There was to be no podium for the Lizards after a tough race at Mosport which saw the No. 45 finish fifth and the No. 44 seventh in GT2. The No. 45 drivers Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long still retain their GT2 drivers’ championship lead over Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari, which finished second in the race. The team also keeps its championship points lead, although both margins have narrowed to 31 points, with 55 total points still possible in the final two races of the season.
The race started cleanly for the whole field. In the No. 45, Patrick Long started fifth on the GT2 grid. At the fifteen minute mark, he was still in fifth holding with the lead GT2 pack which had sorted out with the No. 4 Corvette in the lead, the No. 3 Corvette in P2, the No. 90 BMW (which had started 2nd) in P3 and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari (which had started ninth) in P4. Long was just settling into his stint when he narrowly avoided disaster after getting together with the No. 90 BMW on track when both cars were checked up by a prototype stopped on course. ‘We dodged a massive bullet today: I was going full speed and just about to try an overtaking maneuver on the No. 90 when he went hard on the brakes to avoid the car ahead of him and I went hard into the back of the No. 90. Even with a three-foot wide hole in the front of the car, I was able to continue at pace; it’s a testament to the Porsche and the redesign of the front radiators that we were able to continue at that pace with that much damage.’
Long was able to continue without pitting, and moved into fourth, with the No. 4 Corvette still in the lead, followed by the No. 3 Corvette and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari. Over the next 30 minutes, Patrick kept with the lead GT2 pack as they jockeyed for position, trading off between the Corvettes and the Ferrari. Meanwhile, the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche, which had started last on the grid, had moved up through the field, eventually reaching the lead group and overtaking Long to move into fourth. Now back in fifth, Patrick radioed to the crew that he was rapidly losing visibility because of the amount of liquid on the windshield. Unsure if it was water, dirt, or oil he waited as long as he could before using the windshield wipers in a last ditch effort to make some visibility, which only made the problem worse. Now unable to see, Patrick pitted under green for an early driver change, tires and fuel. He was in fifth at the time, with the No. 4 in P1, the No. 62 in P2, the No. 87 in P3, and the No. 3 in P4. Meanwhile, in the No. 44, Darren Law, who started ninth on the grid, had progressed through the field to P8, when he also lost visibility, and pitted just after the No 45, also still under green.
Luck was not with the Lizards: shortly after both cars rejoined the race, the first (and only) full course caution of the race was called to remove a Mazda prototype from the course after an accident. Most of the rest of the GT2 field had not yet pitted, so they took advantage of the yellow to do their pit stops. Once the field resettled after the wave by under yellow (in which the pace car waves the field by to catch the next class leader before the restart), the No. 45, now with Joerg Bergmeister in the cockpit, had lost a lap on the GT2 leaders. The No. 44, now with Johannes van Overbeek at the wheel, pitted again under yellow (after receiving a waveby) for a fuel top up, rejoining now one lap down on the GT2 leader.
Nearing the 90-minute mark of the 2 hour and 45 minute race, the No. 45 was P6 and the No. 44 now P8. The No. 4 Corvette retained the lead, with the No. 3 Corvette in P2, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in P3, the No. 87 Porsche in P4, the No. 92 BMW in P5 and the No. 21 Panoz in P7. The No. 45 was one lap down on the GT2 leader and the No. 44 was nearly 2 laps down. On track, the GT2 field ran tightly together in a six-car freight train but out of sequence with their actual race positions. As the cars battled to pass one another while being passed by the faster prototypes, it made for some nailbiter moments.
Coming down to the end, it was a battle between the two Corvettes and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari, with the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche also on the lead lap. With 30 minutes to go, the No. 4 Corvette lost the lead to the No. 62 Risi Ferrari after going off course. Then, with the final round of pit stops, the No. 3 and No. 62 swapped positions, with the No. 3 taking the lead. Although he gave the No. 3 Corvette a run for his money, the No. 62 had to settle for second as the No. 3 Corvette took the GT2 win, the No. 4 finished third and the No. 87 fourth. The No. 45, which was too far back to make up any positions, finished fifth.
Bergmeister’s take, ‘We were unlucky with the timing of the yellow and losing a lap, but for the remainder of the race, it was pretty much just fighting for position with the lead cars. It was very enjoyable really – even though we couldn’t gain any more positions and finished fifth, it was some very exciting racing!’
The No. 44 finished seventh. Over his stint, van Overbeek had gained two positions to P6, and only to see the No. 21 Panoz overtake him at the end. van Overbeek added, ‘Darren did a great job adapting quickly to a difficult track and non-optimal conditions due to the drizzle and slippery track. We had a good racecar today and it looked like we had sixth in the bag, but at the end I had to run up the inside of the back straight to keep the Panoz behind me, got a lot of pickup and got loose and he was able to get a run on me.’
Darren said, ‘Johannes and the team did a great job on setup. I arrived this morning and did my first laps in warmup and the car was great. It was very comfortable. It was a tough break to go so far down early in the race due to the timing of the yellow, but we were still able to finish seventh, which helped the team overall in the championship points.’
Up next for the Lizards is the ALMS flagship race, the Petit Le Mans, Sept 26. “