Long Narrowly Misses Class Pole for Lone Star Grand Prix

May 12, 2006

Petersen/ White Lightning to Start Second in Class at Houston

Houston, Texas — Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing turned the second quickest time in GT2 class qualifying for tomorrow’s Lone Star Grand Prix American Le Mans Series event (ALMS). Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) lapped the 1.7-mile, nine-turn track that runs through Houston’s Reliant Park at one minute, 11.340 seconds. The time of the No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was just .131 seconds behind the pole winning Ferrari and good for 13th overall. The Michael Petersen-owned team ran consistently behind the Ferrari throughout the day with Long launching the strongest challenge in qualifying. The Lone Star Grand Prix, the second round of the ALMS season, marks Long’s return to the team. In 2005, Long and Jörg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) teamed with the Las Vegas-based operation to win the ALMS GT2 Class Team, Driver and IMSA Cup Championships.

With four classes racing at one time under the lights in Friday night’s event, qualifying was extremely important and will play a greater role in the outcome of the event than usual. The inherently tight confines of the concrete wall-lined track and bumpy surface make passing difficult, therefore, starting closer to the front minimizes the need to make potentially hazardous overtaking maneuvers. The track and multi-class racing also puts a premium on handling and driver concentration. Therefore, Long’s time, his fastest of the day, will put the No. 31 Porsche in a strong position for Bergmeister at the start. The quick pit stops of the Dennis Chizma-led pit crew will help keep Long in good track position after the mid-race stop for fuel, Michelin Tires and a driver change. The Lone Star Grand Prix is the first street race in which the Dale White-managed team has raced since 2003, where they finished fourth in class at the Grand Prix of Miami.

Due to scheduling conflicts, Bergmeister left shortly after the day’s first practice session. He will return for tomorrow’s warm-up (scheduled for 1:45 PM CDT) and will start the two-hour and 45-minute night race at 8 PM.

The Lone Star Grand Prix will start at 8 PM (CDT) on May 12 with the tape delay broadcast on CBS at 1 PM (EDT), May 13. Live timing and scoring can be found at www.americanlemans.com.


Dale White, team manager: "Patrick did a great job. Going out and laying down a quick lap is tough on a street course. You have to find the balance between fast and too fast. Hitting the wall is too fast. We are exactly where we wanted to be, the front row. That will give us some space as the prototypes come-up to start lapping the GT classes. We think we have a good race setup to stay up there too. Jörg will come back and run the car a lot in the warm-up so that he can get the most out of it early in the race. Our strategy will be to stay out of trouble and stay towards the front. If we can do that, we should be in a good spot to challenge at the end of the race."

Patrick Long, driver:
On the qualifying lap: "I was very happy with that lap. We are one position short of where we wanted to be but P2 is still really good. It accomplishes what we wanted to do. Our strategy has been to go out and qualify well to start up front; we did that. That will put Jörg in a really good spot tomorrow when he starts the race. The setup is really good. Frank [Funke, engineer] is doing an awesome job."

On the circuit: "It feels like you’re on a mechanical bull out there. It is mentally draining. It is so quick and so bumpy that you are concentrating really hard to get the most out of the car. It’s going to be a tough race. The track is really challenging from a concentration standpoint and if you let up for a second, you are going to be in trouble."

More on Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing can be found at www.PetersenMotorsports.com.
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For more on the ALMS please visit www.AmericanLeMans.com.