No. 45 Finishes 4th At a Caution-Filled Road America Race

August 16, 2009

Elkhart Lake, Wisc – Full course cautions filled today’s ALMS race at Road America — with nearly a third of the 2 hour and 45 minute race run under yellow flag. The Lizard squad battled traffic, multiple on-track incidents, and an extremely tough GT2 field for the No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long to finish fourth. The No. 90 and No. 92 Rahal Letterman BMWs had their first win of the season with a one/two finish.

In the No. 45, Bergmeister started third on the grid. The No. 90 BMW was on the pole, the No. 92 BMW second, and the No. 3 and No. 4 Corvettes fourth and fifth, respectively. The No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche started sixth and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari seventh.

It was a relatively clean start for the field and the GT2 lead pack kept their positions for the first fifteen minutes of the race. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari had caught the front group and all were running nose to tail when the first full course yellow was called to remove a Challenge Car embedded in the gravel. The first yellow was a deciding factor in the race outcome when the two BMWs, running first and second, got the waveby from the pace car under yellow but the rest of the GT2 pack did not, separating the groups on track and allowing the BMWs to gain a full lap on the GT2 field. The BMWs pitted for fuel under the yellow, and swapped positions heading out of the pits, with the No. 92 taking the lead.

During the 15-minute caution, the GT2 pack bunched up with Joerg in P3, the No. 3 Corvette in P4, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in P5 and the No. 4 Corvette in P6. After the green flag, they ran as a pack for the next 30 minutes, threading through slower Challenge car traffic and working to stay out of trouble from the faster prototypes. Nearing the one-hour mark, Joerg was now in P4, with the No. 3 Corvette now in P3.

Things were just starting to settle down when the second full course caution was called (at the one hour mark), sending teams hustling to get ready for driver changes earlier than planned. The entire GT2 field pitted during the second yellow, with the BMWs, Corvettes and Risi pitting first. The No. 62 Risi, in P5, was able to beat both BMWs and both Corvettes out of the pits, gaining two positions and moving to P4 (the No. 45 was still out and now in P3, and the No. 92 and No. 90 were one lap ahead, still P1 and P2.)

With a lightning-fast pit stop at the end of the yellow and a driver change to Patrick Long, the No. 45 zipped out ahead of the GT2 lead group (who were on their outlap from their pit stops), putting the No. 45 ahead of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari. The No. 92 was in the lead, the No. 90 P2, the No. 45 P3, the No. 62 P4, the No. 4 Corvette P5, and the No. 3 Corvette P6. Still under yellow, the No. 92 and No. 90 again swapped positions when the No. 92 was served a stop and one minute hold penalty. The No. 90 was now back in the lead.

Shortly after the green flag, chaos reigned in the GT2 pack as the cars, once again bunched together, all fought for position. Risi took advantage of the opportunity to pass the No. 45 and both Corvettes followed him through, putting the No. 62 in third, the No. 3 in P4, the No. 4 in P5 and the No. 45 in P6. The No. 44, which had pitted earlier in the yellow for a driver change to Darren Law, tires and fuel, was now in P9.

With an hour and 25 minutes left to go, Patrick, in P6, was focused on the two Corvettes ahead of him. The No. 4 Corvette was forced to pit to replace a door after losing a mirror in contact on track, allowing Patrick to move to P5. With less than 50 minutes left to go, the third caution of the race was called and both the No. 45 and No. 44 Lizard cars pitted for their final pit stop for fuel and tires. Most of the rest of the GT2 field also pitted. In the No. 45, Patrick got out ahead of the No. 3 Corvette gaining a position and moving to P4.

Just after the restart, on fresh tires, the No. 45 was able to pass the No. 62 (which had not changed tires) to take P3. The No. 90 was in the lead, No. 92 P2, No. 45 P3, No. 62 P4, and No. 3 P5 and No. 4 P6.

The Lizards were now focused on a podium spot and keeping ahead of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in P4 (which was critical for the championship), and holding off the No. 3 Corvette in P5. A fourth full course caution was called to remove yet another car from the gravel. Just after the restart, the No. 3 Corvette, now past the No. 62 Risi Ferrari, was putting heavy pressure on the No. 45. With less than two minutes left to go, on the next to last lap, the No. 3 Corvette passed the No. 45 to take third. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari finished fifth.

Joerg Bergmeister commented, “The crew did phenomenal work in the pits. In a race with so many cautions, strategy and pit work can make a critical difference and we saw that today.”

Patrick Long added, “We achieved our objectives today and extended our championship lead. Our Chief Strategist Thomas Blam made a great strategy call for new tires on the last yellow that helped me get by the No. 62 for position and extend our lead.”

With this result, Flying Lizard extends their ALMS GT2 championship lead for both No. 45 drivers Bergmeister and Long and the team overall. Up next for the Lizards is Mosport, August 30.