Le Mans By The Numbers What It Takes To Race In the World's Biggest Sports Car Race LE MANS, France, June 13, 2005 -- If a team leaves Las Vegas, wins after racing a Porsche 911 for 12 hours in Florida, racing to third in two hours and...
Le Mans By The Numbers
What It Takes To Race In the World's Biggest Sports Car Race
LE MANS, France, June 13, 2005 -- If a team leaves Las Vegas, wins after racing a Porsche 911 for 12 hours in Florida, racing to third in two hours and 45-minutes and second in another, travels 3,000 miles with 15 people from seven states and three countries for 20 days to race for 24 hours on a 8.48-mile, 11-turn track, does the team arrive on the victory podium for the third consecutive time on June 19th at 4 pm?
That is the question that has Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing working in preparation for the 73rd Annual 24 Heures du Mans in Le Mans, France. The GT2 class team owned by Michael Petersen (Las Vegas, Nev.) and managed by Dale White (Las Vegas) will start its third race at the Circuit De La Sarthe on June 18th in pursuit of an unprecedented third-straight 24 Hours of Le Mans title won by an American, privateer team. While racing anywhere for 24 hours is a daunting task, to undertake such a challenge a continent and ocean away from the team's Las Vegas race shop requires forethought, preparation, strategy and organization a year in advance.
"We started preparing for Le Mans even before we finished last year's event here," reflected team manager and entrant White. "This race takes so much from everyone involved just to participate in it before you can think about winning it. Just getting here with most of what you need is a pretty impressive accomplishment. We learned to think 'big picture' when we were racing off-road and I think that has been one of the reasons for our success here at Le Mans. We had to take everything with us in off-road because they don't have a NAPA in the middle of the desert. It's almost the same here. You have to think well ahead on everything when preparing to race here whether it is the entry fee, travel or having an ink cartridge for the printer. Being here and checking it out gets you closer but you really have to come over and do it to really know what's going on. I learn something new every day that we can do better."
Knowing what you don't have to take is almost as important as knowing what not to. White: "The first time you come you are grabbing everything you have thinking you might need it and assuming you could never get it here. But, after awhile you realize what you have to bring for comfort or for necessity and what you can do without or find once you are over here. Watching new people come in is always interesting. You realize how green you must have looked your first year here too."
"Normally, when we go racing, you have to have all your ducks in a row to be successful. At Le Mans you have to have them in a row and all their feathers pointed in the same direction. Success here is as much about what you have done to be ready for Le Mans as it is what you do while you're here. You can't win this race through preparation but you sure can lose it that way. Every year we come back we get stronger because of that."
The fact that the only ongoing links from the first race in 2003 through this year's effort are Petersen, White, Porsche and Michelin shows that being stagnate does not bring success. Two drivers, Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) will return from the 2004 winning program while 2002 Le Mans GT2 (formerly GT) champion Timo Bernhard (Dittweiler, Germany) joins the team for the first time at Le Mans. In 2003, Petersen/ White Lightning teamed with Alex Job Racing (AJR) to challenge in their first 24 Hours of Le Mans in a Michael Petersen-owned Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The driver lineup in the debut included Emmanuel Collard (France), Lucas Luhr (Monaco) and Sascha Maassen (Raeren, Belgium). Only Maassen returned in 2004- although Luhr did drive to victory with the Petersen Porsche at the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this season- to drive with Bergmeister and Long.
"We keep fine-tuning our entire organization," continued White. "Our goal is to win so we aren't sitting back and thinking 'this worked fine last year so why don't we just do that again?' The competition keeps getting better so we have to too. We have people here with us this year that are new to our team and several that were here last year but only one crew member that has been here since '03. I doubt we have any equipment from the first year with us this year; maybe a few tools. This team, whether it is here at Le Mans or in the ALMS, is a living thing I guess you could say. Each year requires a little tweak here and there. We've always had great people but, for one reason or another, before you know it, it's a different group. But, the core is the same with Mike and me and with Porsche and Michelin."
White also points towards the budget as something you learn from experience. "Our budget really hasn't changed a lot since the first year we were here even though the cost of everything has gone up. We spend what we need to but we don't go crazy. You have to provide your sponsors a real return on their investment. When we first came over with Alex, we probably spent too much. Last year was a lot closer to what I think is the right amount. This year is about the same but we have a smaller team. So it balances out as being a lower budget."
The expense and hours that it takes to race at Le Mans is staggering. All told, the price to compete for a GT2 class team like Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing is approximately $500,000 while the team schedule calls for over 3,225 man hours invested towards a third Le Mans title.
A brief break-down of some of the more interesting numbers associated with the No. 90 Westward Ho Casino/ MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (based on known information and expectation of upcoming events) follows--
number of team members in France: 15
number of days in France: 21
man hours in the air: 250 (approximately)
man hours at the track: 3,225 hours (215 hours x 15 people)
number of pit stops: 25 (approximately)
equipment shipped: 60,000 lbs (Mid-Ohio to JFK Airport, JFK to Paris-Gaulle Airport, CDG to Le Mans)
amount to ship equipment: $100,000
labor: over $80,000
airfare (team): $18,000
lodging (private chateau): $40,000
entry fee/ licensing: $40,000
rental cars/ vans: $3,500
parts for prep: over $100,000
race fuel: $9,000
nitrogen tanks (25 for pneumatic equipment and tire filling): $4,500
More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com. Learn more about Porsche at www.Porsche.com.