Dirk Werner (Germany) and Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) captured their second GT class victory of the season and took over the points lead while Porsche works drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) grabbed a podium finish in Daytona Prototype competition during the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen Saturday at legendary Watkins Glen International Raceway.
Werner drove the final segment in the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry and took the checkered flag in the fifth Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 event of the season. Keen had broken the track record in qualifying, but the duo did not have an easy time winning their second race of the year.
It was Porsche’s 59th GT victory and 247th podium finish in Grand-Am history.
Meanwhile, Bernhard and Dumas put the #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Porsche Riley on the podium for second time this year, finishing just 1.59 seconds behind the dominate Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett (Auburn, CA) and Memo Rojas (Mexico) as the race ended under caution. Pruett started on the pole with a record qualifying race and ended a nine-race winless streak to claim his record 21st Daytona Prototype victory.
Porsche works driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) made a late pass to grab third place, giving Farnbacher Loles a one-three GT finish. Henzler drove the #86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car with Eric Lux (Jacksonville, FL).
“We didn’t drive away from the other competitors,” Werner said. “It was a hard battle the whole six hours. We had one lucky situation when we stayed out under a yellow and then got another yellow a little later that gave us a chance to pit when we wanted. We could do consistent lap times. It is always fun to race these guys, that’s how racing should be. You know you can’t make any mistakes, and that’s fun.”
“Right out of the box the car was excellent,” Keen said. “We had so much momentum from the past two races, and after Dirk won the pole we would only be going backwards if we didn’t win today. We have great momentum for the championship, and are looking forward to next two races. The next race is at Mid-Ohio and we won there last year, so we are feeling good.”
The GT competition was so fierce that there 19 lead changes among seven cars, but the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup led 103 total laps, three times as many as any other entry. Werner led four different times for 73 totals laps and Keen led twice for 30 laps.
Werner and Keen trailed Spencer Pumpelly (Mason Neck, VA) by one point in the driver’s standings, but Pumpelly finished only fifth in the #66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry with teammates John Potter (Salt Lake City, UT) and Craig Stanton (Long Beach, CA). Now, Keen and Werner lead with 151 points with Pumpelly second with 143. Lux is fifth with 135 points.
“It was a great race today,” Henzler said. “I am happy to finish on podium, but I needed 10 more minutes. I think I might have gotten second if I had a few more laps. I took everything the car had and I was going faster and faster. Finally there was a yellow at the end, and we happily took third.”
The DP competition wasn’t as close. Pruett and Rojas led 142 of the race’s 188 laps in their Lexus Riley.
Dumas noted that Pruett can pull away anytime he wants. Look at this (as Pruett went by start/finish). It is only three laps after the restart and no one else is in sight. We can not pass on the straight-aways. With the RPM limit, the 911 Porsches (GT3 Cup cars) are as fast as us.
“We are close, but winning is something else. We have been on the podium twice (third both times) and the whole team and Porsche want to move up. We push very hard. When we are on the track alone, we are OK but as soon as there are a lot of cars we struggle a little bit. The RPM (limit) hurts us. We can not pass on the straightaways, and the GT Porsches are as fast as fun. But we do all we can with good strategy and a great crew that gives us the best possible car and never stops working to improve it.
Dumas led once for two laps during a flurry of pit stops in his middle race two-hour stint, but during one of the race’s longest green flag stints, Pruett pulled away from Dumas by 19 seconds over 26 laps.
Bernhard, who started and finished, led twice for 12 laps, and took the lead for three laps when the winning car made its final pit stop to allow Pruett take over. Bernhard then pitted while in the lead for his final pit stop, allowing Pruett to re-take the lead for good.
“From the start, we raced as hard as we could,” Bernhard said. “This is good, hard racing from good competitors who are very fair, and this is what I really like. We are doing the maximum we can. With the engine limit, we can not do more. I’m very excited for the team to take the podium. The crew works hard and we improve every weekend. Now we are off to Le Mans, and we come to Mid-Ohio to do our best again.”
The two Brumos Porsche Riley entries had mixed results. The #58 Porsche Riley entry of Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) and David Donohue (Malvern, PA) was much more competitive than in recent races, but wound up 15th in DP and 26th overall after suffering from drivetrain problems. Donohue was guilty of knocking the #99 Pontiac Riley of Alex Gurney (Irvine, CA) off the track, and into a gravel trap and out of the race. The Brumos crew made repairs to the car, allowing Donohue back into the race with an hour remaining, but he was unable to improve his position.
But since they finished ahead of previous two-race winners Gurney and Jon Fogarty (Bend, OR), Law and Darren gained on the GAINSO drivers, but fell further behind the overall points leaders. A four-way tie – Pruett, Rojas and second place finishers Max Angelelli (Monaco) and Brian Friselle (Aspen, CO) – for first place with 140 points now exists. Another four-way tie (Dumas, Bernhard, Fogarty and Gurney) is for second with 134 points.
Law and Donohue are third with 127 points. The #59 Brumos Porsche Riley of JC France (Ormond Beach, FL), Joao Barbosa (Portugal) and Hurley Haywood (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL) finished sixth overall, the last car on the lead lap.
The next event of the Grand-Am Rolex series is the EMCO Gears 2009 Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, June 19-20.
Statistics: 5th of 12 races of the Grand-Am Series in Watkins Glen, NY
Watkins Glen Grand-Am Race Results
1. Pruett/Rojas (USA/MEX), Lexus Riley (DP), 188 laps
2. Angelelli/Frisselle (MC/USA), Ford Dallara (DP), 188
3. Bernhard/Dumas (D/F), Porsche Riley (DP), 188
4. Pew/Valiante (USA/CAN), Ford Riley (DP), 188
5. Negri/Patterson (USA/USA), Ford Riley (DP), 188
6. Barbosa/France/Haywood/Borcheller (P/USA/USA/USA), Porsche Riley (DP), 188
7. Bouchut/Tucker (F/USA), BMW Riley (DP), 186
8. Manning/Lester (USA/USA), BMW Riley (DP), 186
Result GT class
1. Werner/Keen (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 178 laps
2. Collins/Edwards (USA/USA), Pontiac GXP, 178
3. Henzler/Lux (D/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 178
4. Ham/Tremblay/Haskell (USA/USA/USA), Mazda RX-8, 178
5. Ballou/Pumpelly (USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 178
6. Assentato/Segal (USA/USA), Mazda RX-8, 178
Grand-Am Series Points’ standings
Driver DP class
1. Brian Frisselle, Max Angelelli, Ford, 140 points
Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, Lexus, 140
2. Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, Porsche, 134
Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty, Pontiac, 134
3. David Donohue, Darren Law, Porsche, 127
Manufacturers DP class
1. Ford, 157 points
2. Porsche, 145
3. Pontiac, 140
Drivers GT class
1. Dirk Werner, Leh Keen, Porsche, 151 points
2. Spencer Pumpelly, Porsche, 143
3. Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins, Pontiac, 140
4. Eric Lux, Porsche, 135
Manufacturers GT class
1. Porsche, 163 points
2. Pontiac, 153
3. Mazda, 139
Porsche Racing Results for the Grand-Am at Laguna Seca
Porsche Motorsport Resutls at the Verizon Wireless 250 Grand-Am Rolex
Porsche's Recipe for Success in Grand-Am
Porsche's Wolf Henzler Interviewed