Photo by John Thawley ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - March 28 - The Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 prototypes and the GT2 class Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs have left the chassis-rattling endurance test that is the 12 Hours of Sebring to compete this Saturday, March 31, in a much different, but equally challenging American Le Mans Series street race through downtown St. Petersburg.

According to Porsche Motorsport North America President Uwe Brettel, the teams that master the set-up the quickest for this weekend's Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg will have the best chance of winning.

"As with many street races, there is no track time available for testing beforehand, as the teams take to the track for their first practice on Friday at 1:10 PM, and have to qualify less than 90 minutes later. With so little room to pass, qualifying for a good starting position is that much more important, yet there is little time to prepare," said Brettel, who added that careful driving is also more important as a street circuit provides no run-off area in case of driving mistakes or accidents.

This is the first of three street courses in four weeks for the American Le Mans Series, which goes to Long Beach (April 12) and Houston (April 21) - both similar street races. The series ran in Houston last year, but St. Petersburg and Long Beach are new to the schedule for 2007.

Porsche RS Spyders - Penske Motorsports and the Dyson Racing

The two teams preparing Porsche RS Spyder prototypes in the LMP2 class - Penske Motorsports and Dyson Racing - did not have things go their way at the recent Sebring event - although all four cars completed the grueling race - with accidents, electrical gremlins, and transmission problems preventing them from top finishes.

Still, the Penske entry of Romain Dumas (France) and Timo Bernhard (Germany) - aided at Sebring by Helio Castroneves (Brazil), managed a third place finish and enters the St. Petersburg event only seven points out of the class lead (first place is worth 20 points). For the two-hour, 45-minute event on Saturday, Dumas/Bernhard will handle the driving chores without a third driver.

Finishing fifth at Sebring was the Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder Andy Wallace (England)/Butch Leitzinger (USA) /Andy Lally (USA) (Wallace and Leitzinger are entered for St. Petersburg), which ran near the front of the class until electrical and transmission problems slowed their progress. The second Dyson Racing Porsche, with Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (England) at the helm, finished right behind their teammates after an early-race scuffle with a GT2 car required the replacement of their exhaust system, while the second Penske Porsche, driven by Sascha Maassen (Belgium)/Ryan Briscoe (Australia) /Emmanuel Collard (France) (Maassen and Briscoe are entered this weekend) broke a brake line early in the race, and then had electrical issues.

GT2 - Porsche versus Ferrari

If the .002 of a second margin of victory after 12 hours of racing at Sebring two weeks ago is any indication of what will happen this season in the GT2 class, the battle between Porsche and Ferrari might be the best race of the weekend.

Jaime Melo (Brazil) in his Risi Ferrari 430 lead Jorg Bergmeister (Germany) in the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR by 30 seconds late in the race when the Porsche team came in to change tires for a last-ditch attempt to overcome the Ferrari lead. Bergmeister re-entered the course with a fresh set of rubber, and ran down the Ferrari on the last lap, with the cars side-by-side through the last two turns. After some contact which almost sent Bergmeister into the wall, the Ferrari took the checked flag by a nose.

Both the Johannes van Overbeek (USA)/Jorg Bergmeister Porsche and the Melo/Salo Ferrari will be back this weekend, joined by two other Ferraris, two Panoz Esperantes, and five other Porsches. In the standings, the Lizard drivers trail their Risi rivals by four points.

The Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS/RSR family of race cars has won the American Le Mans Series' GT/GT2 class every year but one since the series inception in 1999. Last year was no exception, as Jorg Bergmeister won the championship, and with the aid of his co-driver Patrick Long and his Petersen/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, helped Porsche win the manufacturers title.

Other Porsche entries include Germany's Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell (Great Britain), who share one of the two new 911 GT3 RSRs fielded by Tafel Racing. For the first time, the renowned IndyCar team, Rahal Lettermann Racing, competes in the American Le Mans Series with the new 911 GT3 RSR. Co-team owners Bobby Rahal and David Letterman have signed Ralf Kelleners (Germany) and Tom Milner (USA) to contest the GT2 season. The second Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche will be driven by Darren Law (USA) and Lonnie Pechnik (USA), while the new Boston-based Team Trans Sport Racing entry of Tim Pappas (USA), Terry Brocheller (USA) and recent Daytona 24-Hour GT winner Marc Besseng (Germany) will be back after its Sebring debut. The second Tafel Racing Porsche of Jim Tafel (USA) and Dominik Farnbacher (Germany) round out the Porsche GT2 entries.

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