Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Provisional LM GT2 Pole for Le Mans 24 Bergmeister Runs Through Le Mans Rain to Set Quickest Time in Class LE MANS, France, June 14, 2006 -- For the third time in the last four years, Petersen...
Petersen/ White Lightning Takes Provisional LM GT2 Pole for Le Mans 24
Bergmeister Runs Through Le Mans Rain to Set Quickest Time in Class
LE MANS, France, June 14, 2006 -- For the third time in the last four years, Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing has taken the provisional pole position in the LM GT2 class for the 24 Heures du Mans. 2004 Le Mans winner and 2005 American Le Mans GT2 Driver Champion Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) set a quick time of four minutes, 39.912 seconds in the second of the two, two hour practice sessions today putting the No. 90 Krohn/ Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR out of reach of anyone else in the class. A pounding rain enveloped the Circuit de la Sarthe for nearly all four hours of today's sessions slowing times across all classes. Bergmeister's lap time, which is much slower than the GT2 track record here at 8.6-mile Le Mans facility, is a reflection of the wet weather. Dry conditions tomorrow would see lap times plummet to, and even below, the 4:04.252 set by a Ferrari 430 GT in the June 4 "Test Day".
The rain slowed and, at times, stopped but the track never dried making Bergmeister's laps even more impressive. Bergmeister set the early standard in the class at a 4:43.367 just before the second hour of the first session -- which started at 7 PM (local). He set his quick lap, which was good for 23rd overall of the 50 cars running, at approximately 11:14 PM local time. Team manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT, USA) then called the tall German into the garage where the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Championship winning team stayed until the day came to a close at midnight. A late session charge by the No. 76 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR closed the gap from nearly six seconds to 1.7 seconds. That was as close as anyone would get to Bergmeister and the Michael Petersen-owned team.
While Bergmeister's primary responsibility was to focus on setting a quick time and finding a reliable setup in the rain, his co-drivers had a different charge. Nic Jonsson (a native of Sweden now living in Buford, Ga., USA) and Tracy Krohn (Houston, Texas, USA) are each rookies at Le Mans. As such, their primary task was to learn the quick way around the track, especially in the rainy conditions at night. As a safety requirement, every driver, no matter their experience here at Le Mans or elsewhere, is required to turn a minimum of three laps in the darkness. All three Petersen/ White Lightning drivers accomplished that with ease. Jonsson and Krohn each took multiple tours of the Le Mans circuit in both of the sessions tonight.
Krohn had the only incident of the day for the Las Vegas, Nev., USA-based team. Ten minutes after the start of the second hour, conditions precipitated Krohn's trip into the gravel. He was able to continue back to the pits. The team, engineered by Frank Funke (Wetter, Germany), took the remainder of the session to clean and make minor repairs to the car. After a one hour break between sessions, Krohn returned to the track before handing driving chores over to Jonsson who would then be relieved by Bergmeister. Bergmeister began "hot lapping" at 10:50 PM.
The process to set the field for the 74th time at Le Mans will begin again at 7 PM Thursday, June 15th. Tonight's schedule will be mimicked tomorrow. The grid will be set following the checkered flag in tomorrow's fourth and final session. The fastest time by each car in any of the sessions will be deemed their qualifying lap. Therefore, Petersen/ White Lightning must continue to set the fastest time tomorrow to remain on the pole position for the start of the June 17th 24 Heures du Mans.
The race will start at 5 PM local time and can be seen live on SPEED Channel beginning at 10:30 AM (ET), Saturday. All sessions and the race can be heard live on www.RadioLeMans.com. Live timing and scoring is available at www.LeMans.org.
Mike Petersen, Team Owner: "It's the first practice and the weather wasn't very cooperative so we'll see what happens tomorrow. Jorg was able to go out and put a pretty good time down early and it stood up. Then we had the other drivers cycle through their familiarization with the track. Tracy and Nic did a good job. In the evening Tracy went out and did a good job doing his three laps in the wet. Nic went out and did his laps well. Jorg then went out and laid down an even faster lap in the rain. We cut it short with about 45 minutes left. A few people started getting close in the last ten minutes but then another downpour hit. It was close and we look forward to some dry weather tomorrow."
Dale White, Entrant/ Team Manager: "There was some discussion whether we should even be out there or not. I thought; 'these guys are professionals and we need to go out and do our three laps rain or shine'. We didn't want Jorg to really push but the car was working so well that he was able to run a great time with little risk whatsoever. Frank [Funke, engineer] really has the car hooked-up. Jorg is just awesome. He is so comfortable in this car. It is a real pleasure to watch. It looks like tomorrow is going to be dry. We still have two sets of Michelin qualifying tires left so we have two shots at it tomorrow. Speed doesn't look like it will be a problem and everyone is really happy with the car. So, I am looking forward to getting back on track."