Flying Lizard No. 45 Wins in GT2 at Detroit, No. 46 2nd, No. 44 4th: Fifth Double Podium this Season -- Full Race Report
September 1, 2008 -- Sonoma, Calif -- Starting from the pole in GT2, Wolf Henzler and Joerg Bergmeister brought the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche in for their fourth GT2 win so far this season in Saturday's Detroit Sports Car Challenge. Teammates Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet fought back from a late-race spin and unplanned pit stop to finish second in GT2. The No. 44 Porsche of Lonnie Pechnik and Martin Ragginger finished fourth, its second highest finish of the year. Detroit is the fifth double podium of the year for the Lizard squad.
Wolf Henzler started from the pole in the No. 45, Patrick Pilet started from fourth in the No. 46, and Lonnie Pechnik started from seventh in the No. 44. It was a clean race start and the field was just beginning to settle in on the 2.096-mile, 14-turn street course when, on the second lap, the 007 GT2 Aston Martin went into the tire wall at Turn 13, resulting in the first of four cautions of the race. All three Lizard Porsches were still in their starting positions. The No. 44 took advantage of the yellow for a quick pit stop for tires and a short fuel, but the No. 45 and No. 46 stayed out.
Fifteen minutes later, the green flag fell and the race was once again underway. For the next 20 minutes until the second yellow flag, Henzler in the No. 45 led a GT2 train of four cars, with the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in second, the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari in third, and the No. 46 Flying Lizard Porsche in fourth: all four nose-to-tail. With packs of prototypes constantly weaving through the group, the four cars managed to stay bunched together but no one was able to pass.
Just under 40 minutes into the race, the No. 2 Audi impacted the tire wall, also in Turn 13. A second caution was called to allow race officials to remove the Audi from the track and repair the tire wall, this caution lasting 25 minutes. Nearly every car took advantage of this caution to pit. At the time of the yellow, the GT2 field order was unchanged: No. 45 in the lead, No. 62 in second, No. 71 in third, and No. 46 in fourth. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari pitted early in the yellow for tires and fuel, moving the No. 46 Porsche to third position and the No. 21 Panoz, which had been in fifth, to fourth. The No. 44, which had already pitted under the first yellow, was now in fifth.
Fifty minutes into the race, with the course still under caution, the No. 45 pitted for a short fuel, tires and driver change from Wolf Henzler to Joerg Bergmeister. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari also pitted. The No. 46 stayed out, moving Patrick Pilet into the lead.
At the one-hour mark, the repairs to the tire wall were complete, and it was green flag racing again. The No. 46 Flying Lizard Porsche, which had not yet pitted, was in the lead, the No. 21 Panoz was now in second, and the No. 44, which did not pit under the second caution, was in third. The No. 62 was in fourth, and the No. 45 was in fifth. Just after the race restart, the No. 62 Risi Ferrari, which had pitted earliest of the lead GT pack in the second caution, passed the No. 44 to move to third. The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari, which had been second at the time of its pit stop, had not yet rejoined the race: stuck in the pits, apparently unable to restart.
For the next 40 minutes, Patrick Pilet in the No. 46 held the lead, running a very fast pace. He built a more than 10-second lead on the No. 21 Panoz in second, then kept the gap steady after the No. 62 passed the No. 21 to take second. With the No. 44 still in fourth and the No. 45 in fifth, it was now getting close to the window for driver changes and fuel for most of the leading GT2 cars. The No. 71 had rejoined, but with its lengthy pit stop and repair was now in 11th. Lonnie Pechnik in the No. 44 had passed the No. 21 to move to third.
Nearing the 90-minute mark, Pilet, in the No.46 (who had not yet pitted and was still on his starting tires), held the lead and was the fastest GT2 car on the track. Then the No. 54 spun and had to be removed from the track, resulting in the third caution of the race. The caution worked in favor of the No. 44 and the No. 45, allowing them to close the gap to the No. 46 and No. 62. Late in the third caution, the No. 46, still in the lead, pitted for driver change from Pilet to Johannes van Overbeek, tires and fuel. The No. 44 also pitted for driver change from Lonnie Pechnik to Martin Ragginger, tires and fuel. The No. 45, which was in fifth, was the last of the three Lizard Porsches into the pits for a driver change back to starting driver Wolf Henzler, tires and fuel. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari also pitted for its driver change, tires and fuel, as did the No. 21.
The No. 62, which had been second at the time of its pit stop, was the first of the lead GT2 group out of the pits (the No. 46 needed more fuel, since it had not yet refueled during the race and needed a longer pit stop) and took the lead. The No. 46 was out in second, the No. 45 in third, and the No. 44 in fourth. Still under yellow, as the cars weaved behind the pace car, TV coverage showed the No. 62 driver Mika Salo struggle with a damaged driver side door, opening and closing it, attempting to secure it. Unable to get the door closed, the No. 62 had to pit again, putting the Lizard No. 46, No. 45, and No. 44 Porsches into first, second and third positions.
When the green flag finally fell again, there was less than an hour left to go. The No. 62 Ferrari, quickly back on track after its unscheduled pit stop, was given a stop-and-to penalty for exceeding pit lane speed limit, requiring the Ferrari to make yet another stop under green. The No. 62 was back out again quickly, but had fallen to fifth. The No. 21 was fourth. Over the next 15 minutes, the three Lizard Porsches carefully threaded through the slower GT2 traffic and worked to avoid prototypes - gradually extending their lead again from the rest of the GT2 pack.
