The two Porsche 911 GT3 RSR race teams started the 57th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the top two positions on the GT2 grid, but, by the ten minute mark, two cars of the three cars were already in the pits with unscheduled stops, and the pole-sitter and lead car spent one hour, 45-minutes in the pits in the second hour, effectively ruining Porsche's chance for a victory.
But both the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - after falling many laps behind - clawed their way back from last in the field to score valuable points at the American Le Mans Series season opener.
"For sure, I would have been happy if our teams repeated our victory from last year, but luck was definitely not on our side today," said Hartmut Kristen, head of Porsche Motorsport.
"I am very satisfied with the new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which performed well under all conditions. We had the top qualifying position and the fastest race lap. This puts our Porsche teams in a good position for what I think will be a very competitive season," said Kristen.
The No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Dirk Werner/Wolf Henzler/Richard Lietz started on the GT2 pole and led the class for the first hour, but - in hour two - the car lost its differential, and was wheeled back to the garage area for more than one and a half hours worth of work. By the time the diagnosis and repair work was completed, the team had lost more than 45 laps to the leaders. Later in the race, the car was back in the pits, this time with a broken upright and tie-rod. The drivers pushed hard and made up dozens of laps over the length of the race, so the team can score valuable points by making sure it completed at least 70 percent of the number of laps of the overall leader - the International Motor Sports Association rule on such things. Finishing ninth, with the bonus points for the Sebring long-distance race, gave the drivers and team eight points - eight more points than the zero points for which they were headed.
The No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche of Joerg Bergmeister/Patrick Long/Marc Lieb also fell to the back of the pack early after Joerg Bergmesiter was hit by the No. 40 Robertson Racing Ford as the No. 40 attempted to pass on lap two. The impact damaged the left rear suspension of the No. 45, sending Joerg back to the pits. The crew replaced the left rear toe link in the pits but the 12-minute unplanned pit stop also sent Joerg to the back of the GT2 pack. The No. 44 Flying Lizard Porsche of Darren
Law/Johannes van Overbeek/Seth Neiman, which spun on track early in the race, narrowly avoiding contact with the tire wall, also came in for an unplanned pit stop for tires.
But, like the Farnbacher Loles car, the Lizards cars made a furious run towards the top of the class, with the Bergmeister/Long/Lieb car making up five laps to close in on the No. 21 Panoz Esperante, nosing past their rival with a little more than an hour to go and seemingly headed for third place and a podium. But Lieb, who had made up 20 seconds in 12 laps, thought he was clear on the Panoz as he made the pass only to discover the Panoz hadn't given him enough room, and the cars touched. The Lizard Porsche went into the wall, and had to limp into the pits, losing its chance for a podium.
"I thought I had cleared him, and thought he had given me the proper amount of room, but he didn't, so we touched. The Lizard crew put in such a good effort that we deserved a better result," said Lieb, a Porsche factory driver who had won Sebring with the Lizards in 2008. The No. 45 car ended up fourth in class - still an accomplishment from the back of the pack early in the race, and Lieb turned the fastest race lap.
The Melo/Kaffer/Salo Ferrari won the GT2 class, and the Companc/Russo/Bruni Ferrari was second. The Panoz of James/Farnbacher finished third.
The No. 44 Lizard Porsche, with Seth Neiman/Darren Law/Johannes van Overbeek, finishing fifth after their auspicious start. They also finished third in the GT division (including GT1 and GT2) of the Michelin Green X Challenge, which uses a system ranking all the cars in the race according to average speed and distance covered, along with the amount of energy used, greenhouse gases emitted and petroleum displaced.
Porsche Purist’s Great Drivers Series: Joerg Bergmeister
Stuck Father and Son team Join Bergmeister and Henzler at Sebring in a run for the Checkered Flag
Porsche and the American Le Mans Series
Porsche to Field Five 911 GT3 RSRs at the 2009 12 Hours of Sebring
Porsche Wins 12 Hours of Sebring
911 GT3 RSR Winter Testing at Sebring
[Picture Source: Dede Seward]