Flying Lizard wins GT2 at Lime Rock: Full Race Report
July 16, 2008--Sonoma, CA-- It was a mix of highs and lows for the Flying Lizard squad at Saturday's Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock. The No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler won in GT2; it was the team's second consecutive win at Lime Rock and the duo's third win so far this season (out of five races). But the challenging race on the narrow, reconfigured 1.51 mile circuit claimed nearly one-third of the total starting field including two of the three Lizard Porsches. The No. 46 Flying Lizard Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet, which had been in the GT2 lead at the time, finished the race in the pits after a late-race incident broke the right front radiator. The No. 44 Porsche was retired at the half-way point after being unexpectedly collected on track by a passing prototype.
The race began smoothly for the Lizard squad with a clean start. The new curbs that had disintegrated in Friday's practice session had been removed and by the morning warmup, the drivers were now familiar with the new track configuration and the short curbs. Joerg Bergmeister started fourth on the grid in the No. 45, Patrick Pilet started fifth in the No. 46, and Seth Neiman started eighth in the No. 44. At the start, Joerg quickly passed the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari to move into third. The No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche had started on the pole and retained the lead and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari was in second.
In the No. 45, Joerg set his sights on the No. 62 Risi Ferrari while Patrick in the No. 46 in fifth went after the No. 71, which was now in fourth. In the No. 44, Seth held onto eighth position as the prototypes began their first of many laps on the slower GT-class cars. With the No. 62 Risi Ferrari making an unexpected early pit stop just 10 minutes into the race, the No. 45 moved into second, Patrick into fourth and Seth into seventh.
Just 15 minutes into the race, the lead GT2 pack was bunched close together with the No. 87 still in the lead, Joerg in the No. 45 right behind him, and Patrick in the No. 46 in third just behind Joerg, having made it past the No. 71, which was now in fourth. Traffic was intense: bunches of prototypes threaded at full speed through the GT2 cars, creating some very tense moments as the GT2 cars worked to avoid the prototypes without losing their own positions. As cars went off course left and right into the dirt, the lead GT2 pack stayed bunched together: Joerg in the No. 45 was not able to get safely past the No. 87 in the lead. After the No. 87 received an unsportsmanship flag for blocking, Joerg was finally able to overtake him, moving into the lead 30 minutes into the race. Patrick in the No. 46 also made it past the No. 87 into second, but briefly lost control, sending him into the dirt and allowing the No. 87 and the No. 71 to re-pass him, pushing him back to fourth. In the No. 44, Seth was in eighth.
Over the next 15 minutes, Patrick in the No.46 worked to again pass the No. 71 and the No. 87, making it back to second, just behind Joerg in the No. 45 in the lead. So far, both cars had managed to stay out of trouble and avoid major contact with other cars. The No. 44 had sustained some minor bodywork damage in an off-course excursion 20 minutes into the race, but was holding to eighth. With the No. 87 Porsche going off course, the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari had now moved to third position. At the 50 minute mark, Seth in the No. 44 pitted for tires and fuel and driver change to Darren Law. The crew replaced a broken headlight cover and checked the car over and sent Law on his way.
Nearly one hour into the race, nearly every car had gone into the dirt at least once, but surprisingly there had been no yellow flags so far. The No. 45 and No. 46 were near the ends of their stints and were nearly ready to pit for fuel, tires, and driver changes. Joerg was still in the lead, with Patrick just behind him. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari in third had received a stop and go penalty for avoidable contact with another car, which had given the No. 45 and No. 46 some breathing room. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari was now in P4, and the No. 87 in P5.
At the one-hour mark, a major incident between the No. 1 Audi prototype and the No. 008 Aston Martin resulted in the first yellow of the race. The No. 46 pitted early in the yellow for a splash of fuel. The No. 45 elected not to pit, but with the yellow flag lasting nearly 25 minutes, by the end of the yellow the No. 45 was very low on fuel. Luckily, the track cleanup was complete in time that the No. 45 was able to pit once at the end of the yellow for tires, fuel and driver change to Wolf Henzler. The No. 46 pitted nearly simultaneously for tires, fuel and driver change to Johannes van Overbeek. Because the No. 46 had fueled earlier, their fuel time was shorter than the No. 45, and their pit stop was complete before the No. 45.
