Houston: Petersen/White Lightning Racing preview
Petersen/ White Lightning Ready to Strike Houston in Force Bergmeister and Long Back Together in No. 31 Porsche HOUSTON, May 5, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing is set to strike round two of the American Le Mans Series ...
Petersen/ White Lightning Ready to Strike Houston in Force
Bergmeister and Long Back Together in No. 31 Porsche
HOUSTON, May 5, 2006 -- Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing is set to strike round two of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season in full force as they enter the May 12 Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston. With the return of American racing standout Patrick Long (Las Vegas), paired with fellow 2005 GT2 Champion Jorg Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany), the team has nearly all the same tools it used to win the '05 GT2 Team, Driver and IMSA Cup titles. The Friday night race will mark the first time this season that Bergmeister and Long have shared the No. 31 MMPIE/ PAWS/ Michelin Porsche 911 GT3 RSR that they drove to victory in five of ten GT2 races last year. It is also the debut of the ALMS on the Reliant Park circuit in Houston.
Bergmeister and Long were a formidable combination when driving for the Michael Petersen-owned team in 2004 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where they won the GT (now GT2) class. They came to the ALMS fulltime with the Las Vegas-based organization in 2005 winning 50% of the events in their class, including the last four events of the year, two pole positions and earning nine podium finishes in the ten event season. Despite Long having stepped out of the Petersen Porsche at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring to compete in the Porsche factory LMP2 entry, he will drive in eight of the remaining nine races with the Dale White-managed team.
The Lone Star Grand Prix will be the first street race that the ALMS has competed on since 2003 at the Grand Prix of Miami. Then, Petersen/ White Lightning finished fourth in class. The tight, 1.7-mile, nine-turn track runs through Reliant Park with the Reliant Astrodome and Reliant Stadium as a backdrop. The four-class race, which includes two prototype and two street-based classes, will provide a spectacular show on the narrow confines of the cement-walled track. Doubling the excitement is that the full two hours and 45-minutes of the event will be raced at night. The tight confines of the track will put a premium on Thursday evening's qualifying effort, which Long will run. There is no scheduled night practice for the event.
This is the second race that Petersen Motorsports/ White Lightning Racing has run in Houston, though the course has changed. The first came in a 1998 SCCA Trans-Am event where Stu Hayner drove to an 11th-place finish in the team's Chevrolet Camaro.
The Lone Star Grand Prix will start at 8 PM (CDT) on May 12 with the tape delay broadcast on CBS at 1 PM (EDT), May 13. Live timing and scoring can be found at www.AmericanLeMans.com.
Mike Petersen, owner: "We're looking forward to getting the team assembled back to what it was for the championship run last year. It has been awhile since we've raced in Houston as a team and we are looking forward to getting Sebring behind us and getting off on the right foot. We had a very fast car at Sebring. We were always around the top-three but had some bad luck. It should be an interesting race with the traffic and the other competitors in the GT2 class. It will be very exciting for the fans. We're looking forward to returning to the podium there in our quest for the championship."
Dale White, team manager: "Preparation for a street race is the same as every race we will run. But we will likely put a little more effort into the qualifying setup than we usually do. Because passing is so tough and street races usually have a lot of cautions, you need to be as far towards the front as you can at the start and attack from there. I think we have the drivers and the team that can do that. Having Patrick back with us gives us a working rhythm like last year. Everyone knows what is expected of them and how to do it. There isn't a lot of explaining how we work because everyone knows. That is pretty important to being successful."
Jorg Bergmeister, driver: "I'm really excited. I really like doing street courses. Whether it is Monaco or Long Beach, Miami; I like going to these places. It is really challenging for the driver. I enjoy it. It's great to have Patrick back in the car. We will both have a busy weekend. I won't have too much practice and Patrick will focus on the setup. Hopefully, we will improve the car from Sebring and we will have some more luck than we had there."
Patrick Long, driver: "As busy as I've been the last few months this seems like a homecoming for me. It is good to be back with what feels like my home team. It is going to be ultra-fierce this year with the Ferrari and the Panoz and the other Porsches. Houston is going to be really interesting racing on the streets into the dark. Passing is going to be challenging so track position is going to be ultra-competitive. It is going to be action-packed. Having all the classes together, having their own races on a street course, there isn't a lot of margin for error. The straights are sort of curving so there will be a transferring line across them so you are going to have to have a lot of regard to others in overtaking. I'm grateful to Mike and Dale for putting their confidence in me even though I can't be here all season. My job is to win races and win the championship for the team and for Jorg. I'm looking forward to being back with Petersen/ White Lightning."
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