The Lizards have closed up their home shop at Infineon Raceway for the month of June: the Flying Lizard No. 80 Porsche and its complement of crew and drivers are off to France for the team’s fourth consecutive 24 Heures du Mans. The team arrives this week in the historic town of Le Mans, near the Loire Valley, to prepare for the renowned 24-hour race on a 8.5-mile road course. The official test day is June 1; the race starts on June 14 at 3 pm CET and ends 24 hours later on June 15.
The 2008 Lizard drivers for Le Mans will be Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Johannes van Overbeek (USA), and Seth Neiman (USA). Bergmeister, a Porsche factory driver, drives the No. 45 Porsche for the Lizards in the ALMS, and currently leads the ALMS GT2 drivers’ championship with teammate Wolf Henzler. van Overbeek pilots the No. 46 Lizard Porsche in the ALMS, and together with teammate Patrick Pilet (France), is in third. Neiman, driving the No. 44 Lizard Porsche (with Darren Law and Lonnie Pechnik), is fourth in the points chase.
All three drivers have significant experience in endurance races. 2008 will be Bergmeister’s seventh race at Le Mans: he finished second in GT2 in 2002 (with Romain Dumas and Sascha Maasen/Freisinger Motorsport), won GT2 in 2004 (with Maassen and Patrick Long/Petersen White Lightning) and was second in GT2 in 2005 (with Patrick Long and Timo Bernhard/Petersen White Lightning). In the ALMS, Bergmeister won the GT2 drivers’ championship in 2005 and 2006 (with Petersen White Lightning), and finished second in 2007 (with van Overbeek/Flying Lizard).
van Overbeek and Neiman have competed together in three consecutive Le Mans events, finishing third in 2005 and fourth in 2006. van Overbeek has driven with the Lizards since 2004: notable results include winning the Porsche Cup in 2007 [which ranks the top private (non-factory) Porsche drivers worldwide] and finishing in the top three in the ALMS drivers’ championships every year since 2004. Teammate Neiman is currently ranked fourth in the ALMS GT2 drivers’ championship, counting a strong ALMS season start with a 2nd place finish at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring (with Law and Pechnik).
It will be the second year that the three drivers — Bergmeister, van Overbeek and Neiman — have driven together at Le Mans. In 2007 the trio saw their podium hopes dashed early in the race when the No. 80 Porsche, which had been the fastest GT2 car on track, was retired at hour 10 due to mechanical problems.
Team principal and driver Seth Neiman, reflects on the 24 Heures du Mans, “The team is honored be able to return this year. To compete at Le Mans, one of the most storied races in the world is an experience that simply cannot be duplicated anywhere else. This will be our fourth race here. Each year, we learn and understand more about the track, the competition, and how we as a team need to prepare. Having to retire so early in 2007 was heartbreaking — the crew, the drivers, everyone had worked so hard. But we learned a great deal about what it takes to win in this race: strength, speed, and endurance are crucial, but in the end, it’s the ability to plan for, and recover from every eventuality that gets you to the podium.”
The No. 80 Porsche will sport the team’s familiar red and silver livery as run in the American Le Mans Series, with robin’s egg blue accents on the windshield banner and mirrors.