Penske to enter 3rd Porsche for Petit LeMans
The mantle piece of the American Le Mans Series – starting with the very first Don Panoz race in 1998 – has always been Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, and the 11th running of this race on Saturday, October 4 will bring together five of Porsche’s most successful race cars to help battle for the LMP2 class drivers and manufacturers title.
|Two Penske Porsches at Long Beach this year|
With the 503 hp Penske Porsche RS Spyder, defending Petit Le Mans and 2007 year-end LMP2 title-holders Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) will tackle the 1,000 mile/10 hour Petit Le Mans classic holding a slim four-point lead over the David Brabham/Scott Sharp Acura rivals. On the traditional Road Atlanta circuit, their aim is to keep their pursuers at a distance and take another step towards defending their title at the penultimate race of the season.
”This race is one of the greatest challenges of the year,“ says Timo Bernhard, who has already celebrated three class wins with Porsche on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn roller coaster circuit northeast of Atlanta. Bernhard/Dumas pairing won Petit in 2007 with the RS Spyder, and in 2004 piloting the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Bernhard also won with Joerg Bergmeister in 2003 driving the Alex Job Porsche 911 GT3 RS. Besides the Sebring 12 Hours, the Petit Le Mans event is the race where the most points can be earned. And this is exactly what the reigning champions hope to achieve.
“Our aim is to earn as many points as possible to secure a good position for the final. But will certainly not be easy,” said Bernhard. “On this challenging circuit you've got to concentrate totally and be fit from the start to the finish. Only then it is possible to achieve the maximum performance required over the entire distance,” said Dumas.
For the first time in the ALMS, Penske Racing will enter three RS Spyders, all with the new direct fuel injection engine. Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas are entered in their usual number seven mount, while Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) share the number six car.
A third Penske Porsche RS Spyder, co-driven by the Penske IndyCar drivers Ryan Briscoe (Australia) and Helio Castroneves (Brazil), will share driving duties in the number five RS Spyder. Briscoe claimed runner-up honors in the ALMS in 2007 driving an RS Spyder as a Porsche factory pilot, and was the American Le Mans Series Rookie of the Year. For Penske Racing, he finished the 2008 IndyCar season fifth overall after scoring two race wins.
Behind the pit wall, members of Roger Penske's successful IRL squad will be in action during the race servicing the number five car. Castroneves, only the fifth driver in the history of the Indianapolis 500 to win that classic race in back-to-back events (2001 and 2002), finished second in the IndyCar series this year, with his two 2008 wins bringing his IndyCar career win total to 20. He has also won at least one race in each of the last nine years, breaking a Penske Racing record of seven set by Rick Mears in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.
Emmanuel Collard (France), winner of this year's Sebring 12 hour race together with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, will be entered and will qualify to run in all three Penske cars in order to be able to support the team as a third driver, should it be necessary. The RS Spyder of the Porsche-supported Dyson Racing team with starting numbers 16 and 20 will be driven by Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) as well as Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain).
“By running a third RS Spyder, Penske Racing adds extra suspense to the series just in the closing stages of the season,” says Porsche head of motorsport Hartmut Kristen. “Five RS Spyder in one race – that's another highlight for the American Le Mans Series, which has reached a level of performance that matches any international comparison. Here, the fans see some of the best motor sport in the world. We are hoping an additional RS Spyder entry will help put points on the board for Porsche in our quest for the championship.”
Porsche trails Acura by four points in the LMP2 manufacturers title chase, and there are four Acuras entered in the Petit Le Mans event. In the manufacturers race, on the top-finishing car from each manufacture can score points.
The intense competition applies not only to the sports prototypes, but also to the production- based sports cars, which regularly provide nail-biting duels in the GT2 class. Here, too, the fight for the title is still on. Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler (both Germany) lead the points by a comfortable margin over their Ferrari counterparts after winning four races at Sebring, Salt Lake City, Lime Rock and Detroit respectively with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entered by Flying Lizard Motorsports.
The Petit Le Mans Race starts on Saturday, 4 October at 11:15 AM EDT, and runs over a distance of 1,000 miles or a maximum duration of ten hours. SPEED TV will televise the entire race live, and the radio broadcast can be heard online at www.americanlemans.com.