Fourth place for Porsche in American Le Mans Series after dramatic chase
With a sensational charge through the field, Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) gave spectators a gripping show with his works driver colleagues Patrick Long (USA) and Marc Lieb (Germany) at the season-opening round of the American Le Mans Series in Sebring (Florida). After a collision early on in the race which resulted in a twelve minute pit stop for repairs, they continued without any problems in the 450 hp Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by Flying Lizard Motorsports until 1.10 hours before the end of the race, turning one fastest lap after the other. However, after Marc Lieb had overtaken his competitor Ian James in the Panoz Esperante, James hit the back of Lieb's Porsche and nudged him into a spin on the finish line. In the end, last year's winner was classified fourth. Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Johannes van Overbeek (all USA) claimed fifth with the second Flying Lizard racer, and as the best GT2 vehicle was awarded third place in the environmental classification "Michelin Green X Challenge". In this special category, average speed and fuel consumption are taken into account.
At the start, Joerg Bergmeister got away well from the first row. In the second lap, however, a competitor hit the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of last year's winner. The replacement of the toe link cost a total of twelve minutes. From the back of the field, Bergmeister and his team mates Patrick Long and Marc Lieb took up the chase with a spirited drive, turned the fastest race lap with 2:02.494 minutes and one hour and ten minutes before the end moved into third position. But then the No. 45 Porsche spun and crashed into the wall. "I had already passed Ian James but he simply didn't leave me any room," said Lieb annoyed. "What a huge pity," said Joerg Bergmeister. "Third would have been crucial for our championship." Patrick Long added: "We did everything possible to bring home points. It was an incredible effort from the whole team."
During the early phase of the twelve hour race in Sebring it initially looked as though the pole-setting Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Farnbacher Loles Racing would be the car to beat. Start driver Dirk Werner (Germany), who shared the cockpit with Porsche works drivers Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria), began to pull clear of the field lap after lap and by the time he came in for his first pit stop had already put around 25 seconds between him and the fastest Ferrari. But several laps later the team not only lost the lead position but also had to relinquish all hopes of a podium result. Damage to the power transmission cost the team 1:48 hours to complete the complicated repairs. "In the end we just wanted to complete the minimum distance to score points toward the championship," explained a visibly disappointed Wolf Henzler. "Although our position in the fight for the championship looks much worse now compared to after our win last year, we will definitely not be giving up." His team mate Dirk Werner added: "Our goal is and remains to defend the GT2 class title." Richard Lietz stayed positive after the race. "Although we had bad luck here today I know that the new 911 GT3 RSR is even better than its predecessor. That makes me confident for my season in the European Le Mans Series."
"Of course we would have been thrilled if our customer teams could have repeated their win from last year," said Porsche's head of motorsport, Hartmut Kristen. "But racing luck was definitely not on our side today. As far as the performance of our new 911 GT3 RSR is concerned, I'm very pleased. The car ran well this weekend under all conditions and set the fastest lap times. With this in mind, we have a good starting point for the rest of an undoubtedly exciting season."
The second of ten rounds of the American Le Mans Series takes place on 4th April in St. Petersburg (Florida).
Result GT2 Class
1. Melo/Salo/Kaffer (BR/SF/D), Ferrari F430, 332 laps 2. Bruni/Russo/Companc (I/ARG/ARG), Ferrari F430, 329 3. Farnbacher/James (D/USA), Panoz Esperante, 328 4. Bergmeister/Long/Lieb (D/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 325 5. Law/van Overbeek/Neimann (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 325 6. Krohn/Jonsson/van de Poele (USA/USA/B), Ferrari F430, 324 7. Murry/Robertson/Robertson (USA/USA/USA), Ford GT, 302 8. Henzler/Werner/Lietz (D/D/A), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 273