American Le Mans Series, round 1 in Sebring, USA, Race report

Porsche celebrates class victory and wins environmental classification

A successful start to the American Le Mans Series season for Porsche: At the Sebring 12 hour race, Porsche clinched two victories with the Porsche RS Spyder in the sports prototype LMP2 class and the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the environmental classification, the Michelin Green X Challenge. The sports car from Weissach proved to be the vehicle that demonstrated the best overall efficiency and fuel consumption at the long distance classic in Florida.

The jubilation in the pits of the Cytosport team knew no bounds. Class victory with pilots Klaus Graf (Germany), Sascha Maassen (Germany) and Greg Pickett (USA) at the wheel of the RS Spyder at the most prestigious race of the year was the first for a customer team with the Weissach sports prototype in the American Le Mans Series. “What a fantastic achievement. We didn’t have any problems in the race. The car ran like clockwork over the twelve hours,” said Sascha Maassen. With this, the RS Spyder continues on from its greatest success of 2008 when it claimed overall victory in Sebring and won all LMP2 championship titles between 2006 and 2008 in the American Le Mans Series. Sascha Maassen: “I can’t wait for the next race with this fantastic car in Laguna Seca.”

Wolf Henzler took the lead

The 58th running of the oldest sports car race in the USA on the Sebring International Raceway also began well for Porsche in the GT2 class. With the 911 GT3 RSR of the new Falken Tire squad, Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) got the jump off the line to move into first in the fiercely-contested sports car class, before his factory pilot teammate Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) seized the lead in his Flying Lizard Motorsports 911 GT3 RSR. “Our car is good,” said the title defender after the first driver change. “I put in some particularly quick laps towards the end of my stint.”

However, when his #45 911 GT3 RSR was hit by a run-away wheel on the course which had come off Wolf Henzler’s Porsche, all hopes for class victory evaporated. “I had to come into the pits which was then closed because of the pace car,” explained Joerg Bergmeister. “I was with my team but in this case the regulations don’t permit any repairs to the car. Our mechanics were forced into inactivity.” Only when the pace car caught the leader after four laps could the Flying Lizard pit crew begin repairs. His teammates Patrick Long (USA) and Marc Lieb (Germany) pulled out all stops to make up for lost time, but it still wasn’t enough for a podium result.

“I should have played lotto”

“Maybe it’s a good omen,” said Patrick Long. “We kicked off the last season with a fourth in Sebring and followed up with five wins and the title.” This perspective seemed to help Joerg Bergmeister get over his initial disappointment. “I should have played lotto today. The chances of being hit by a wheel or buying the winning ticket are about the same.” Wolf Henzler, sharing driving duties with his works driver colleague Patrick Pilet (France) and Bryan Sellers (USA), chose to see the positive side of this unlucky incident. He said: “As a novice team we’ve learned a huge amount from this race. We now know where our weak points are and we will attempt to remedy them by the next race.”

Flying Lizard’s second 911 GT3 RSR with starting number 44 finished in fifth place. During the 2009 season, this car claimed overall honours in the Michelin Green X Challenge and now won the environmental award in Sebring again ahead of the #45 car. Porsche works driver Richard Lietz (Austria), who shared the cockpit with Darren Law (USA) and Seth Neimann (USA), said: “The 911 GT3 RSR has again proven that it’s the most efficient GT race car.”

Hans Herrmann in the RS 60 Spyder
Prior to the start of the race Porsche aroused memories of old times in fans at the Sebring International Raceway. Fifty years after the first of 18 overall victories for Porsche at the long distance classic, Hans Herrmann turned several demonstration laps on the airfield circuit of Florida with the then winning Porsche RS 60 Spyder. The German, now 82-years-old, had won the race on 26th March 1960 with his Belgian teammate Olivier Gendebien.

Round 2 of the American Le Mans Series takes place on 17 April on the street circuit of Long Beach in the US state of California.

1st of 9 races in the American Le Mans Series in Sebring, FL

Result LMP2 class
1. Graf/Maassen/Pickett (D/D/USA), Porsche RS Spyder, 353 laps
2. Brabham/Franchitti/Pagenaud (AUS/GB/F), Honda ARX-01c, 349
3. Dyson/Smith/Meyrick (USA/GB/GB), Mazda-Lola B09, 303

Result GT2 class
1. Melo/Kaffer/Bruni (BRA/D/I), Ferrari 430 GT, 331 laps
2. Werner/Milner/Auberlen (D/USA/USA), BMW E92 M3, 330
3. Müller/Hand/Priaulx (D/USA/GB), BMW E92 M3, 330
4. Bergmeister/Long/Lieb (D/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 329
5. Law/Neiman/Lietz (USA/USA/A), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 325
6. Cosmo/Brown/Barbosa (USA/USA/P), Ferrari 430 GT, 323

Points’ classification LMP2 class
1. Klaus Graf, Sascha Maassen, Greg Picket, Porsche, 30 points
2. David Brabham, Marino Franchitti, Simon Pagenaud, Honda, 26
3. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith, Andy Meyrick, 23

1. Porsche, 30 points
2. Honda, 26
3. Mazda, 23

1. Cytosport, 30 points
2. Highcroft Racing, 26
3. Dyson Racing Team, 23

Points’ classification GT2 class
1. Jamie Melo, Pierre Kaffer, Gianmaria Bruni, Ferrari, 30 points
2. Dirk Werner, Tommy Millner, Bill Auberlen, BMW, 26
3. Dirk Müller, Joey Hand, Andy Priaulx, BMW, 23
4. Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, Marc Lieb, Porsche, 20
5. Darren Law, Seth Neiman, Richard Lietz, Porsche, 18
6. Guy Cosmo, Ed Brown, Joao Barbosa, Ferrari, 16

1. Ferrari, 30 points
2. BMW, 26
3. Porsche, 20

1. Risi Competizione, Ferrari, 30 points
2. Rahal Letterman Racing, 26
3. Flying Lizard Motorsports, Porsche, 20

image and text courtesy of Porsche