With just 45 minutes left in the race, the No. 46 was leading, with the No. 45 in second, and the No. 44 in third. By now, the No. 44 was more than 20 seconds from the next closest GT2 car, the No. 21 (in fourth), and more than a minute ahead of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari (in fifth). Then, bad luck struck yet again when the No. 7 Penske prototype hit the No. 46 from the rear, sending van Overbeek skidding off course with a punctured tire. He was able to get the car quickly back to the pits and out again after a four-tire change, reentering the race in fourth place, just ahead of the No. 62 in fifth. The No. 21 had moved up to third. The No. 45 had moved to the lead and the No. 44 was in second. Over the next 10 minutes, van Overbeek held off then No. 62 and then worked to overtake the No. 21, putting the No. 46 in third. The No. 62 also passed the No. 21 to take fourth.
With 20 minutes left to go in the race, the three Flying Lizard Porsches were once again running one/two/three (although now in a different order). In the No. 45, Henzler now had a 30-second lead on Martin Ragginger in the No. 44, and a 45-second lead on van Overbeek in the No. 46. The No. 46 was ten seconds ahead of the No. 62 Risi Ferrari in fourth. The Lizard Porsches once again settled down, again setting their sights on finishing the race for their first triple podium.
But more bad luck for the Lizards as the No. 21 spun on course and impacted a tire wall, resulting in the fourth and final yellow of the race. The caution would allow the No. 62 to close the gap between him and the Lizard Porsches. The race was again restarted, with just over 10 minutes left. After the restart, the No. 46 passed the No. 44 to take second position. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari, now in fourth, passed the No. 44, making contact during the pass, to take third place. With so few laps left, there was no time for the No. 44 to recover its position, and Ragginger had to settle for a fourth place finish. In the No. 45, Henzler cruised home to its fourth win of the season and van Overbeek in the No. 46 finished second.
With this result, Joerg Bergmeister and Wolf Henzler have extended their lead in the ALMS GT2 drivers' championship. They are now twenty-eight points ahead of Dominik Farnbacher and Dirk Mueller of the No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari and forty four points ahead of teammates Johannes van Overbeek and Patrick Pilet of the No. 46 Porsche, who are in third. The Flying Lizard team is also leading in the ALMS GT2 team championships, now thirty-five points ahead of Tafel Racing in second. There is a total of fifty-five additional points possible in the two upcoming races: a first place finish is worth thirty points at Petit Le Mans, and twenty-five at Laguna Seca.
Wolf Henzler, driver No. 45 Porsche, "In my first stint, starting from the pole, I was the head of the GT2 train: two Ferraris and the No. 46 Porsche. I couldn't get away from the Ferraris - I didn't have the grip in my tires in my first stint, probably because of the tire pressures. I told the crew, so they were able to make adjustments when Joerg took over for his stint, going out in fifth position. Other cars had pitted earlier than we had, so when I went back in the car to the end of the race, we only had to take half fuel and we were able to get back out in second. I was in the car behind Johannes in the No. 46 in the lead and we had a big gap to third. We were all trying to be patient and stay out of trouble. By this point, the No. 71, which we are fighting for the championship, was effectively out of the running, so second place would have been OK for the No. 45. Suddenly I saw Johannes sideways, sliding off course toward the tire wall in front of me, so I went inside and took over the lead. I was being very cautious by this point. Luckily, even with the late yellow, we were still OK, the No. 62 Ferrari was too far back from us to catch us. All of the Lizard cars had a great race today. For a while, it looked like we might have a triple podium. It didn't work out, but to be one/two is a great result and shows how strong the team is this year."
Joerg Bergmeister, driver No. 45 Porsche, "The No. 45 strategy really played out today. We were doing a full stop on the second yellow, so we lost a track position initially, but as a result our next stop was shorter than everyone else, and we got back out in third. For me it was a pretty easy stint, I knew that the No. 71 had had some issues, which took some of the immediate pressure off. We have 55 points left to go in the championship. It's nice to have a bigger gap now but we can't rest - we have two long races coming up and the championship is still open - we need to keep our heads down, stay focused, and keep doing what we've been doing all year."
Johannes van Overbeek, Driver No. 46 Porsche, "It was heartbreaking to see all of the work that the crew had put into fielding a potentially race-winning car so pointlessly lost. At this point in the year, a lot of championships are on the line and people are taking chances they would not normally take. Unfortunately we suffered the consequence of one of those actions."
Patrick Pilet, driver No. 46 Porsche, "Detroit this year was a great race for Flying Lizard. The whole team performed really well. In the No. 46, we saw the crew improve the car over each session. Because of the rain on our practice day, we had almost no setup time so they used what they had - qualifying, warmup, even during the race-- and they made the car consistent and very fast. I had a very long stint in this race. The first part of the race, I tried to be patient and conserve fuel. I knew it would be a long race and I would need to push hard throughout. It was great strategy to do only one stop, but it was very difficult to push that hard for so long. But each lap, I felt more comfortable with the track and was able to push at the maximum even at the end of my stint. Johannes had some bad luck but still we have second place and it's a good result. We are that much closer to the No. 71 for the driver championship and we are still in the running."
Lonnie Pechnik, driver No. 44 Porsche, "Thanks to our engineer Sebastien Constans and the crew. With so little prep time, we still got to a good setup and we had a car we could push with. It was a solid race for the No. 44: we ran fast and pushed hard."
Martin Ragginger, driver No. 44 Porsche, "For the team, it was a great result, even though the No. 44 didn't reach the podium today. It was my first race here in the ALMS and my first race in an RSR: I really enjoyed having the opportunity to run with Flying Lizard, Lonnie was a great teammate, and I learned a lot this weekend.
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.