Flying Lizard No. 46 Second, No. 45 Third in GT2 at Mid-Ohio: Full Race Report
July 21, 2008--Lexington, OH--The Flying Lizard No. 46 and No. 45 Porsches were nose to tail when they took the checkered flag to finish second and third, respectively, in GT2 at Saturday's Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. The No. 44 Porsche had a mechanical failure halfway through the race and was retired.
The first part of the race was fairly uneventful for the Lizards. It was a welcome change from the previous weekend's crash-filled race at Lime Rock Park (see the Lime Rock race report). The No. 45 started third on the grid with Wolf Henzler behind the wheel. Patrick Pilet in the No. 46 started fifth and Seth Neiman in the No. 44 started seventh in the 14-car GT2 field. The race started under yellow. (Most ALMS races have a double-file race start in which the cars form two lines on the pace lap in the order of their grid positions. If the field is not properly lined up by race start time, the race may start under yellow to ensure a safe, accurate start.) Over the next 20 minutes, the cars in the GT2 field began to spread out, except the lead GT2 pack which stayed bunched together, led by the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari which started on the pole, the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche in second, the No. 45 in third, the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari in fourth, and the No. 46 in fifth.
The cars in the front GT2 pack maintained their positions until the 20-minute mark, when the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche passed the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari to take the lead. In the No. 45, Henzler, still in third, radioed in that the clutch was not functioning consistently and he was able to use it only intermittently, which made managing the turns more challenging. (With the Porsche six-speed sequential transmission, upshifts are performed without the use of the clutch but downshifts require clutching.)
The GT2 pack continued together in the same order until the first yellow of the race at the 50-minute mark. During the yellow most of the GT2 field pitted for tires, fuel, and driver changes. All three Lizard Porsches pitted late in the yellow. By the time the Lizards came into their pit stalls, most of the GT2 field had already pitted, including the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche, which had a lengthy pit stop, and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari.
The No. 45 and the No. 71 did not pit until late in the yellow and were P1 and P2 before their pit stops, and both on the same lap. (At the wave-by during the first yellow, the front four GT2 cars - No. 87, No. 62, No. 71 & No. 45 had gained a lap on the rest of the GT2 field, including the No. 46, because of their position to the overall leader.) The No. 46, which had pitted just before the No. 45, headed back on track quickly with Johannes van Overbeek at the wheel. Unfortunately, by the time of its pit stop, the No. 45 had completely lost its clutch. As a result, after getting tires and fuel, Joerg Bergmeister had trouble re-starting, and the car lost precious time as the crew bled the clutch, and Joerg worked to jump start the car. Finally, the No. 45 started, but had fallen back to fifth, just behind Johannes in the No. 46 who was now in fourth.
The No. 45 finally left its pit stall, but the No. 44, which had pitted at the same time, was stuck in its stall and going nowhere fast. During his stint, Seth Neiman had also experienced clutch issues. After he pitted and Lonnie Pechnik got behind the wheel, Pechnik had trouble starting and then was unable to engage drive. The crew took the No. 44 behind the wall, but were not able to repair it, and the No. 44 was retired for mechanical failure. It was another major disappointment for the No. 44 crew, who had worked hard since Lime Rock to repair the car when it sustained significant damage after being collected by the No. 16 Dyson prototype early in that race.
After the field reshuffled from the first pit stops, just past the 1-hour mark, the No. 46 was now fourth in GT2 and the No. 45 in fifth. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari was in the lead, with a one lap lead over the next closest GT2 car, which was now the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche. The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari was in third. The course was still under yellow. Johannes radioed in that the connection to his water bottle had broken and he had no water. With the extreme heat on race day, this could have affected his performance, so the crew took advantage of the yellow to bring Johannes in to fix the water bottle and add fuel.
When the green flag finally fell again, 90-minutes into the 2 hour and 45 minute race, the No. 71 had taken the lead, the No. 87 was in second, the No. 62 in third, Joerg in the No. 45 was in fourth and Johannes in the No. 46 was in fifth. Just six minutes later, a second yellow flag fell that would last more than 30 minutes with multiple incidents both on track and in pit lane. Because the pits were closed for much of the second yellow, race control waived the maximum driving time limit for drivers because they were not able to get access to the pits for their driver change. (This was not an issue for the Lizard Porsches, which had all had their driver changes earlier during the first yellow.)
At the end of the second yellow, the No. 45 pitted for tires and fuel. The No. 71, No. 87, and No. 62 all also pitted, but the No. 46 stayed out because Johannes had already pitted under the earlier yellow. This allowed the No. 46 to move up the field to second place. During their pit stops, the No. 71 and No. 87 did not take tires, just fuel. After the field reestablished, the No. 71 was in the lead with Johannes now in second, the No. 62 in third, the No. 87 in fourth, the No. 21 in fifth, and Joerg in the No. 45 was in sixth. Joerg was able to quickly pass the No. 21 to move to fifth. The No. 62 was assessed a stop and go penalty and Joerg moved to fourth, just behind the No. 87.
Out of the top four GT2 cars, only the No. 45 now had fresh tires. Joerg was able to put pressure on the No. 87 and passed him with thirty minutes to go in the race to move into third. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari had maintained its lap lead on the No. 46 in second. On fresh tires, but battling traffic, with no clutch and with the No. 87 holding tight to his bumper, Joerg tried to reel in Johannes in the No. 46. But Johannes held his fast pace until the end, crossing the finish line just ahead of Joerg to take second place. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari took the win in GT2.
It is the fourth double podium for the Lizards this year in six races. The Lizards hold their lead in both the ALMS team and drivers' (Bergmeister and Henzler) championships. The team is 15 points ahead of Tafel Racing. Bergmeister and Henzler are just 4 points ahead of Dominik Farnbacher and Dirk Mueller of Tafel Racing in second, and 23 points ahead of Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet in third.
Tommy Sadler, Flying Lizard crew chief and co-technical director, said, "It was unfortunate that the No. 44 had an issue that we unable to resolve in the pits and was very frustrating to have to retire the car. In the No. 45, we first saw the problems on the recon lap. We knew we had a problem but we couldn't repair it on the grid and were forced to race with what we had. It was disappointing that we were unable to stay on the lead lap and race for the win. The crews and drivers did an excellent job dealing with the problems and in the end we achieved a double podium. I'm looking forward to Road America and a strong performance by our team."
Johannes van Overbeek, driver of the No. 46 Porsche, commented, "The series continues to get tougher and more competitive with each race. Mid-Ohio was no exception: the GT2 field and the traffic were very tough. We struggled with the No. 46 car setup most of the weekend and just couldn't get to the sweet spot. But we prevailed in the end: the car was consistent thanks to our Chief Engineer Craig Watkins, and we were able to move back up to second because of the right strategy call by our strategist Eric Ingraham and Patrick's strong start. Mid-Ohio marks the halfway point in the season. Although we didn't have the win here, we are very pleased with the result. I hope this marks the end of the No. 46's bad luck and we can carry the momentum through the rest of the season."
Up next for the Lizards is Road America, August 9, in Elkhart Lake Wisconsin.
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.