Sunday 2 September 2012

American Le Mans Series, round 8 in Baltimore, USA Porsche pilots celebrate second victory at gripping street race

American Le Mans Series, round 8 in Baltimore, USA

Porsche pilots celebrate second victory at gripping street race

Stutgart. The closed street course of Baltimore is good turf for Porsche. At the second meeting of the American Le Mans Series in the Maryland state city of a million people, Porsche factory pilot Wolf Henzler (Germany) and his teammate Bryan Sellers (USA) repeated their previous year’s victory with a brilliant performance and excellent pit stop strategy. Spectators lining the Inner Harbour track were treated to a thrilling two hour race in the series featuring the world’s fastest sports cars and witnessed the maiden victory for the Falken Tire squad with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

“To win such a great race for the second time in a row is simply fantastic,” said Wolf Henzler. “Our team’s strategy was perfect. We came into the pits when we saw that we could go from there to finish the race and didn’t wait for a safety car phase. That was exactly the right decision.” Matthias Müller, the CEO of Porsche AG, who experienced his first American Le Mans Series race live in Baltimore, said, “I’ve rarely experienced such an exciting two hours. The safety car came out already in the first lap. I headed to the pit wall to share the excitement with the Porsche teams. The competition in the ALMS is impressive. Congratulations to Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers on their tremendous victory. Our iconic sports car, the Porsche 911, has once again proven its speed and reliability.”

At the wheel of the #17 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Wolf Henzler headed into race from sixth and immediately became stuck in traffic at the first turn caused by a collision involving several cars. “I really had no idea where I could go. There were cars left, right and centre,” he explained. “I was lucky that no one hit me. Somehow I finally found a free line and even managed to make up two places.” For a while he watched the tough fights for positions on the narrow and tricky circuit ahead, but later made his move to take the lead. Henzler’s teammate Bryan Sellers lost several places while in the pits but fought his way back to the front in the first hour of racing. Despite coming under attack, he managed to fend off his pursuers to the flag. “We weren’t always as fast as the Chevrolets and Ferraris,” he said, “but we were fast enough where it counted so that no one could overtake us.”

Underlining how strongly-supported and fiercely-contested the GT class of the American Le Mans Series is was apparent in the fact that the cars on the first four places hailed from four different manufacturers. This performance density also impressed Matthias Müller. The Chairman of the Board at Porsche AG received a particularly insightful look behind the scenes of this exciting and for the fans fascinating race. During the formation lap before the start and in the first caution phase he sat in the passenger seat of the safety car – a Porsche Panamera Turbo.

Rounding off Porsche’s strong showing at the eighth race of the season in Baltimore, Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) scored fifth place with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Flying Lizard Motorsports. But the Lime Rock winners did not escape the first corner melee entirely unscathed. Patrick Long received a rear end shunt which resulted in slight damage to the car. In the race, the American drove in an uncommon double stint when he replaced Seth Neiman at short notice in the second Flying Lizard cockpit, after the team owner and regular pilot injured his arm during the morning’s practice. Because of the short-term reshuffle of driver pairings, the regulations stipulated that his works driver colleague Marco Holzer (Germany) had to start from the pit lane. Despite this, with a breathtaking chase, they brought their car over the finish line in seventh. In the cockpit of Paul Miller Racing’s 911 GT3 RSR, Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Bryce Miller (USA) were at times running in the lead, but concluded the race in ninth.

“That was not our day. The shunt that Patrick got in the first corner was so hard that not only was our rear suspension damaged, but even the radio was ripped from its mounting. During a caution phase, Patrick had to repair it. There was not a lot we could do today,” said Joerg Bergmeister. While he took over the #45 Porsche, Patrick Long replaced Marco Holzer in the number 44 vehicle. “After sustaining tyre damage in the early phase we had to make an extra pit stop. When you consider where we were sitting when we rejoined the race and that we were only twelfth at the beginning, then seventh place is a solid result,” he said. “I tried to drive a fair race and not risk too much. After all, I don’t normally drive this car in the championship. That was a strong team effort this weekend.” Marco Holzer added, “The Porsche was well balanced and fast. When I handed it to Patrick we were running in the same lap as the leaders of the GT class and Patrick even managed to overtake several vehicles towards the end.”

Victory in the GTC class went to Porsche works driver Patrick Pilet (France), who started for the first time in the American Le Mans Series with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which he shared with Al Carter (USA). “What a great race. It’s unbelievable how fast the GTC cars are on such a narrow street course like the one here in Baltimore,” Pilet said. “I took over the car in second place and quickly managed to slip into the lead. Afterwards I concentrated on holding our position and preserving the tyres because I was aware that it would get really tough again towards the end. I’ve had such a great weekend.”

Round nine of the American Le Mans Series is contested on 15 September on the Virginia International Raceway in Alton in the US state of Virginia.

GT class

1. Henzler/Sellers (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 67 laps
2. Gavin/Milner (GB/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 67
3. Sharp/van Overbeek (USA/USA), Ferrari F458 Italia, 67
4. D. Müller/Joey Hand (D/USA), BMW E92 M3, 67
5. Bergmeister/Long (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 67
6. Magnussen/Garcia (DK/E), Chevrolet Corvette, 67
7. Holzer/Long (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 67
9. Maassen/Miller (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 66

GTC class
1. Pilet/Carter (F/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 65 laps
2. Keen/McNeil (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 65
3. LeSaffre/Faulkner (USA/IRL), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 65

Points’ standings
GT class

1. Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Chevrolet, 124 points
2. Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Chevrolet, 98
3. Dirk Müller, BMW, 94
4. Joey Hand, BMW, 91
5. Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ferrari, 84
6. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Porsche, 81
7. Bill Auberlen/Jörg Müller, BMW, 78
8. Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers, Porsche, 65
9. Sascha Maassen, Bryce Miller, Porsche, 47

1. Chevrolet, 145 points
2. BMW, 126
3. Porsche, 133
4. Ferrari, 110

1. Corvette Racing, Chevrolet, 145 points
2. BMW Team RLL, BMW, 121
3. Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche, 104
4. Extreme Speed Motorsports, Ferrari, 86
5. Team Falken Tire, Porsche, 65
6. Paul Miller Racing, Porsche, 45

This is the American Le Mans Series
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.

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