It’s come down to just two remaining races in the 2009 American Le Mans Series: flagship Petit Le Mans next week at Road Atlanta, and the Monterey Sports Car Championships October 10 at Laguna Seca. Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long of the No. 45 Porsche lead the ALMS GT2 drivers’ championships, 31 points ahead of Risi Competizione drivers Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer, and Flying Lizard leads the team championship.
Petit Le Mans will get the green flag on Saturday, September 26 at 11:15 AM ET and will run 1000 miles or 10 hours, whichever comes first. For Petit, Marc Lieb will join Joerg Bergmeister and Long in the No. 45 Porsche, reprising the team’s Sebring lineup. The drivers for the No. 44 Porsche will be Darren Law, Seth Neiman, and Johannes van Overbeek.
Only two teams are still in the running for the GT2 team and drivers’ championships: Flying Lizard and Risi Competizione. The last two races offer a maximum of 55 points: 30 points at Petit and 25 at Laguna Seca. Flying Lizard is 31 points ahead of Risi in the team championship and 57 points ahead of BMW Rahal Letterman racing. In the drivers’ championship, Bergmeister and Long are 31 points ahead of Melo and Kaffer and 70 points ahead of Panoz Team PTG drivers Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James. If the No. 45 finishes within one position of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari–either ahead or behind–Bergmeister, Long and the team will clinch both championships.
Lizard chief strategist Thomas Blam said, ‘Petit Le Mans is a very difficult race. It’s not as long as Sebring or the 24 Heures du Mans, of course, but it is much more hectic. It’s very difficult for the drivers to manage traffic here: prototypes take more chances because they don’t want to get stuck behind the slower cars. We’ll have a large field for this race and several championships are still at stake, combine that with a fast, dangerous track and it will be a tough environment.’
Blam continued, ‘There are many strong cars in GT2 now and the field is still expanding: a new Jaguar team is entered at Petit. We have to balance being conservative with ensuring that we keep with the lead GT2 pack. We also have several teams coming from Europe and they aren’t as familiar with the ALMS rules so that will make things more complex. On the strategy side, one of the most important things is to make sure that we calculate the race length correctly. The race could run to time or distance: we have to make sure that we know the final lap count to manage fuel correctly at the end.’
Chief engineer Craig Watkins discussed car setup, ‘Petit presents an interesting setup challenge. The race runs from the morning to the evening so the racing conditions can change drastically over the day: we’ve seen temperature swings here of more than 30 degrees. To deal with this, we are fairly conservative in our setup here. There are eight or more tire changes in the race, some or all of which may be done under green, so tire management is critical. We have to get everything out of the tires that we can and plan for tires to last 150 percent of a stint if we have to.’
Watkins continued, ‘Road Atlanta is very fast. It’s a mix of turns: mostly right handers with some left handers, some are slow and some are extremely fast corners. It’s a high-consequence track: at Turn 11, drivers exit with no visibility and then carry high speed into Turn 12 where there is no runoff, just a concrete wall. We run moderate downforce on the Porsches here: it’s a tradeoff between getting as much downforce as we can and still keeping speed for the straights. We need a fast car, but it has to maximize the tires and be easy for the driver to manage. For a 1000-mile race, the reliability of the cars and the drivers’ ability to stay out of trouble can be as important as the pace.’
Follow the Race
The race gets the green flag at 11:15 am ET on Saturday, September 26. It will be televised live on SpeedTV in the USA and live on MotorsTV in Europe, starting at 17.00h UK time.
Fans can listen to Flying Lizard team radio on raceday and read race reports on the team blog at www.lizardms.com. Follow the team on Twitter @FlyingLizard_MS or to receive text updates on your mobile phone send FLMS to 30364.
- Flying Lizard Motorsport