Flying Lizard No. 45 and No. 44 First and Second in GT2 at Sebring; No. 46 Eighth
March 15, 2008 -- Sebring, Florida -- In today's grueling Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Flying Lizard squad brought all three of their new 2008 Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs home to the finish with the No. 45 Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb taking the checker for the GT2 class win. The No. 44 Lizard Porsche of Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Alex Davison finished second. This is the team's first-ever Sebring win and their first one/two podium finish. The No. 46 Porsche of Johannes van Overbeek, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz rebounded from a hard hit by an Audi prototype early in the race (which required an hour-long suspension and axle repair for the No. 46) and returned from the back of the pack to finish eighth in class.
(For a detailed race report read the blog.)
The 56th annual running of the 12-hour contest was truly a race of attrition -- nearly 50 percent of the starting GT2 cars did not finish the race, including the two leaders for the first half of the race -- the No. 62 Risi Ferrari and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche, which made hard contact on course halfway through the race, resulting in early retirement for both cars.
It was a clean race start, and the Lizards No. 45, 46, and 44 Porsches started 3rd, 5th and 10th on the grid, respectively. Things were looking good at the start for the team, as Wolf Henzler in the No. 45 and Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 46 settled into race pace and Darren Law in the No. 44 began to move up through the back of the field. At the 30-minute mark, Wolf was in P3, Johannes was in P4 and Darren was in P7. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari, which started from the pole, had the lead, and the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari was second. The No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche was in fourth.
Trouble started 30 minutes in, when Johannes in the No. 46 was hit hard by an Audi prototype, sending him spinning off into the tire wall. Johannes was able to work his way slowly back to the pits, where the crew set to work replacing left rear supsension and axle. After a one hour repair, the No. 46 was back on track, but having fallen all the way to the rear of the pack, effectively ending their hopes for a top spot finish.
Meanwhile, things were going better for the No. 44 and the No. 45. After 50 minutes, Law handed the wheel over to Alex Davison, who worked his way to P4 over the next hour. Teammate Seth Neiman maintained P4 for his hour-long stint and Darren was back in the car at the 3 hour mark. In the No. 45, after a double stint at the start, Wolf was in P 3 when they switched to Joerg Bergmeister. After a brief time in P2, Joerg held on to P3 for his stint, trading off again to Marc Lieb, who was P3 behind the No. 62 Risi Ferrari (in the lead) and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche (in P2). Over the first six hours, the No. 45 and No. 44 Porsches cycled through their drivers -- encountering few major problems, and holding P3 and P4.
In the No. 46, after the repair was completed, Richard Lietz took the Porsche back out on track 1.5 hours into the race but unfortunately now in P15. Over the next 10 and a half hours, the No. 46 driver trio of van Overbeek, Lietz, and Patrick Pilet focused on getting the most out of the Porsche (which had lost its rear bumper during the earlier incident), and stayed out of trouble. With the significant attrition in the race, the No. 46 Porsche was able to regain 7 positions -- with Patrick Pilet crossing the finish line eighth in class. This was the first time that the three had driven together and both the first Sebring and the first ALMS race for Lietz and Pilet.
"It was disappointing to see things go south so early in the race but I knew that the crew would be able to get us back on track," said van Overbeek. "Aside from that incident, we had a great race and turned some very fast times. It is a long season, and we have many races yet to go."
Things changed for the No. 45 and No. 44 Lizards midway through the 12-hour race, when the No. 62 Risi Ferrari (in the lead) impacted the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche (in P2), sending both cars off course. The hard hit damaged both cars so severely that neither were able to continue. With the two leaders out of the race, the No. 45 moved into the lead and the No. 44 into second. The two cars never looked back -- staying out of trouble and avoiding the numerous incidents throughout the day that collected a fair share of the overall field.
Henzler commented on his first-ever win at Sebring, "It was our first win as a team here, and a great day for the Lizards. We had a perfect start and the car was running great. After the No. 62 Risi Ferrari and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche were out of the race, we were then two laps ahead and had some breathing room. We were able to maintain a comfortable pace for the last six hours and take the checker. A big thanks to the crew. The team has grown a lot since I was here in 06, but everyone knows their job. I had full confidence in what the crew could do and I'm really happy to be back with the Lizards."
Team principal Neiman said, "Sebring is such a tough week -- but it's all worth it when you have results like we did today. It was a shame that the No. 46 didn't get a chance to show its stuff, but even so, all three cars finished -- that's no small achievement in this race. But now the hard work starts -- we have 10 more races in the ALMS and Le Mans still to come and some extremely tough competition. It's going to be a fun year."
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.