Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Bergmeister/Long Wins GT2 at St. Pete; Strategy, tire selection, early driving decisions lead to two-lap win over BMW ST. PETERSBURG, FL - April 4 - Showing auto racing for the real team sport that is it, the...
Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Bergmeister/Long Wins GT2 at St. Pete; Strategy, tire selection, early driving decisions lead to two-lap win over BMW
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - April 4 - Showing auto racing for the real team sport that is it, the race and tire engineers, pit crew, and drivers of the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - piloted by Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) - scored a two lap GT2 class win at the Acura Sport Car Challenge on the 1.9-mile street course through downtown St. Petersburg.
Long, who lives in nearby Bellaire, Florida, had crashed the car in qualifying on Friday, but pointed out that the team learned some valuable lessons from his mishap that helped them win the event.
"First, we learned that turn #10 was not the place to make up time during the race, and that, while it was tempting to try to get fast lap times during qualifying and the race start on softer tires, we would be better off with a harder compound that would outlast the competition. Our strategist Thomas Blam held out until the last minute to have us stop for fuel, and we were able to pit under yellow when most of our competition pitted under green. And then we got the wave-by from the pace car, and put a lap on the whole GT2 field," said Long, who has won an ALMS GT2 championship with Bergmeister in a Porsche (2005).
"And I was able to be aggressive early in the race to get past the Farnbacher Porsche, plus the Ferrari and the BMW without putting the car at risk. The Lizard engineers really had us hooked up - especially after the accident at Sebring and my mistake yesterday - and the Porsche did everything I asked it to do," said Long, who, along with Bergmeister, now leads the GT2 class with 40 points.
Bergmeister took the helm during the 57th minute - exactly halfway through the one hour, 55 minute event - and described his drive as uneventful, but he knew he had to keep the car off the concrete barriers that line the street course as it was his race to lose.
"We had such a big lead that I didn't have pressure to fight for position, but I certainly could not relax. The Lizard pit kept me focused by dictating the lap time pace for me to run, and telling me when to pass lapped traffic and when to let guys by," said Bergmeister, who is still the only driver to win American le Mans Series and Rolex Grand-Am championships in the same year.
One of the reasons Joerg and Patrick had such a large lead is that the fastest qualifying Porsche - #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - qualified and started by Wolf Henzler (Germany), came into the pits while leading the race with a severe handling problem at the 45 minute mark. It turns out the car had run over some debris, which started shaving rubber off the right rear tire, and that rubber coiled around a brake line and severed it. While the tire did not deflate, the shredded rubber created a messy job replacing the brake line in the pits, and the team lost more than 15 laps to the field while affecting the repairs. Still, after Dirk Werner (Germany) climbed into the car to re-join the race, the car was still the fastest in GT2 as Dirk turned the fastest lap.
After starting from the back of the pack, the #44 Seth Neiman/Darren Law Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR moved up to fifth in class as Law had a late run as the second driver.
The pole-sitting Ferrari broke its suspension and did not score any points, while the second BMW lost its main computer control unit and also did not score. Porsche now leads the GT2 manufacturers points with 40 points, with Panoz second at 36 points and Ferrari third with 30 points.