Monday
Apr162007

ALMS NEWS: DUMAS, BERNHARD LEAD PENSKE 1-2 FINISH AT LONG BEACH

Photo by John Thawley Phenomenal strategy and a bit of luck sent Penske Motorsports to its second 1-2 overall finish in the American Le Mans Series as Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard drove to victory Saturday in the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Dumas crossed the finish line 0.76 seconds ahead of Sascha Maassen in the team's other Penske entry.

It marked the second time in two years that Dumas and Bernhard drove their LMP2 entry to an overall win. They did it for the first time last May at Mid-Ohio. Porsches took the top three spots as Dyson Racing's Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace finished 13 seconds behind the winners.

"It was a tough race," Dumas said. "Timo did a great job at the start and kept us in a good position. After the safety car came we made a perfect driver change. After I drove we didn't have a lot of traffic obviously. For Porsche to finish 1-2-3 is fantastic."

Dumas and Bernhard ran the entire race on one set of tires, a strategy the team developed prior to the race. Their pit stop and the race's only caution also fell at the right spot as Dumas re-entered the track with 70 minutes remaining, the maximum time allowed for one driver in the race.

"We decided to take the risk and it wasn't easy on the car," Dumas said. "We took the risk and it helped us win the race. The driver change was really good and the tires were good and I knew I could push. Ten minutes from the end I had a 10-second lead and had to focus on not making mistakes."

The win by Dumas and Bernhard also ended a nine-race overall winning streak for Audi's R10 TDI. Allan McNish and Dindo Capello won in LMP1 for the second consecutive race but they finished seventh overall. They did take ownership of the class championship standings as Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner finished second in class, a lap down.

"Every run of victories has to come to an end at some point. We have to keep it all in perspective," McNish said. "We did see yesterday that it was going to be trickier than at St. Petersburg. We did the strategy the best way possible and I believe it was the right strategy. We didn't have the pace to put us into the final parts of it today."

The issues started early as the brake ducts became clogged during Capello's stint. The car also had to pit late while running in the top five because it was running low on fuel.

The two Audis do have the chance to start another streak next week at Houston. McNish and Capello won last year in an Audi R8 but know that the twin-turbo diesel R10 TDIs will face extra challenges.

Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin went wire-to-wire to win for the third consecutive race in GT1. The No. 4 Corvette took a 0.349-second win over the sister car of Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell, who was chasing Beretta down in the closing laps.

Both cars pitted at the halfway point, making the race a duel between the pit crews.

"It pretty much came down to the pit stops," Gavin said. "When I was in the car after the caution, my tires didn't come back and Jan was on me pretty hard. I had to push in traffic to keep him away and it allowed us a little space for the crew to get us out in front of the 3 car. Olivier did a great job of keeping the No. 3 car behind him."

While the focus for Gavin and Beretta is on winning a third straight American Le Mans Series championship, they also are looking forward to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June where they will go for four consecutive wins.

"We are both professional teams. They want to win and we want to win," Beretta said. "We just want to not mess up the car and be big on preparations for Le Mans. Everyone is waiting for that. It's always tough to know where Aston Martin is, and Saleen will be there too. The last three years have been good so we'll just wait and see."

Jaime Melo and Mika Salo also won their third straight race in GT2 for Ferrari and Risi Competizione. The class championship leaders were five seconds ahead of the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long and Darren Law. Third was the second Risi Ferrari, that one driven by Anthony Lazzaro and Nic Jonsson.

The win was the fifth straight for Melo and Salo dating back to Salt Lake City for last season.

"I just tried to push as much at the start as possible at the beginning and keep the gap to second place," said Melo. "At the yellow we lost all the gap and decided to change drivers then. Mika did a very great job and the guys on the team made a great strategy. For us it is great to win another race. We have a good gap between us and Porsche."

The Flying Lizard Porsches and one of the Panoz Team PTG's Panoz Esperante GTLMs challenged the Ferraris throughout. In the end, fuel economy and the Ferrari's handling won out over the power of the Porsches and Panoz. Melo and Salo will go for their sixth straight win together next week in Risi's hometown of Houston.

"We knew we could go until the end on fuel after the stop," Salo said. We weren't much quicker than the second Porsche. I was coasting on the straight line and riding the clutch to save fuel. It was a great job by the engineers. We definitely want to win Houston as it is our home race."

The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix at Houston's JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park, set for 5:30 p.m. CDT on Saturday, April 21. The race will be broadcast on CBS Sports at 1 p.m. EDT on Sunday, April 29. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.

« TEAM NEWS: RISI COMPETIZIONE TAKES 1st AND 3rd IN GT2 AT LONG BEACH | Main | SCCA NEWS: Curran Makes It Two In A Row at Long Beach »

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