Sebring: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Third Jewel In Endurance Racing Triple Crown SEBRING, Fla., March 19, 2005 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing earned the third victory in endurance sports car racing's prestigious triple crown-...

Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Third Jewel In Endurance Racing Triple Crown

SEBRING, Fla., March 19, 2005 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing earned the third victory in endurance sports car racing's prestigious triple crown- wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona 24 Hours and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring- today. Starting from the GT2 class pole position in the 53rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the No. 31 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany), Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Lucas Luhr (Monaco) dominated the opening round of the 2005 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season. The Sebring title, which the Michael Petersen-owned team won by seven laps over its nearest competitor, joins GT (now GT2) class titles at the 2003 and 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 2001 24 Hours of Daytona.

Bergmeister started the Porsche in the class's top spot but, following the endurance strategy crafted by the Petersen/ White Lightning team through a decade of sports car racing, relinquished the position early in the event. The Las Vegas-based organization never fell below third-place despite a broken damper/ shock absorber in the race's third hour and a malfunctioning radio that plagued the White Lightning Racing prepared Porsche throughout the race. The No. 31 would take over the top-spot in the GT2 class shortly before the start of the fourth hour. They would not forfeit first-place for the remainder of the event growing their lead from seconds to nearly eight laps as the 10:45 PM (ET) checkered flag fell on the races 12th hour and 321st lap.

A Sebring victory has long eluded the team, which won its first endurance sports car race, the Six Hours of Watkins Glen, in 1998. With tonight's win, the team now holds claim to every major endurance race in the world as well as multiple Baja 500 and Baja 1000 victories. Today's win marks the fifth Sebring title for Luhr who has only entered the race six times. The fifth victory matches the record of Al Holbert and Johnny O'Connell for class victories at Sebring. This is the first Sebring victory for Bergmeister, who set the fast lap that gave the Petersen Porsche the pole position, and for Long. The GT2 victory completes Bergmeister's personal Triple Crown joining his 24 At Daytona and Le Mans class championships. It is Long's first ALMS victory. However, it puts him two-thirds of the way to his own Triple Crown as he joined with Bergmeister to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Petersen/ White Lightning in 2004. The Petersen Porsche 911 GT3 RSR gave the marquee its 27 Sebring title for the vaunted 911 chassis.

In a remarkable feat, today's Sebring win also continues a unique achievement for these three drivers and Petersen/ White Lightning. Every event that these drivers have entered with the team, they have won. This includes Luhr's 2001 Daytona title and 2003 Le Mans victory and Bergmeister and Long's '04 win at La Sarthe.

Michael Petersen, team owner: "To start the 2005 season off with a victory in Sebring is huge. We had problems several hours in but the guys did a fantastic job of keeping the car out front. I can't thank the guys on the crew enough and the drivers too. As for the Triple Crown, we still have some unfinished business. The ten hour Petit Le Mans is still a notch we want to achieve. To win the 24 Hours of Daytona with Lucas and to win the 12 Hours with Lucas, Pat and Jorg and to win Le Mans with Jorg and Patrick and Sascha, what can I say? This is an incredible feeling. Most teams will never be able to experience it; it is a big deal to me and I am just honored to have achieved this."

Dale White, team manager: "I can't say enough about the team and the drivers. We had a plan from the start and we stuck to it. We took advantage of some problems that a few other cars had but we were there to do that. That's a big part of endurance racing; you have to be there at the finish to win. Mike and I went sports car racing about ten years ago for fun to get away from the business of off-road racing and here we are. It is a little hard to believe at times. I feel really honored to be with a group of guys like we have here and to be associated with top companies like Porsche and Michelin. This is a really big deal to us and we're going to enjoy it. We aren't going to rest on it, but we're going to enjoy it."

Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "It's great to finally win here in the fourth try. This is the second race for me with Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing and the second win. I'm really excited and it's really nice to be a part of the team. We were able to be the quickest out there and I think it looks good for the season. Sebring is already hard with a normal damper setting over the bumps and with the problem in the front [the broken shock absorber] it unsettled the whole car and made it ten-times worse. I think we showed our potential; we were on pole and were fast during the race even with a few problems."

Patrick Long, driver: "Just a stellar job by the team. It's great to put this feather in my cap after Le Mans, the first victory with Petersen/ White Lightning, last year. This team has an obvious proven record and I am just happy to be a part of it for the remainder of the season. Jorg and Lucas made me look good this week. These guys are really tip-top drivers and taught me a lot all week. Getting hit by the Audi was wild. Surviving was the main goal. At the end it was pretty strategic, which was unlike any race I had ever done, so that was pretty memorable."

Lucas Luhr, driver: "Honestly, I'm not into records. What makes me really happy is that we won with the team. The guys in the pits did an awesome job. We were by far the quickest doing the pit stops. This is my third race with Petersen/ White Lightning and we won together all three of them and I think that is pretty amazing. It shows how special the team is. I think everyone can be proud of being a part of this team."

For more, please visit www.petersenmotorsports.com.

-pm/wlr-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Johnny O'Connell , Lucas Luhr , Jörg Bergmeister , Al Holbert , Patrick Long , Michael Petersen