Utah: Petersen/White Lightning race report

Petersen/White Lightning Battles to Second in Salt Lake City Debut Damaged Exhaust Costs 2005 GT2 Champs Potential ALMS Victory TOOELE, Utah, July 15, 2006 -- In the truest sense, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing fought for a ...

Petersen/White Lightning Battles to Second in Salt Lake City Debut

Damaged Exhaust Costs 2005 GT2 Champs Potential ALMS Victory

TOOELE, Utah, July 15, 2006 -- In the truest sense, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing fought for a hard-earned second-place in tonight's Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix. Battles for position book-ended the American Le Mans Series' fifth round of 2006 with Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) crossing the start-finish line of the new Miller Motorsports Park just 0.572 seconds ahead of third-place to claim their second podium finish of the season. A damaged driver-side exhaust pipe robbed the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Market Scan/Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of power allowing the No. 45 Porsche to close on Bergmeister and hindered his chase of the eventual winner. Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) had an equally heralding battle in the first stint of the two hour and 45 minute race in which the damage to the exhaust occurred.

After qualifying third, Petersen/White Lightning would start from the pole position after first the second-place qualifier was moved to the back for a technical violation and then the pole-winning car was moved to the back of the grid for changing tires after qualifying. The Michael Petersen-owned team went on to dominate the early going of the event before the No. 62 Ferrari 430 GT got around. Then, the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Class Champions faced their first serious battle. A tooth-and-nail struggle between Long and the No. 23 of Mike Rockenfeller resulted in some contact damaging the exhaust and the eventual pass that relegated the team to third. At one hour and 27 minutes the Dale White-managed team pitted holding on to third and closing the gap. With Bergmeister now behind the wheel, and no more stops required, the German began an assault. He was able to close and then hold the gap up to first and down to third but it would take the race's only full course caution flag to bring the on-track war to frenzy with 15 minutes remaining. Bergmeister was able to pressure the No. 23 into a mistake that allowed him, and the 45, to slip by. In the closing stages the No. 45 would close on the anemic No. 31 with Bergmeister holding-off the challenges with each lap. On the final lap, the No. 45 Porsche drew alongside entering turn-one at the end of the long front straight-away but Bergmeister did a spectacular job of holding his line and out-braking the other car. From there, it was a matter of holding on for the remainder of the 4.5-mile, 24-turn facility outside of Salt Lake City.

The second-place, 13th overall, followed the team's first victory of 2006 at Lime Rock Park on July 1. Overall, it is the Las Vegas-based team's 21st career American Le Mans Series podium in 51 starts. They have seven Series victories in the GT2 class and two 24 Hours of Le Mans GT titles.

Quotes:

Mike Petersen, Owner:

"It was nice to be back with the team as I missed the win at Lime Rock. The car was working fairly well. In qualifying we did pretty well and through the misfortunes of others we moved up to pole which was a nice surprise. At the start we had a good strategy. We led a good portion and then surrendered the lead to the Ferrari which was very quick. We stuck to our strategy and Patrick did a great first stint. During the one and only pit stop we picked-up a lot of time on the cars in front of us. About the last fifteen minutes of the race, during Jorg's stint, we got a caution which grouped the pack up. It made the end pretty exciting. Although we didn't have the speed for the Ferrari here, we think Portland will be a different story. I can't thank the guys, the crew and the drivers enough. They did an awesome job with the hot weather and hard competition. The second place feels like a first to me."

Dale White, Team Manager:

"This was a real battle for sure. Again, everyone on the team brought their 'A' game. With the damaged exhaust, we just couldn't chase down the Ferrari and it made us a sitting duck for the other Porsches. Both Jorg and Patrick really did an impressive job out there to fend-off the attacks. We have been doing everything we need to and the car is running great. We'll be back at Portland and try to keep turning the tables back in our favor."

Jorg Bergmeister, Driver:

"The team did a great job. Unfortunately, we just didn't really have the pace today. When Patrick was in the car, Rocky [Mike Rockenfeller] hit him and bent the tailpipe a little bit so we were down on power. Other than that, on the tires, we made probably made the wrong compound choice. We changed the compound from Patrick to me and picked-up a little too much push and, following the push, I got a snap-oversteer. So, I was fighting with that quite a bit. The Ferrari just did an awesome job. They were in a different class today. The battle with Wolf [Henzler, No. 45] was fun. I was watching my mirrors quite a bit. I also lost my radio contact at the end so I couldn't get any communication from the team. But, it was a really fair fight. It was really enjoyable."

Patrick Long, Driver:

"This is what we are all about, the attitude of winning. The boys did an awesome job, and Frank [Funke, engineer] did an awesome job with the setup and Jorg did a great job as always. My battle with Rocky was good. It was close and tough. We ended-up having a little bit of contact that hurt our exhaust. But, I don't think it was anything intentional. I had run pretty hard at the beginning to try and open-up a gap in case there was a yellow. So, used up a little bit of my tires, more than I should have. And, at the end, they were able to capitalize on that a little bit. But, we came into the pits in pretty much a dead heat so that was the goal, always. The Ferrari was a bit out of reach but we made sure and came in as the top Porsche. That is a solid result. We'll carry that momentum into next weekend."

A tape delayed broadcast of the American Le Mans Series' Utah Grand Prix can be seen on CBS at 2 PM (ET) on July 16.

-www.PetersenMotorsports.com.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Jörg Bergmeister , Patrick Long , Mike Rockenfeller