A season of memories for Dirk Werner
To be sure, the 2008 American Le Mans Series was a season to remember for Farnbacher Loles Racing’s Dirk Werner. The 27-year-old German was the lead driver for the team’s first full season with a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in GT2, the deepest class in the Series.
The results were admirable for Werner and the first-year team: a class victory at Road America, two pole positions and a fifth-place finish in the GT2 team championship.
Two memories stand out to Werner. First was the return to Sebring, site of his Series debut in 2007. Second was his first victory at Road America in August.
“I returned to Sebring, to the only track I have previously raced on, and I felt prepared going into this race,” he said. “Sebring is the kind of track you need some time to get along with because it is very demanding physically.”
Werner and Farnbacher Loles were able to not only compete at a diligent level with the wisdom and familiarity of the circuit, but also with the knowledge that the entire season was in front of them. The work and dedication paid off with one of his greatest moments and victory at Road America.
“I was in the car doing my final stint. It was the closest race we had seen all season with an exciting finish to the end,” he reminisced. “Mentally, you do what you try to do all the time - concentrate. But when you are in the car, and you are trying to overtake a guy like (Risi Competizione’s) Mika Salo, he has a lot of experience. All you can do is your best. You don’t have time to think what it would mean to pass him to go on to win the first race for the team.”
Werner was the first GT2 driver to take the checkered flag, having passed Salo at the start of the final lap. The team erupted in cheers when he crossed the start-finish line.
“It was a small celebration as most of the team had to leave early to go back home,” he said. “For wins like this…you only plan on going out there as you always do and race the best you can. And when you win, you want everyone who had worked for the win to celebrate it with you. For this race, it was sad because not everyone could be there.”
Werner is certain there will be more opportunities for full-team celebrations in 2009. At the same time he welcomes the new benefits and challenges he and his team will face. First is the addition of a full-season teammate (he drove with five different drivers in 2008). Second is the addition of BMW and GM to the GT2 entry list.
“The 2009 season will come with teams like GM and Corvette, Ford, Dodge and the continuation of the old battle between Ferrari and Porsche - and now BMW,” he said. “I think the Series will get a lot better with all the different makes. BMW will bring strong competition. This will make it exciting and with a consistent co-pilot, if we are together the whole time and for the whole season, it will help the whole team and the whole effort.”