can stick around through the thick of things, we'll have an opportunity for good finish."
Dale White, team manager: "Sebring is an important race for us as a team. Not only is it the start of our season and one of the most important endurance races in the world, but it also helps prepare us for Le Mans. 12 hours at Sebring is far tougher on the car and the team than 24 at Le Mans. Every aspect from logistics to preparation to daily organization and strategy during the race helps us prepare for Le Mans. I don't mean that to diminish the importance of Sebring because it is huge, but we can use Sebring to help us at Le Mans from a lot of angles. So, to me, that makes this race even more important to do well at. We don't hold back here at all. It is a great place to get a feeling for Le Mans and for the season."
Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "Looking at the times that Lucas did today with the race setup I think we should have a really good car. So, I am pretty optimistic. Now we just need some luck and we should be fine. I think we have really good chances, a strong driver lineup and a really strong car. So, I think we are one of the three or four cars that have a really good chance for winning this thing."
Patrick Long, driver: "Obviously, the speed is there so just consistency, reliability and teamwork will win this race. Starting from the pole is a bit of an advantage but I think that will be gone by the end of the first stint. After that I think it will be time to get down to business. We don't want to try and go too hard at the beginning. The goal is to make it to the finish without any problems and that is, obviously, what we'll be striving for. We should be in it at the end for a really good finish."