Flying Lizard No. 45 Wins GT2, No. 46 Second at Utah Grand Prix: Third Double Podium of Season
May 19, 2008 -- Salt Lake City, Utah -- The Lizards continued their podium streak yesterday at the Utah Grand Prix, finishing first, second, and fifth in GT2. The No. 45 Lizard Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler started on the pole and never looked back, leading the entire race to take the checkered flag, the duo's second GT2 win of the season. In the No. 46 Lizard Porsche, teammates Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet started second on the grid, pitted during an early caution, and then came back through the field to finish second, their third podium of the season. In the No. 44 Lizard Porsche, Darren Law and Seth Neiman stayed out of trouble in an incident-filled race, finishing a strong sixth after starting near the back of the 16-car field.
Given the large field (30 cars and 16 GT2 entries), it was a fairly clean race start. Over the first 15 minutes, while the prototypes at the front jostled for position, Wolf Henzler in the No. 45 quickly built a good gap from the rest of the GT2 field. In the No. 46 Lizard Porsche, van Overbeek held his second place (the No. 62 Risi Ferrari, which had been second on the grid, had to start from pit lane). The No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche was in third, and the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari in fourth.
The first yellow of the race occurred just 15 minutes in, with Henzler in the No. 45 now more than 10 seconds ahead of the No. 46 Porsche, and the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari now in P3. The No. 45, ahead of the rest of the GT2 pack, was in front of the overall leader, and received the "wave by", allowing him to go ahead of the pace car and catch back up with the overall field on track, putting him one lap ahead of the rest of the GT2 field. (During a caution, the pace car enters the track and re-establishes the race order by waving cars by until the overall leader is back in front, just behind the pace car.) Both the No. 45 and No. 46 teams readied for a possible pit stop under yellow for fuel, but because of the timing of the wave-by and subsequent race restart, elected to stay out.
During this first caution, the GT2 field had regrouped, closing some of the gap that Henzler had worked hard to build. On the race restart, two prototypes collided on course, causing a second caution. The No. 45 pitted under yellow for tires and fuel and was able to get back out again under yellow and retain a one-lap lead. The No. 46, now one lap down on the No. 45 but still in second position, pitted late in the yellow for tires and fuel. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari, which had been in third, and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche did not pit.
Now 35 minutes into the 2 hour and 45 minute race, Henzler was at the back of the GT2 pack on the track, but one lap ahead, and Johannes, following his pit stop, was in 14th. Over the next 40 minutes, Henzler worked his way carefully through the GT2 cars, staying focused on avoiding any incidents with the faster prototypes, who were also moving in a large pack through the slower GT field. van Overbeek was also moving up the field, making his way to fifth. In the No. 44, which had not pitted under the earlier yellows, Seth Neiman was now in 11th. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari had moved to second, the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche was in third, and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari was in fourth.
An hour and 20 minutes into the race, both the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche pitted for driver change, tires, and fuel. The No. 44 also pitted for driver change to Darren Law, tires, and fuel. Once the field sorted out again, the No. 45 was in the lead, the No. 62 in second, the No. 46 in third, the No. 21 in fourth, and the No. 48 Corsa Ferrari in fifth. The No. 44 was in tenth. All of the top five GT2 cars still had do to their driver change.
By the 2-hour mark, all of the GT2 field had completed their driver changes. The No. 45, with Bergmeister now at the wheel, remained in the lead, still one lap ahead, the No. 71 was second, the No. 62 third, the No. 87 fourth and the No. 46 with Patrick Pilet now in the cockpit, was in fifth. The No. 44 had moved up to seventh. It was shaping up to be another classic Porsche versus Ferrari battle with two Ferraris and 3 Porsches in the top five. With just over 30 minutes to go, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari collided with the No. 28 LG Motorsports Corvette (GT2) on track, sending the No. 62 briefly airborne and then deep into the gravel. The No. 62 was now out of the running, the No. 45 in the lead on its own lap, and the No. 71, No. 87 and No. 46 all on the same lap, one lap behind.
