GT2 Podium: Johannes van Overbeek, Patrick Pilet, Jörg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler, Jamie Melo, Mika Salo
The Porsche 911 GT3 RSR celebrated a clear double victory at the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series in Detroit. Notching up their fourth win of the season, Jörg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler from Germany increased their lead in the GT2 class of the championship. With the sports prototypes, Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) secured fourth with the Porsche RS Spyder and defended their points’ lead. With two races left on the ALMS calendar in Road Atlanta and Laguna Seca, their chances look good to successfully defend the title.
Since the debut of the RS Spyder in the American Le Mans Series at the 2005 season final, Detroit was the first race where the Weissach developed and built sports prototype did not secure a podium result.
On “Belle Isle” on the Detroit River, everything initially ran to plan for the front-runners of the LMP2 class after their overall victory here last year. Taking up the race from the third row, the duo in their #7 Penske Racing RS Spyder put in a spirited drive to conquer second. In the final phase of the race, Timo Bernhard delivered a gripping duel over many laps with the leading Acura piloted by Franck Montagny. Thanks to a perfect pit stop strategy he had the fresher tyres and was clearly quicker. Shortly before the finish, Montagny and Bernhard caught up to Johannes van Overbeek in his 911 GT3 RSR. The American left the path clear for Montagny, but did not leave enough room for Bernhard to overtake. Although Overbeek immediately took the blame for the collision, the race management imposed a stop-and-go penalty on Bernhard, who lost crucial time and the chance to claim another overall victory.
“I clearly had a winning car today,” said Timo Bernhard after the action-packed race. “Our strategy was the best of anyone’s and I was quicker than the leader right to the finish. But then Johannes must have overseen me. That’s the only way to explain why he let the Acura through and shut the door on me. It’s totally incomprehensible why the race directors penalised me for his mistake, which he admitted immediately.”
In their first race together for Porsche, Patrick Long (USA) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia) ranked third for quite some time with their #6 RS Spyder. After an extra pit stop they finally crossed the finish line in fifth – one position ahead of Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) in their Dyson Racing RS Spyder. The Porsche-supported privateer team ran the new DFI engine for the first time in Detroit. Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) saw the flag in the squad’s second RS Spyder in eighth.
In the GT2 class for slightly modified standard sports cars, the 911 GT3 RSR racers of Flying Lizard Motorsports claimed a clear double victory. Germany’s Jörg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler celebrated their fourth win of the season after Sebring, Salt Lake City and Lime Rock and as clear points’ leaders are well on track to secure the title. Second position went to their team mates Johannes van Overbeek (USA) and Patrick Pilet (France). Joining forces with Lonnie Pechnik (USA), the UPS-Porsche junior Martin Ragginger (Austria) secured fourth in another Flying Lizard 911 GT3 RSR and with this celebrated an excellent start in the American Le Mans Series.
“Our two-stop strategy worked brilliantly today. At our second stop we took on less fuel compared to the others and that pushed us ahead,” said Jörg Bergmeister. Wolf Henzler added: “Our car was sensational today. After our second stop we easily brought home victory.”
Dieter Steinhauser, head of motorsport development, gave a mixed summary of the third to last race: “The racing speed of the RS Spyder was fine today. Penske Racing’s strategy was great, the pit crew worked very fast but again luck wasn’t on our side. Congratulations to the Flying Lizard Motorsports team. Double victory today was extremely important for the championship of the GT2 class.”
The 10th round of the American Le Mans Series takes place on 4th October 2008 in Road Atlanta in the US state of Georgia.