Flying Lizard 24 Heures du Mans Race Report
No. 80 Porsche 6th in GT2, Team Receives Prix ESCRA for Technical Excellence
June 19, 2008 -- Le Mans, France -- The Flying Lizard No. 80 Porsche crossed the finish line on Sunday to take sixth in GT2 at the team's fourth consecutive 24 Heures du Mans. It was a tough, long race for the American team in a very competitive GT2 field of three Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, seven Ferrari F430 GTs, and two Spkyer C8s.
The race started well for the Sonoma-based GT2 team: driver Joerg Bergmeiser started third on the GT2 grid (the No. 80 had qualified fourth, but the No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche, who was on the pole, was moved to the back due to an pre-race infraction). Bergmeister had a clean race start, and quickly moved up to first position, with the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari close behind him and the No. 76 Porsche, which had also rapidly moved through the GT2 field, in third.
Bergmeister held the lead until the first pit stop, 45 minutes into the race, when the No. 80 took fuel and tires and made a driver change to Johannes van Overbeek. The No. 82 Risi Ferrari chose to double stint tires, and exited the pits ahead of van Overbeek to take the lead. Shortly after the stop, van Overbeek was able to pass the No. 82 to retake the lead. The No. 82 Risi Ferrari was now second, the No. 76 Porsche third, and the No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche fourth.
An hour and 40 minutes into the race, Seth Neiman took the wheel for his stint. Just ten minutes later, still in the lead, the No. 80 was collected by the No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche and both cars flew deep into the gravel. The No. 76 was unable to continue and retired from the race. The No. 80 sustained significant damage, including a broken wheels, broken front radiators, and damaged rear suspension. Yet even with the damage, when the marhsalls pulled the No. 80 out of the gravel, Neiman was able to restart and the car limped slowly back to the pits.
The crew brought the car immediately into the garage and began repairs. More than one hour later, the crew had completely rebuilt the car: replacing nearly every piece of bodywork, incuding the undertray, two front radiators, and both sides of the rear suspension. Just over three hours into the race, the No. 80 headed back out with Joerg Bergmeister behind the wheel. The car had dropped from the lead to tenth, now 20 laps down on the GT2 leader. Over the next 2 hours, Bergmeister hustled to try and make up some of the lost time. Near the end of his double stint, he set the fastest GT2 lap of the race of 3:59:887-- a significant achievement given the damage that the car had sustained earlier in the race.
Five hours into the race, Bergmeister turned the wheel over to Neiman for his second stint. With the GT2 field beginning to thin, the No. 80 was now in ninth, but still significantly behind the leader. The No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche had moved into the lead, and the No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari was close behind in second. Halfway through his stint, disaster struck again for the Lizards when Neiman hit oil on track at Arnage, sending him spinning into the tire wall. Luckily, he was able to get quickly back to the pits where the crew again began repairs. After replacement of the two front radiators, substantial bodywork, and the front undertray, Neiman headed out again, but quickly pitted again to have the crew realign the car. After the realignment (and another hour and 20 minutes out of the race), van Overbeek headed out for his second stint of the race.
At 10:00 pm CET, just seven hours into the 24-hour race, the beleaguered No. 80 was now nearly 40 laps down on the GT2 leader and the crew, having rebuilt the car twice in less than four hours, was exhausted. As night fell, over the next two hours, in a double stint, van Overbeek clocked consistently fast times and had an incident-free stint. The No. 82 Risi Ferrari had retaken the lead, with the No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche in second. Attrition continued in the GT2 field: the No. 77 Felbermayr had a lengthy repair in the garage, pushing them down in the field, and the No. 78 AF Corse Ferrari flew into the gravel, where it remained for the rest of the race.
