Sunday 8 May 2011

Le Mans Series: Victory in the GTE Am class, points in the pro category

Le Mans Series / Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, round 2 in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Victory in the GTE Am class, points in the pro category

Stuttgart. Round two of the Le Mans Series took an extremely turbulent turn for the Porsche teams. While both Frenchmen Nicolas Armindo and Raymond Narac celebrated their first win of the season in the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the GTE Am sports car category, the 1,000 kilometre race in Spa-Francorchamps didn’t yield the same success for the professional teams in the GTE Pro category. Porsche works driver Marco Holzer (Germany) and his Belgian teammate Marc Goossens saw the flag in sixth. Last year’s winner Marc Lieb (Germany) and Richard Lietz (Austria) only managed eighth after an opponent hit their 911 GT3 RSR so hard that their suspension broke.

The driver pairing of the Belgian ProSpeed Competition was also robbed of a better placing through another driver’s mistake. “I was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Marco Holzer. “A sports prototype hit my car in the front and the rear when it went off. Luckily, there was a safety car phase shortly afterwards so we didn’t lose any more time through changing the damaged suspension. But of course we had no chance to catch the front-runners.”

Taking up the race from fourth, last year’s winner Marc Lieb fell victim to Giancarlo Fisichella in the first lap. The Italian Ferrari driver braked too late for Stavelot and crashed into Lieb’s 911. With a broken suspension, the Porsche factory pilot slid helplessly into the gravel at the next corner. By the time he was salvaged and back in the pits, he had missed three laps. When the four-time Spa winner rejoined the race after a 25-minute stop for repairs, the Felbermayr-Proton Porsche was running last – more than ten laps behind the leader. “How stupid,” said a clearly disappointed Marc Lieb. “Our goal for the race was at least to take home as many points as possible.” Austria’s Richard Lietz concluded: “After our complete retirement at the first race due to the flawed starting procedure and the minimal results from here in Spa, our title chances are looking rather grim, particularly with just three rounds to go. Still, resignation is not an option.”

Even the winners of the GTE Am class, Nicolas Armindo and Raymond Narac, experienced a turbulent race. At the end of his first stint, Armindo wanted to make room for a vehicle from the faster category, hit a dirty part of the track and slid with worn tyres into the gravel. “My pulse must have been 180,” said the Frenchman. “I was incredibly lucky to get out of the gravel.” The success in the GTE Am class was a small consolation for team owner Narac: The second Porsche 911 GT3 RSR run by IMSA Performance Matmut did not see the flag. Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler was sidelined in the 17th lap. “Suddenly the engine died and wouldn’t start again,” said the German, who shares driving duties with the French factory pilot Patrick Pilet. “After the start crash in Le Castellet that was no fault of our own, this is another zero result,” said Pilet. “It’s a bitter disappointment.”

In the GTE Am class, where just one professional driver may compete per vehicle, two other 911 finished in the points. Under the team name “Proton Competition”, team owner Christian Ried (Germany) and Nick Hommerson (Netherlands) clinched fourth place. With his 911 GT3 RSR, Ried contests all rounds of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, which runs with three rounds of the Le Mans Series. For Ried’s LMS team, Felbermayr-Proton, the gentleman driver Horst Felbermayr Junior (Austria) and America’s Bryce Miller claimed fifth in the GTE Am class. The pair was on the path to victory for quite some time until a puncture hampered their charge.

Statistics: Race 2 LMS in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
Result GTE Pro class
1. Fisichella/Bruni (I/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 144 laps
2. Farnbacher/Simonsen (D/DK), Ferrari F458 Italia, 144
3. Priaulx/Alzen (GB/D), BMW M3, 144
6. Holzer/Goossens (D/B), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 141
8. Lieb/Lietz (D/A), Porsche 911 GT3, 129

Result GTE Am class
1. Armindo/Narac (F/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 140 laps
2. Perazzini/Cioci/Lémeret (I/I/B), Ferrari F430, 140
3. Canal/Bornhauser/Gardel (F/F/CH), 139
4. Ried/Hommerson (D/NL), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 139
5. Felbermayr Jr./Miller (A/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 137

Points’ standings drivers GTE Am class
1. Pierguiseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci, Stéphane Lémeret, Ferrari, 28 points
2. Nicolas Armindo, Raymond Narac, Porsche, 26 points
3. Christian Ried, Porsche, 25 points
4. Horst Felbermayr Jr., Porsche, 24 points

Round three of the Le Mans Series takes place on 3 July in Imola/Italy.

Facts and Figures

The Le Mans Series

Contested for the first time in 2004, the Le Mans Series (LMS) is open for sports prototypes and GT vehicles. The regulations are based on those of the Le Mans 24 hour race. Five six-hour races are contested this season throughout Europe.

GTE-Pro class: This most popular class amongst car manufacturers (previously known as the GT2 class) is traditionally the best supported: Slightly modified standard sports cars with up to 500 hp and a minimum weight of 1,245 kilograms.
GTE-Am class: Like the GTE-Pro, but with the 2010-vehicle specifications. Moreover, the regulations stipulate that each vehicle must have one professional driver at the most.
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 550 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with ca. 440 hp, GT-class homologated engines and a 900 kg minimum weight.
FLM class: Prototype brand trophy series for the ORECA FLM 09.

All race cars start together but are classified separately according to the class. Points are only allocated for placings in each class. Championship titles are awarded for drivers, manufacturers and teams in all five classes. Claiming the title in 2005, 2006, 2009 and 2010, Porsche works driver Marc Lieb is the most successful pilot in the series.

Public Relations and Media
Motor and Sports Press
Oliver Hilger

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