Combination of Enge-Turner Won at Track in '06, Hoping to Rekindle Success in '07 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing is currently suffering through its toughest victory drought since returning to fulltime American Le Mans Series ...
Combination of Enge-Turner Won at Track in '06, Hoping to Rekindle Success in '07
Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing is currently suffering through its toughest victory drought since returning to fulltime American Le Mans Series competition in 2004. However, with a healed Tomas Enge (a native of the Czech Republic now living in Monaco) making his return to the No.31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT at Miller Motorsports Park and four-time American Le Mans Series race winner Darren Turner (Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, England) joining the team for the next two races, the Utah Grand Prix promises a potential momentum shift for the team. An upbeat feeling pervades the team owned Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) as they enter into the first natural terrain road course of the season and the first permanent course since the season-opening race at Sebring. While this is the first event the two will race together for the Dale White-managed team (White is from Bozeman, MT), Enge and Turner have been either teammates or on the same team for the last five seasons. The two joined here last year to win the GT1 class while the two-time 24 Hour of Le Mans class winning team finished second in GT2 at the race's inaugural event last year.
The last victory for the two-time American Le Mans Series champions came in 2006 at Petit Le Mans, five races ago. That matches the last longest winless streak, a five event famine that ended at Road American in 2005 and ignited a four-race victory spree to close the season.
Thus far in 2007, the No. 31 has sat on the front row of the GT2 starting grid three times in four races, including the pole position at St. Petersburg. It has set the fastest race lap three times (St. Pete, Long Beach and Houston) but has come-up short at the end of the day. At the season-opening 12 Hours of Sebring, Enge was hit on the third turn, while leading, setting the team back 20 laps. They rallied for an eighth-place finish. The following race, the Nevada-based team dominated the event leading before Enge's devastating crash shattered his left elbow and forced him out of competition for two rounds. Dirk Muller (native of Germany living in Monaco) stepped in with great acclaim in the following two races at Long Beach and Houston setting the fastest race lap in both events. He will return to race with Enge beginning at Round Seven of the 12 race season at Mid-Ohio on July 21. Turner joins the team for races five and six teaming with Enge. The experienced Brit, while making his GT2 class debut in the American Le Mans Series, promises to be a formidable driving partner to Enge.
The week also brought the news that White Lightning Racing and Corsa Motorsports, which teamed at the Sebring to field a Ferrari F430 GT, will no longer being entering the No. 32 together. A difference in approach and philosophy is the reason for the separation. White Lightning Racing continues to assist Corsa Motorsports in its transition to a fully independent team.
The week in Utah is a busy one for the team. Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing tests at Miller on May 12th and 13th. Enge and Petersen will take turns in the No. 31 on Saturday while Turner will arrive for his first taste of the Ferrari F430 GT on Sunday. The team will remain in the area for the week where they will participate in a public pit stop demonstration at the Energy Solutions Arena (previously known as the Delta Center) on Tuesday, May 15 at Noon (MT). They will follow that by participating in the Klein Pit Crew Challenge on Friday, May 18 (12:35 pm to 1:45 pm (MT)) at Miller Motorsports Park. This is the third season in which the Dennis Chizma-led team has been invited to participate in the exciting pit stop competition that places the spotlight on the crew. The team made it to the Finals in 2006.
Mike Petersen, Owner: "We are looking forward to returning to Salt Lake as this is a great track. Things this year should be even better with our great lineup of drivers and with the Ferrari! It was quite hot last year and I do not think that it will be as bad this year. For me it will be nice to get back to the driving part [in testing] as I have not had a chance to drive since Sebring which is quite long. The competition should be tough. We are looking forward to getting back into the points and to get some race wins. We will be pushing quite hard for the victory. We are very determined to get a win soon!"
Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "We're very excited about getting to Miller Motorsports Park. We feel like we now have a more complete vision of what the future of Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing holds. It seems like we have had a lot of false starts to the season so far. We haven't been able to find a rhythm. Now, we know who the drivers will be, what cars we're entering and how we are approaching every aspect of what we are doing. It feels like a whole new year."
Tomas Enge, Driver: "I'm excited but nervous as well. I actually don't know what to expect. I think all the nerves will go out of me on the first lap in the car. I know the hand is still a little weak but I am training quite a lot everyday. Once I get into the rhythm I will get better and better. For me, it is like the start of a new season. I am going to try and get back the things that I used to handle without any trouble. I am really excited to be back in Salt Lake City and of course with Darren as well. Last year it was a new track for everybody. It was one of the most challenging tracks in the United States. Darren and I had a very good season last year and had loads of fun. I know that Darren was always at 100% to the maximum."
Darren Turner, Driver: (About the track): "Last year was the first time we'd all been to Miller Motorsports Park so it was a unique challenge. To begin with it was hard to get a good flow going as the track lacked reference points. In certain areas it dropped away and merged into the sand, so you couldn't see where the edges were which made it harder to commit to a corner. But, the more laps you did, the easier it became to understand the limits of the track, and yourself, so it ended up being lots of fun. It's quite complex but it's smooth, flowing and fast - when you get it right, it's immensely satisfying. It will be interesting to see how it might have changed one year on. Hopefully going back in May instead of July will mean that the temperatures aren't as high as in 2006, though we will be starting an hour earlier than last year.
(About racing again with Enge): "I'm really looking forward to it. We know each other really well now as this is the fifth season in which we'll have been teammates, at least for the same team, if not in the same car, which always helps in setting up the car. It makes it much easier from my point of view - coming to a new team. He's mega quick, as he showed in qualifying at Salt Lake last year, and we both hope we can have a repeat of last year's class win. It will not only be great for the team, but also for us going on to Le Mans next month."