At 11:45 pm, van Overbeek turned the wheel over to Bergmeister. By this time, four GT2 cars had officially retired: the No. 76 IMSA Performance Matmut Porsche, the No. 94 Speedy Racing Spyker, the No. 85 Spyker, and the No 83 Krohn Racing Ferrari. Temperatures began to drop, and even in the dark, Bergmeister stayed focused and was running more than 10 seconds faster than most of the GT2 for his entire stint. But with such a long circuit (more than 8 miles) it would prove nearly impossible to make up the time to close the gap to the next closest car. At 1:20 am, Neiman took over for his third stint, then handed the car back to van Overbeek.
By 3 am, at the halfway point, the Flying Lizard No. 80 Porsche was seventh in GT2 and five of the 12 starting GT2 cars had been retired. The No. 82 Risi Competizione was in the lead, with the No. 96 Virgo Motorsport Ferrari in second and the No. 97 BMS Scuderia Ferrari in third. The No. 80 was 22 laps down from the next closest car (the No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche, which had fallen to sixth after the lengthy repair), and 38 laps down on the No. 82 Risi Ferrari, which was still in the lead. Nearly two hours later, van Overbeek turned the wheel over again to Bergmeister. At the start of Bergmeister's stint, it began to rain heavily, forcing most teams, including the Lizards to move to full wet tires. Exhausted from his fast pace at night in the rain, Bergmeister did not double stint, and van Overbeek took over again just after dawn, driving for another hour then turning the wheel back to Bergmeister.
The rain continued through the early morning - even on wet tires in the rain, Bergmeister continued his fast pace, turning lap times 10 seconds faster than the rest of the GT2 field. But the 20-lap distance between the No. 80 and the next closest car, the No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche and the 37 laps from the GT2 leader, the No. 82 Risi Competizione was too great to make any inroad at this point. The Lizards could only wait and see what would happen in the field. Neiman took over again, then back to van Overbeek. It was still raining and the Lizards were in seventh position, although with the No. 96 Virgo Motorsports Ferrari, which had been in second, now out of the running (motor), if the No. 80 crossed the finish line and the rest of the field remained unchanged, they would move up to sixth. (Under ACO regulations, a car must cross the finish line to finish and must have covered 70 percent of the distance set by the overall race leader.)
Over the next few hours, with intermittently heavy rain, the No. 80 drivers cycled through their stints, working with the crew to find the right tires for the rapidly changing conditions. By 1 pm, with two hours left to go in the race, the No. 80 was in seventh. The No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrari maintained the lead, with the No. 97 BMS Scuderia Ferrari in second, the No. 90 Farnbacher Racing Ferrari in third, the No. 96 Virgo Motorsport Ferrari (which was no longer running) in fourth, the No. 99 JMB Racing Ferrari in fifth and the No. 77 Felbermayr Porsche in sixth. GT2 positions had not changed effectively in over 12 hours! Neiman took over for the final race hour, driving in heavy rain on full wet tires.
Just before race end, the ACO presented the team with the 2008 Prix ESCRA. This prestigious award is given by the French Academy of the Automobile Trade and the ACO for the best technical performance" by a team during the 24 Heures du Mans , ranked by five equally rated criteria:
* Presentation of the car at scrutineering
* Pit and garage presentation
* Organization of work
* Quality of work during the race
* Quality/efficiency of repair work
24 hours after they started with hopes for a podium finish, the Flying Lizard No. 80 Porsche crossed the finish line sixth in GT2, one of just six of the starting 12 GT2 cars to finish the grueling race. The No. 82 Risi Competizione Ferrrari won in class. For final results, see http://www.lemans.org/24heuresdumans/chronos/pdf/course/h24cla.pdf
The team heads back to the U.S. this week to prepare for the next American Le Mans Series contest: the Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock on July 12, which is the the fifth of 11 ALMS races this year. Flying Lizard is currently in the lead in both the drivers' and team ALMS GT2 championships.
About Flying Lizard Motorsports
Flying Lizard runs three Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs in the American Le Mans Series. Four races into the 11-race ALMS season, they are currently leading in the ALMS GT2 team championship and drivers Bergmeister and Henzler are leading in the ALMS drivers' championship.
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.