After four gripping hours on the challenging Road America race track, only 2.63 seconds separated Porsche factory pilots Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) from claiming their second win of the season in the American Le Mans Series. Driving the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on the storied track in Elkhart Lake, the pair scored another second place like recently in Mid-Ohio in the fiercely-contested GT class. Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Bryce Miller (USA), however, achieved their best result so far this season with fifth place at the wheel of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Paul Miller Racing.
On the 6.514 kilometre Road America circuit, widely known as the cradle of American sports car racing, Joerg Bergmeister made the best start and settled in at the top of the strong GT field. After 55 minutes he handed the #45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to his teammate Patrick Long, with whom he has already won this race three times. The American was running in third place when he came into the Flying Lizard pits for the second time after 2:07 hours – and after a slick stop rejoined the race as the leader again. Fending off attacking rivals, he held onto his lead with a strong drive until the final pit stop 45 minutes before the race finish. Joerg Bergmeister then climbed into the silver and red 911 for his second stint. Despite his crew servicing the car in record time, he fell back into sixth place - after several of his competitors stayed out on the track rather than pitting during the last safety car phase. From this position, he began a head-turning chase through the pack and in the final thirty minutes of this gripping race fought his way up to second place.
“It’s just a shame that the best car and the best strategies don’t necessarily win these races, but instead it’s decided by the timing of the safety car phases,” said Joerg Bergmeister. “Our Flying Lizard Porsche ran beautifully today and we are of the opinion that our strategy could have resulted in victory, but luck was simply not on our side unfortunately. Still, second in this strong class is a great result. In the last four races we’ve scored a win, two second places and another win which was then disallowed – and this gives us hope for the rest of the season.” Patrick Long added, “We can be happy with second place, despite the safety car phase upsetting our plans. I managed to drive my entire stint at qualifying speed - our Porsche was quick and well balanced. Now we’re looking forward to the race in Baltimore.”
Very satisfied were Sascha Maassen and Bryce Miller who finished further up the field than ever before this season with fifth in Paul Miller Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. “During the last two stints our car was handling really well and we were able to make up a couple of positions,” said Sascha Maassen. “I really enjoyed this race. I fought with the BMW and the Ferrari – that shows that our performance is becoming increasingly better. Our races are going well, now we just have to improve in qualifying. I hope we manage to do this as early as Baltimore.”
After setting his first pole position in the American Le Mans Series, Porsche works driver Marco Holzer (Germany) did not manage to get an optimal start. In the cockpit of the second Flying Lizard Porsche, he initially fell back to third place, and lost further positions through problems during the first pit stop to rejoin the race in the sixth spot. At just his second race on the challenging Road America circuit, he again fought his way to within striking distance of the leader before handing the #44 Porsche to Seth Neiman in position four. This second pit stop went smoothly. The American team owner promptly moved into second, but was unable to defend this position from the strong opposition. Marco Holzer finally brought the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR home in eighth place.
Empty-handed, Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) and his American teammate Bryan Sellers had to travel home. With the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by Falken Tire they were within reach of a podium result for quite some time, but in the last hour of racing Bryan Sellers left the track in the fast kink corner due to a tyre defect and was unable to finish the race. “Our lap times were not too far off the pace of the opposition,” said Wolf Henzler. “But the race was not easy. We had to slow our pace somewhat to preserve the tyres. It is thanks to our pit crew and the great job they did that we still managed to catch up.”
Victory in the GTC class – in a repeat of the previous round at Mid-Ohio – went to the double Porsche Supercup champion Jeroen Bleekemolen (Netherlands) who shared driving duties with American Cooper McNeil in the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
Round eight of the American Le Mans Series is contested on 1 September on the street course in Baltimore in the US state of Maryland.
1. Auberlen/J. Müller (USA/D), BMW E92 M3, 97 laps
2. Bergmeister/Long (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 97
3. Sharp/van Overbeek (USA/USA), Ferrari F458 Italia, 97
4. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 97
5. Maassen/Miller (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 97
6. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 97
8. Holzer/Neiman (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 96
12. Henzler/Sellers (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 75
1. Bleekemolen/McNeil (NL/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 93 laps
2. Ragginger/Cumming (A/CAN) (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 93
3. LeSaffre/Faulkner (USA/IRL), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 93
1. Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Chevrolet, 105 points
2. Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Chevrolet, 88
3. Dirk Müller, BMW, 84
4. Joey Hand, BMW, 81
5. Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ferrari, 80
6. Bill Auberlen/Jörg Müller, BMW, 75
7. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Porsche, 73
8. Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Porsche, 45
9. Sascha Maassen, Bryce Miller, Porsche, 43
10. Seth Neiman, Porsche, 35
1. Chevrolet, 126 points
2. BMW, 116
3. Porsche, 103
4. Ferrari, 100
1. Corvette Racing, Chevrolet, 126 points
2. BMW Team RLL, BMW, 111
3. Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche, 84
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports, Ferrari, 82
5. Team Falken Tire, Porsche, 45
6. Paul Miller Racing, Porsche, 43
The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was created in 1999 for sports prototypes and GT vehicles. The field is divided into five classes that start together but are classified separately:
GT class: This most popular class amongst car manufacturers traditionally receives the most support: Slightly modified standard sports cars with 440 to 500 hp and a minimum weight of 1,245 kilograms (e.g. Porsche 911 GT3 RSR).
GTC class: This class is reserved for vehicles from one-make race series like the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 550 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with ca. 440 hp and a 900 kg minimum weight.
LMPC class: Prototype brand trophy series for the ORECA FLM 09.