Patrick Long (USA) and Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) have led their #45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to the American Le Mans Series GT class victory on the last lap at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca each of the last three years, and this year’s ModSpace ALMS event was no exception.
Also, running for the just the second time in the North America, and only the third time outside of Germany, the Porsche 911 GT3 R Hybrid racing lab made its West Coast debut this weekend. Not eligible for points, the flywheel-equipped 911 GT3 R started from the back of the field, but finished ahead of all the GT class entries by virtue of turning the fastest race laps along with just three pit stops, compared to five or more for the other GT competitors.
“The drivers like to say it’s about the power – the four-wheel-drive and 200 extra horsepower generated from stored braking energy, but the Porsche hybrid racing system is much more than that. It’s generating those things with fewer pit stops and more efficiency. Beating this world-class field of factory GT cars is really something special for us,” said Romain Dumas, French-born Porsche factory driver and former ALMS GT and LMP2 champion.
In GT, Long and Bergmeister swapped the top spot with the leading Ferraris and BMWs during the entire six-hour event, with Joerg making the final pass with less than 500 yards to go as the leading #62 Risi Ferrari ran out of gas just before the checkered flag. Last year, it was Long passing the #56 BMW late in the race, and, in 2009, it was Bergmeister edging the #4 Corvette right at the finish line.
After being the class champions the last two years, 2011 has been a disappointing year for the pair with only one podium finish (Lime Rock) to their credit, so this first win of the season was a satisfying one, according to Bergmeister.
“We have had a very good car on multiple occasions, only to have something bad happen, either our fault or someone else’s,” said Bergmeister, who also won the GT championship in 2008 with Flying Lizard Motorsports and co-driver Wolf Henzler.
“We hope to have a similar result at Petit Le Mans, and have some momentum going into the 2012. It is also important that we have a good finish so Porsche can gain maximum manufacturers points,” said Bergmeister.
Long pointed out that the Lizards’ strategy for this race was to protect the car and stay away from the pushing and bumping that had been creeping into the class, but it just didn’t work today.
“During Joerg’s opening stint, there was rough driving right from the start, and we laid back, choosing to let the officials handle the consequences. When things didn’t calm down, we just tried to stay on the track, race hard, and be there at the end, and we put ourselves in position to win with the right amount of fuel, good tires, and a fast car,” said Patrick.
After the race, the #62 Risi Ferrari was penalized 90 seconds for avoidable contact with the Lizard Porsche, which pushed them from third to sixth place.
The other Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs did not have such a good day. The #17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Bryan Sellers (USA) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) aboard was hit by a GT Challenge car early in the race, shattering the water pump, crushing the airbox, and bending the chassis. The second Lizard Porsche (Seth Neiman/Marco Holzer was ninth, and the Paul Miller Racing Porsche of Sascha Maassen/Bryce Miller was tenth after shearing the pins to the wheel in the left rear upright.
Although the Dirk Mueller/Joey Hand BMW clinched the driver’s championship, Porsche is still in the running for the top spot in the manufacturers championship.
In GT Challenge, there was another last-lap pass for the win. For this victory, it was the #66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup of Spencer Pumpelly/Duncan Ende/Peter Ludwig edging the class points leaders Tim Pappas/Jeroen Bleekemolen/Sebastiian Bleekemolen in the #54 Black Swan Racing Porsche to take the win. TRG took a chance on a green flag pit stop late in the race to get new tires and fuel, losing almost a lap to Black Swan, but a yellow flag with 11 minutes to go closed the gap and Pumpelly was able to get by Bleekemolen using the advantage of fresh tires.
Pappas has a 21-point lead going into the last event at Petit Le Mans, with 30 points available for the win.