Petersen/White Lightning’s Love Affair with Road America Continues

August 20, 2006

2005 GT2 Champions Fight for American Le Mans GT2 Win; Add to Streak

On the podium at Road AmericaELKHART LAKE, Wisc. — Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has a love affair with the beautiful Road America facility here in Elkhart Lake, Wisc. Since debuting the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR at the 4.048-mile course in 2002, the Michael Petersen-owned operation has tallied trio of American Le Mans Series GT2 class victories including today’s Generac 500 at Road America. Today’s one minute, 3.389 second victory, the Dale White-managed team’s eighth in the Series, did not come easy. Despite starting from the class pole position Patrick Long (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Jörg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) had to battle nose-to-tail for most of the day to take the checkered flag first. It was the 2005 American Le Mans Series GT2 Champions second victory of the season.

Long started the race and was caught in the street fight from nearly the drop of the green flag. He fought tooth-and-nail with Mike Rockenfeller in the No. 23 for much of his stint, separated by less than one second most of the time. He would hand over the No. 31 to Bergmeister at the one hour, 18 minute mark while still in the lead. Bergmeister would then battle for the remainder of the two hour, 45-minute race losing and then capturing the lead in a dramatic battle with the No. 21 BMW M3. Despite leading late, the closing stages still had much drama left for the Las Vegas-based team. Bergmeister went off course due to a slick track with ten minutes remaining. He then started to carve into the lead that the BMW gained during the incident. Bergmeister pounced on the No. 21 in traffic getting around him for the lead but not before being caught-up again, this time with an Audi LMP1 car. Bergmeister made slight contact with the Audi as it slowed suddenly ahead of him. Unaware of a potentially race-ending hole in the center radiator of the Porsche as a result of the contact, the German recaptured his momentum and got around the leader with just over five minutes remaining. Then, at five minutes to go, the final alarm went off on the roller-coaster ride that the team was on. That alarm was for a coolant temperature spike as a result of the hole in the radiator. Relying on the professional preparation of the Dennis Chizma-led Petersen/White Lightning crew, Bergmeister pushed-on taking the win despite coolant leaking at a rapid rate.

Today’s Generac 500 trophy will take its place along other significant race wins here in the team’s history. In 2003, Petersen/White Lightning earned their first-ever American Le Mans Series GT, now GT2, class win. They followed that in 2005 with the closet victory ever in the class with Bergmeister and Long bettering the No. 23 Porsche by a scant 0.298 seconds.

In 2005, the victory here at Road America spurred an amazing come-back in the championship chase that saw the team earn wins in each of the final four races. They took their first American Le Mans Series championship in style with those successes. Today the team and the drivers closed on their championship rivals again. Bergmeister is now within nine points of the top spot with three races remaining.

Bringing the weekend completely into focus, Petersen/White Lightning won the class pole position, the race and was quickest in the race morning warm-up. They also captured the Klein Pit Crew Challenge. That win came in dominating fashion with a time 1.1 seconds quicker than its nearest competitor in the head-to-head battle that pitted the eight strongest pit crews in the American Le Mans Series, regardless of class, against one another. They will now progress to the finals at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where they will face three other teams for the $100,000 prize.


Michael Petersen, Team Owner: "What a day. It was a day filled with major drama. All I can say is the championship is definitely within our reach and that has been our goal all year long. Championships are won by podium finishes and not by getting lucky. That is our goal; to get podium finishes. What a small team like ours can do is unbelievable. It has been an incredible weekend of first-place finishes."

Dale White, Team Manager: "We had a different strategy all day. We knew we had a fast car, fast drivers and a fast crew. We relied on those today and it worked just like we had planned. We sure didn’t plan for all the drama but the strategy worked through all of that. This is a great victory for the team."

Jörg Bergmeister, Driver: "Definitely one of the most exciting stints I have had in the last couple of years. We were on a different strategy than the other cars in the lead. We definitely had the quickest car thanks to Frank [Funke, engineer] and the team. It really got exciting when I went off in the Carousel. I really still have no idea what happened. Usually we had a lot of oversteer there and I think maybe the Aston Martin put up some dirt there because I just went straight. I managed to get out again right behind the BMW. In a couple of laps I caught him again and made a move on him going into turn-five. There were two Audis there ahead of me and one of them slowed down. I had to brake late; otherwise the BMW would have gotten back around me again. So, I tapped him and put a hole in the radiator. Fortunately it was just a little hole so we managed to finish the race. I just love the track. It is my favorite track in the States."

(About championship): "The championship definitely looks much better now. But we have to keep our heads down and do what we are doing right now. I am not focusing on the championship right now. We just need to keep winning races."

Patrick Long, Driver: "The excitement level was a lot like last year but in a much different sense. With the coolant leak there at the end and the Aston Martin going off and the Audi getting in the way; I think Jörg did a great job of keeping his head and getting back around the BMW. Today we had the car to win the race. It was only the wild antics of the race, the strategy and all the yellow flags that were going to get in our way. Everybody kept their heads. The guys are just fighting so hard. My first stint was pretty eventful with the 23 car so I was happy to get around him, although we were on different strategies. In the end the car was perfect."

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