Bernhard, Dumas Post Sixth-Place Laguna Seca Finish MONTEREY, Calif. (May 17, 2009) - Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard drove the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley to a sixth-place finish in Sunday's Verizon Wireless 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna...
Bernhard, Dumas Post Sixth-Place Laguna Seca Finish
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 17, 2009) - Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard drove the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley to a sixth-place finish in Sunday's Verizon Wireless 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Despite securing their fourth top-10 finish in as many races, Bernhard and co-driver Romain Dumas have been challenged in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
Bernhard and Dumas were excited to make their return to the 2.238-mile road circuit and hoped to post a podium finish in the Verizon Wireless Festival of Speed.
"We for sure had a good car," said Dumas. "We had understeer issues and we were still short on horsepower but the Penske crew is fast in the pits so we can always gain there."
Dumas started the two-hour-and-45 minute race from the fifth position. He was posted in fourth place on lap 6 when he came down pit road to satisfy the mandatory stop. In the Verizon Wireless pit, Dumas' fuel tank was filled and he returned to the track posted in the 12th position.
Dumas continued to improve his track position, even after contact with another competitor left damage on the right rear of the No. 12 early in the event.
On lap 18 under yellow flag conditions, Dumas was posted eighth. After other cars took advantage of the second caution and headed down pit road for service, Dumas was posted in third place for the restart on lap 21.
Dumas maintained his track position despite reporting understeer in the handling of his machine. He led the field across the line for one lap before completing his stint in second position.
After another yellow flag caution on lap 64, Dumas brought his Porsche powered Riley down pit road to the attention of the Verizon Wireless crew. While Dumas climbed out and Bernhard was belted in, the No. 12 received full fuel, four tires with air-pressure adjustments in the rear and a fresh water bottle for Bernhard.
Dumas took a second to collect himself in the unseasonably warm temperatures in the region before relaying information to race strategist and team owner Roger Penske.
"The car has quite a bit of understeer," said Dumas. "The gear change doesn't really help us. I am shifting all the time but without the [horsepower] it does nothing."
Earlier this season at Daytona, the rules of competition were changed for the Porsche powered Riley teams and sixth gear was eliminated from the car's arsenal. Prior to the Laguna Seca event, sixth gear was restored to the Porsche teams but RPM's were cut by 100, still hampering the car's horsepower.
Bernhard was posted in third position after taking over driving responsibilities from Dumas on lap 63. The German native was ready to continue the successful run Dumas began, but the momentum was broken when he was assessed a stop-and-go penalty on pit road for jumping the race restart on lap 64.
Bernhard returned to the track in seventh position.
"I'm still not sure I know what happened," said Bernhard. "We were headed to the green [flag] and the cars in front of me just slowed and spread out. I should have hit my brakes but I had a run and just pulled out of line to avoid hitting someone.
Grand-Am (Series) rules are different; Romain and I both have to work at making sure we are within the rules," added Bernhard, who along with Dumas is new to full-time Grand-Am Series competition this season. "This is the second-time in three races we have been charged with the same thing. When something like this happens, it causes the driver to slow their pace."
Unless otherwise noted, all starts and/or restarts are single file. According to the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal rule book Section 8-9.12, passing or initiating a pass before crossing the starting line at the start or restart of the race, also called 'jumping the start' will be assessed a stop and go penalty.
Dumas made the same mistake at Virginia International Raceway in April; while approaching the green flag from inside the top-10 Dumas moved out of line and pulled up on the competitor in front of him. While he did not pass the car, his move was considered and was relegated to 23rd position after serving his stop and go penalty.
The rest of Bernhard's stint was action packed. Bernhard raced hard to move up in position. On lap 93, he moved past fellow-competitor Michael Valiante to take over sixth-position and was five-seconds behind the leader.
As the race went on, Bernhard's Penske prepared Verizon Wireless Porsche didn't have the power necessary to gain on the leaders.
When the checkered flag was displayed at lap 106, Bernhard was posted sixth in the event. He and Dumas are fifth in Driver's points, 15-points behind the leaders, and still in contention for a championship run.
Penske Racing's Grand-Am Rolex Series Sports Car team will return to action on Saturday, June 6 to compete in the Sahlen's Six Hours of Watkins Glen.