BRISCOE, MAASSEN RIDE FUEL STRATEGY TO UTAH WIN A gamble on fuel paid off Saturday for Penske Motorsports as Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen gave the team and Porsche its third straight overall victory in the American Le Mans...
BRISCOE, MAASSEN RIDE FUEL STRATEGY TO UTAH WIN
A gamble on fuel paid off Saturday for Penske Motorsports as Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen gave the team and Porsche its third straight overall victory in the American Le Mans Series with a 10-second victory over Audi's Allan McNish in the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Penske team stretched its final fuel load while Briscoe took the lead with 40 minutes to go when McNish pitted his diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI for a final splash. The Aussie drove the final 75 minutes on a single set of tires and tank of fuel. The sister Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas won overall at Long Beach and Houston.
Maassen was one of six cars to pit at the 18-minute mark following an early caution period when the No. 22 Panoz Team PTG Panoz Esperante GTLM became stranded on the circuit. Roger Penske's call set up the strategy for the car to make just one more stop over the remaining distance.
"The gas was a bit of concern but the engineers in the box told me what number to conserve to and they were working with me on that," said Briscoe, who scored his second career class win. "On my second lap of the stint I was saving a lot of fuel. They kept me updated as we were going. We knew we at least had the second place buffer. After the first yellow Roger called the best strategy which put us in the right place."
Maassen started from the outside front row but dropped back to ninth on a frantic restart. Emanuele Pirro jumped from eighth at the start to the race lead as the field was four-wide going into the first turn. Maassen didn't have the momentum of the Audi and decided not to take a risk early.
"One of the Dyson Porsches got to the side and I had to let up," Maassen said. "I could have closed the door but thought I had the best car and I knew this race was two hours and 45 minutes. I could make up the time not doing anything in the first corner.
In the end, his patience paid off. It wasn't without its moments however, as Maassen was unsure Briscoe could make it to the race's end without a stop.
"I didn't know we only needed to go one more stop when I came in," he said. "I think we could have won with a splash and dash but Roger wanted to play safe. That's the best thing to do in an endurance race."
McNish and Rinaldo Capello won their fourth straight race in LMP1 to extend their championship lead. They were almost two minutes clear of Audi mates Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner.
Capello qualified on the class pole but started from the back row after the team changed its qualifying tires. The Italian worked his way up to second overall following the restart, trailing only Pirro.
It was quite a contrast to qualifying when McNish was a full three seconds behind the pole-sitting Porsches. The crew made some adjustments to the dampers, which moderately helped, Capello said.
"The pace we could keep after the start was quite hard," he said. "If you see our times for the race and from the qualifications, it was only a two- second difference, and it was a bit more for the P2s. If it wasn't for the extra pit stop we would have been very safe. It's a shame to lose this way."
There's no time to linger, though, with the 24 Hours of Le Mans on the horizon. The R10 TDI won in its debut at La Sarthe last year, and the Peugeot diesel will provide the stiffest challenge.
"We knew the Porsche was in a good spot and we were a bit back," McNish said. "That was it. We get the best out of the car and we tried to get in the proper position from the last start. We've done everything for Le Mans."
Race pole-sitters Bernhard and Dumas finished third overall and second in LMP2 following on-track contact and a stop-and-go penalty. The duo was 47 seconds behind their winning teammates. Andy Wallace and Butch Leitzinger were third in class for Dyson Racing and Porsche, which swept the P2 podium.
Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta came from the rear of the field to win GT1 by 26 seconds in their Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R. Gavin qualified on the class pole but, like the Audi, had to change tires before the race following a spin in Friday's qualifying session.
Gavin had a storming opening stint, and the team's pit crew helped assure the class win with flawless execution. The sister car of Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen finished second as Gavin and Beretta rebounded from a runner-up finish at Houston.
"It's good to be back," Gavin said. "It's a great track and we enjoyed it today, especially after Houston. There was quite a melee in the first corner with cars going off the track, and I was trying to be very careful because the last thing I wanted to do was damage the car."
Like Audi, Le Mans is next up for Corvette Racing. Gavin and Beretta have won the last three GT1 titles at La Sarthe.
"It was a very important day for us because it was the last practice before Le Mans," said Beretta who won his 32nd career Series race. "We had to finish with the car in one piece because it will fly to France in a few days. We want the mechanics to be well rested because they've done a fantastic job since the start of the season. We went through three street races without any accidents and now we've completed a successful Michelin tire test. We are ready to go to the big one now."
The storybook weekend for Tomas Enge and Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing ended in the best possible way as the team scored its first GT2 victory since Petit Le Mans last September and the first in its Ferrari F430 GT.
Enge teamed with Darren Turner for the victory, which was a repeat from 2006 of sorts. The two won in GT1 for Aston Martin Racing last season, and they posted a one-lap victory Saturday over the Flying Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Jörg Bergmeister.
"It's always fun to drive with Tomas," Turner said. "That relationship was how I became involved with the team. After driving a GT1 car for so long, it takes awhile to adapt. Every lap you learn something new around this track."
Enge's story is an incredible one. He suffered numerous injuries at St. Petersburg nearly two months ago including a shattered left elbow, broken ribs and a punctured lung. He returned to the Ferrari last weekend in a test session at Miller.
"Obviously we had a strategy for me to do one stint and then have Darren finish the race," Enge said. "I didn't feel in good enough condition to do more than one stint. This is a fantastic car to drive that allows you to drive and just pull away. I was a bit worried about how I would do if I made any mistakes since I haven't run in so long. Everything worked so smoothly and it's great to be back in the Series."
The win by Enge and Turner snapped a five-race winning streak for Risi Competizione and its Ferrari. The championship-leading car of Jaime Melo and Mika Salo broke a driveshaft with a little more than an hour to go. It was a crippling result as the car failed to complete 70 percent of the overall winner's laps to receive points.
The two still lead the championship over Bergmeister and van Overbeek. Tafel Racing's Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler finished third in their Porsche.
The next race for the American Le Mans Series is the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix, set for 3 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 7 at Lime Rock Park. The race will be broadcast on CBS Sports at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 8. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.