Warm-up Complete, Two-Time GT2 Winner No. 90 Porsche on Grid LE MANS, France, June 17, 2006 -- With the final warm-up session now behind them, two-time 24 Heures du Mans LM GT2 class winning Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing is...
Warm-up Complete, Two-Time GT2 Winner No. 90 Porsche on Grid
LE MANS, France, June 17, 2006 -- With the final warm-up session now behind them, two-time 24 Heures du Mans LM GT2 class winning Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing is gridded and waiting. As the Michael Petersen-owned and Dale White-managed team is prepared to make its fourth consecutive start in the famous French Endurance race, they turned the ninth quickest time (four minutes, 20.203 seconds) in the 45-minute warm-up at 9 AM (local) 3 AM (ET) Saturday morning. Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas, USA) did the final lap in practice in the No. 90 Krohn/ Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Nearly all of the 50 cars on the grid took laps in the warm-up for today's 5 PM (local)/ 11 AM (ET) start of the 74th Annual 24 Heures du Mans. Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany), Nic Jonsson (a native of Sweden currently living in Buford, Georgia, USA) and Krohn will drive the car in pursuit of the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champions third Le Mans victory-- they finished second in last year's running.
The hours leading-up to the start of the world's most famous event are inspiring and nerve-wracking for even the most stoic and experienced competitor. The team arrived at the track at 7:30 AM local time Saturday morning. They enjoyed the last meal they will have at a table for nearly two days and were in pit lane, firesuits on, at 8:45 AM. The car pulled out for its initial "installation laps" of morning warm-up at 9 AM. The car was then cleaned and readied for the start. At 1:45 AM the Petersen/ White Lightning crew pushed the No. 90 to the grid in Le Mans' traditional diagonal starting position-- known as "ear of corn" in Le Mans. The drivers had a 2 PM official photo at the start/finish line while the crew waited and filled their time the best way they could. At 4:15 PM, the car will roll-out for its 15 minutes of "recon laps" around the 8.6-mile Circuit de la Sarthe. Should all go well, they will return to the position on the grid, otherwise, the No. 90 will be returned to pit lane for corrections. The pit lane closes at 4:47 PM. At 4:52, the formation lap begins. The rolling start begins at 5 PM local time/ 11 AM ET.
The 7:30 AM arrival at the track, 11 hours before the start of the 24 hour event, was the beginning of a long "day" for the Dennis Chizma-led team. Should all go as scheduled, they will return to their chateau at approximately 10 PM Sunday night, five hours after the finish of the event. All-told, the team will have spent 40 hours at the track with minor "cat naps" sitting in the Petersen/ White Lightning garage (stall No. 37). That little amount of sleep will fall between the anticipated 25 pit stops which come approximately every 50 to 55 minutes.
The team will start fifth on the LM GT2 class grid in the position that Bergmeister had qualified on Thursday. As was reported in the post qualifying brief, the class pole winning Porsche (No. 76) had been heavily damaged in the final practice on Thursday. However, after diligent work-- very reminiscent of the Petersen/ White Lightning crew in 2005-- the pole sitter has been repaired and turned times just five seconds slower that the No. 90 in the race morning warm-up.
Once the event starts with the waving of the French Tri- Color (not the traditional green flag that most North American fans have become accustom to), White and Petersen/ White Lightning engineer Frank Funke (Wettter, Germany) will work race strategy to be on the top-step of the podium at 5 PM, Sunday. Strategy is quite complex when one considers that the three drivers have varying degrees of experience not only at Le Mans but in racing as a whole-- Bergmeister is in his fifth Le Mans while Jonsson and Krohn are each making their debuts. Other considerations include weather, wear on the Michelin tires, fuel mileage and the overall pace of the event.
Dale White, Entrant/ Team Manager: "You come into the race with a basic strategy of how you want to rotate the drivers and when you anticipate you'll need to refuel. Once the race starts and we see how things are developing; how the tires are wearing, what fuel consumption is, then you start to fine-tune the plan. You figure out how you want to balance performance on-track with faster pit stops when it comes to stinting the tires and the drivers. We think we'll have a fuel mileage advantage. We have smart and quick drivers that also know how to conserve. So, this won't be an all-out rush towards the front for us. We're looking at getting as much fuel out of the car as we can. At the end of the 24 hours you never know how much that will mean on the track."