Both cars had a short hiccup at the end of their pit stops - delaying their departures by a few seconds - but the No. 46 was on the ground first and beat the No. 45 out of the pits to take the lead, resuming just ahead of the pace car with one lap before the green flag. After the yellow, Johannes in the No. 46 and Wolf in the No. 45 were now two full laps ahead of the next closest GT2 cars: the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche in third and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in fourth. The No. 44 was now in seventh.
Settling back in after the yellow, things were looking very solid for the Lizards - with two cars in first and second and 2 laps ahead of the rest of the field and the No. 44 in a solid seventh. The team's good luck ended abruptly at the 90-minute mark, when the No. 44 was collected by the No. 16 Dyson prototype as the faster car passed Darren, then collided with the No. 44, resulting in significant damage to both cars. The No. 44 was retired from the race.
The resulting yellow flag lasted nearly 15 minutes, helping extend the fuel windows for both the No. 45 and the No. 46: things were looking good for both cars to be able to finish the race with no additional stops for fuel. Both cars were still 2 laps ahead of the next closest GT2 cars. The GT2 field had shuffled again during the yellow: the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari was now in third and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in fourth.
At the end of another yellow flag to remove debris from the track, there were just 35 minutes left to go in the race. Both the No. 46 in the lead and the No. 45 in second were at the back of the field on track and in a good position for a clean restart. Unfortunately, poor communication among several cars started a chain of events that led to contact between the No. 46 Porsche and another GT2 car, sending the No. 46 from the lead position into the dirt with a broken radiator.
Johannes was able to get back on track quickly and stayed out of the pits, with the crew carefully monitoring oil and water temps. With just 25 minutes left in the race, rising temperatures forced him to pit. With not enough time left in the race for a radiator replacement, the crew filled the car up with water and sent him back out. Even with the pit stop, he was still in fourth, with the No. 45 now in the lead, the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari back in second and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche in third. With less than 10 minutes to go in the race, Johannes in the No. 46 radioed in that the throttle was sticking and he pitted immediately for more water but it was too late: with smoke pouring from the overheated engine, the No. 46 was done and could not cross the finish line.
The No. 45 continued on to win in GT2; the Bergmeister/Henzler duo's third win out of five races so far this season. A last minute shuffle in the rest of the GT2 field gave the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche second place and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari third.
With the win, the No. 45 has increased its lead in the ALMS drivers' championship: Bergmeister and Henzler are now eleven points ahead of Tafel Racing's Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher, who are in second. The team has also retained the ALMS team championship lead.
Team principal and driver of the No. 44 Porsche Seth Neiman reflected on the race, "We are both ecstatic about the win and extremely disappointed with the collective team result. To go from being within spitting distance of another one/two finish for the No. 46 and 45 and a solid finish for the No. 44, to having two-thirds of our team not even finish the race was tough. We just need to learn from it and move on. There are six races left - more than half the season - and we are 100 percent focused on increasing the margin of our championship lead. "
Up next for the Lizard is the Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio this Saturday, July 19.
About Flying Lizard Motorsports
2008 is the fifth consecutive ALMS season for the Sonoma, California-based GT2 team. Since its first year of competition in 2004, the team has finished in the top three in the ALMS GT2 team and drivers' championships, but has not yet won the GT2 title. In 2007, the team was second in the ALMS GT2 team championship and drivers Johannes van Overbeek and Joerg Bergmeister finished second in the ALMS GT2 drivers' championship.
Flying Lizard is sponsored by ShoreTel, a leading provider of enterprise IP telephony solutions, and eSilicon, a semiconductor company, both based in Sunnyvale, California. Team partners include Porsche and Michelin.
Visit the Flying Lizard website and online store at www.lizardms.com.