With less than an hour left in the race, it looked like it would come down to fuel: which cars could complete the race without having to refuel. The No. 45 and No. 46 Porsches were at an advantage to the No. 71 and the No. 87: because the Lizards had pitted earlier in the race for a quick fuel, and then a second time late in hour 2 for their driver changes, fuel and tires, they would most likely be able to complete the race without refueling.
Luck held for the Lizards: incident after incident sent cars into the gravel (where they would sit for the remainder of the race), but the green flag held and no cautions were called. This meant that the No. 71 and the No. 87, both low on fuel, could not use the caution periods to either conserve fuel or pit for a top-up.
With 20 minutes to go, the No. 71, in second, finally pitted for fuel and the No. 87 moved into second and the No. 46 into third. The No. 44, in sixth, had pitted earlier than the No. 45 and the No. 46 for its driver change, and now went in again for a quick splash of fuel. In the No. 46, the crew had only one-way communication with Patrick Pilet; he could hear them but they could not hear him. They were at the ready for any unexpected appearance in the pits.
With 10 minutes left in the race, Joerg in the No. 45 was in the lead, the No. 87 in second, the No. 46 in third, and the No. 71 in fourth. In the No. 46, Patrick was pushing hard on the tail of the No. 87, which had slowed to try to conserve fuel. With two laps left, the No. 87 finally dove into the pits for fuel, and Patrick moved into second and the No. 71 into third. The two Lizard Porsches crossed the finish line in tandem to take the team's third double podium this year. The No. 44 Lizard Porsche finished sixth.
With this result, the team increases its lead in the ALMS team championship, and is now nine points ahead of Tafel Racing. In the drivers' championship, Bergmeister and Henzler retake the lead and are now one point ahead of Tafel Racing's Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher, and ten points ahead of van Overbeek and Pilet, who are in third.
Wolf Henzler, No. 45 driver: "We knew after warmup that the car was very fast and would be good over the long run. Early on, in the first yellow, I was able to get a lap lead on the rest of the GT2 field when I got the wave-by and they didn't. It turned out to be key to winning the race. Over my stint, I was able to stay out of the rest of the GT2 traffic and was very careful to keep out of trouble. When I caught the GT2 pack -- there were four or five of them together who were a lap down-they were all fighting for position and I had to work my way carefully through them, one by one. Thanks to the crew for a fantastic race. We are now back in the lead in the championship and I'm looking forward to the rest of the season in such a strong Porsche."
Joerg Bergmeister, No. 45 driver: "Wolf did a great job in the first half of the race: he started from the lead and pulled a solid gap at the beginning. We were the only GT2 car to get the wave by on that early yellow, and from then on controlled the race. It was a great team effort with the No. 46 finishing second and the No. 44 sixth: good for the championship and it makes up for some of our challenges at St. Pete. Hopefully this trend continues for the Lizards!"
Johannes van Overbeek, No. 46 driver: "This was a great performance from the team. Patrick (Pilet) did a fantastic job, our pit stops were excellent and we had a solid car for the race. It's too bad that we got gapped in the beginning of the race, but overall we are very pleased with the result."
Darren Law, No. 44 driver: "I'm proud of our finish here. We had some challenges in morning warmup making some final setup changes, but in the end, we just went with it. The car proved to be really consistent and both Seth and I were able to run a good pace. We could have used a bit more luck with the yellows, but to finish sixth after starting at the back is a great result."
Seth Neiman, Team Principal and No. 44 driver: "Congratulations to the entire Lizard team on our third double podium of the year. It's clear that the fight for the championship is really on now. Utah was our first return since Sebring to a standard road course, and the results here show that it will be a very competitive season and that the field is evenly balanced. We head to France next week for Le Mans, and we'll be back with the ALMS at Lime Rock in July."
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.