Patrick Long and Joerg Bergmeister battled debilitating heat and grueling traffic at today’s Northeast Grand Prix to take the GT class win and retake the championship lead. This was Bergmeister’s fifth consecutive win at Lime Rock, fourth with the Lizards and third together with Long. It’s the duo’s third win this year. In the No. 44 Porsche, Darren Law and Seth Neiman finished a strong seventh in the thirteen-car GT field.
Starting from the pole, Long kept the lead at the start, and over the next 20 minutes held off the No. 62 Risi Ferrari which had quickly moved into P2. Narrowly avoiding an early race incident when car spun in front of him, Long held the lead and stayed out of trouble, pitting under the first caution for a short fuel top up. Patrick was back out again quickly, still ahead of the No. 62 (which had also pitted). Once the field resettled after the first round of pit stops, Patrick was now P3 and the No. 61 Risi Ferrari and No. 40 Robertson Ford, which did not pit during the first round of stops, moved to P1 and P2, with the No. 62 in P4. Just minutes later, a major incident on track claimed multiple cars, including the No. 40 Ford. The No. 62 was also involved in an incident which sent them back to the pits and an early retirement.
45 minutes into the race, now in second, Patrick pitted for driver change to Joerg, tires and fuel. The No. 61 also pitted, but required a longer fuel because they had not pitted under the first yellow, and Joerg was able to beat them out of the pits to gain a position. The No. 92 and No. 90 BMWs did not stop during the second yellow, taking first and second, with Patrick now in third and the No. 61 in P4. Over the next 45 minutes, Joerg kept the pressure on the BMWs, which finally pitted under green for their final pit stop of the race, moving Joerg back into the lead.
1 hour and 45 minutes in, Joerg pitted under green for tires, fuel and driver change to Patrick. It would be the final pit stop for the No. 45. A fast stop allowed Patrick to come out ahead of the BMWs. The No. 61 Risi Ferrari, which had been in fourth, did not pit and took the lead.
With 45 minutes left to go, the No. 61 pitted for their final stop, and Patrick retook the lead. Over the next 45 minutes, Long battled to hold off the BMWs who were running second and third. Long described his last stint, “Joerg had a flawless stint and turned over a clean, solid car to me to finish. By the time I took the wheel for my second stint, our strategy had gotten us the provisional lead. My job was to maintain the gap. Navigating the traffic was unbelievably difficult. I had to shift from trying to hold the gap to just keeping the BMWs behind me. Traffic became my friend — each time I worked through a pack of cars I was able to increase the gap. Then the BMW just behind me would close it again on the straights. But we were better in the corners. I knew I just had to fight to the end and it became all about traffic management. Passing for position in this race would have been really tough. This victory came through our pit work, strategy and racecraft in traffic. Now we need to keep the momentum through the end of the season.”
Bergmeister added, “The car was handling really well today. When I was driving alone or when there was a gap to the BMWs in front of me things were easy to maintain. But when I got close to them, temps went up and we picked up some understeer. But I knew that we were ahead of the others on our fuel strategy and I didn’t want to take any risks to make sure I turned the car over to Patrick in one piece. Thanks to the crew who did a great job in both giving us a fast car and getting us every advantage they could in the pits.”
In the No. 44, Seth Neiman started twelfth on the grid and ran a solid stint, turning the car over to Darren nearing the one-hour mark, now in P10. Law focused his stint on gaining ground and avoiding the many incidents that claimed nearly a third of the overall field. The No. 44 finished seventh in class.
Law explained, “We didn’t have the fastest car out there today but it was a very consistent race car. We had no issues and as always the crew did a great job. It was nice to be able to finish 7th in such a tough field and get some points on the board for the No. 44. Traffic was incredibly hectic. You had to take risks to get by every single car. One piece of traffic could lose you five car lengths on a single lap. It’s a testament to all of the drivers who made it through because there were so many problems out there. It was very hard to make the right judgment all on when you should pass. And adding to that, the heat and humidity were just grueling — staying properly hydrated was half of the battle.”
With this win, Bergmeister and Long move to the lead in the GT championship.
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