Sunday
Apr222007

TEAM NEWS: Two-Time American Le Mans Series Champs See Controversey Take Podium Finish

Photo by John Thawley HOUSTON, April 21, 2007 - Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing finished fourth in today's Lone Star Grand Prix of Houston, round four of the American Le Mans Series season. Despite a difficult year to this point, the Michael Petersen (Las Vegas) owned team has persistently shown impressive speed both on the track and in pit lane. Dirk Müller (a native of Germany, living in Monaco) set the fastest race lap in the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT for the second consecutive time since returning to the American Le Mans Series two races ago. The race did hold a significant amount of controversy. In the closing minutes of the two hour and 45-minute event, Müller, the 2000 American Le Mans Series GT (now GT2) Champion was called in for a stop-and-go penalty. The penalty was assessed for what was deemed, at the time, "unnecessary" contact. By serving the penalty, the two-time American Le Mans Series Champions dropped from third to fourth with less than two minutes remaining in the race. It was later determined that Müller made no unnecessary or aggressive contact.

Jarek Janis (Olomouc, Czech Republic) started the race in second-place for the Dale White (Bozeman, MT) managed team. Janis struggled with a "pushing", or understeering race car, and with the bumps on the temporary 1.7-mile, 10-turn JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park here in Houston. He turned the Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari over to Müller just past the one hour mark of the race. After a blazingly quick pit stop the car returned on course in seventh place. With new Michelin Pilot tires and a full fuel load, Müller attacked the course setting the fast lap (one minute, 9.948 seconds) on his second circuit. It is the third consecutive fastest race lap (St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Houston) for the Nevada- based team. Earlier in the season Tomas Enge (Czech Republic now living in Monaco), who was injured at the second-race of the season at St. Petersburg, set the fast race lap while leading the St. Pete event in the No. 31.

Müller made one additional stop at the two hour mark for 40 seconds of fuel and four new Michelin tires. A caution flag two laps later would drop the team a lap down when the other leading cars were allowed to make stop under the caution. However, Müller continued to lap at times as quickly as the leaders and often quicker.

After four races in the 2007 American Le Mans Series championship, Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing has not only set fastest race lap three time but has sat on the front row three times and won the pole position once. Here at Houston, Müller and Janis set the fastest lap time in the first two practices and second fastest qualifying time.

Quotes

Dale White, Team Manager/Entrant: "We got close tonight. I really thought we had it. If it wasn't for some bad luck with the caution coming the lap after we pitted, we would have been racing for the win instead of a podium. But, that is racing. We are disappointed, obviously, with how it turned-out in the end with the stop-and-go penalty but you just have to move past things like that. We know we have the car that can win races and a team that can win races and we just need to get everything to fall into place for one full weekend and we will be right there. It is pretty easy to stay positive when you think about it that way."

Dirk Müller, Driver: "The car was really awesome again for the second-straight week. I really appreciate being in the Petersen/White Lightning Ferrari. From the very beginning it was really quick. We got just a bit unlucky with the full course yellow. It came two laps too late. Otherwise, we would have been in the position to compete for the victory. Then, in the end, something really weird happened. I was letting the leading car by and I got pushed really bad, not in a nice way, in the back. Someone wanted to blame me but actually the stewards didn't see it as it really was at that time. I am not very happy about it but we need to look forward. I am sorry because I think we really had third place and it just got away but we need to accept it. The car is great. I am really looking forward to the next race here and thanks a lot to the team."

The Grand Prix of Houston will air on CBS, April 29 at 1 PM (ET).

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