Utah proved to be tough ground for the Lizards as the team watched two tire punctures knock the No. 45 repeatedly back in the field, forcing Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long to settle for fifth in GT. The No. 44 finished eleventh.
The race outlook was promising for the No. 45: Bergmeister started from third on the grid and ran consistently strong for the first hour. At the one hour mark, he was in third, with one round of pit stops for fuel and tires behind him when a tire puncture sent him diving unexpectedly into the pits. Fast response from the crew had him back out on fresh tires and with a splash of fuel, but now in ninth. Most of the remainder of Bergmeister’s stint was spent under yellow flag, and he turned the wheel over to Patrick in sixth position.
As the No. 92 BMW and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari battled for the lead, Long worked to close the gap to the next closest GT car – the No. 61 Risi Ferrari. Threading through traffic lap after lap kept Long in P6 but still within striking distance of the No. 61. With one hour left to go in the race, the No. 61 (now in P4) pitted for its final pit stop and Long moved to P4. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari was in the lead, with the No. 92 BMW in P2, the No. 3 Corvette in P3 and the No. 90 BMW in P5. After the final scheduled pit stop for tires and fuel, Patrick was back out still retaining P4. The No. 3 potted shortly after, still in P3, but allowing Long to close the gap to five seconds. After the No. 3 served a stop and go penalty for improper pit procedures, Long moved up to P3.
With 25 minutes left in the race bad luck struck the No. 45 again: a second tire puncture brought Long back into the pits under green for a rapid tire change, pushing him back to fifth. With 15 minutes left in the race, the No. 62 was in the lead, the No. 92 in P2. The No. 90 had moved up to P3 and the No. 3 to P4. With less than 10 minutes left in the race, now in P5, with a ten second gap to the No. 3 ahead of him and ten seconds to the No. 61 Ferrari behind him, Long was forced to settle for a fifth place finish. The No. 62 Risi Ferrari took the GT win.
“It’s fair to say that we had a lot of bad luck this race,” said Bergmeister. “Pace- wise I think we had a podium car, but it just wasn’t to be. The No. 62 was really strong all weekend – congratulations to them on their win.”
Long added, “Lightning struck twice today and it was a rough race. But the Lizard strategy and pit stops were phenomenal. We had twice as many pit stops as some of our competitors and still finished in the top five.”
Meanwhile, in the No. 44, Darren Law had started 11th on the grid, moving gradually up the field, handing the Porsche over to Seth Neiman in P5. After an uneventful stint, Neiman pitted for driver change back to Law, tires, fuel and a chassis setup change. Law headed back out but a speed lane violation coming into the pits required that he return to the pits to serve a stop and go penalty, returning to the race in 11th position.
Chief Engineer Craig Watkins commented, “We had a decent car today, not great, but Darren was able to manage around the issues in his first stint and the No. 44 stayed on the lead lap for the first half. Unfortunately, after the stop and go penalty we were just too far back to make up any ground.”
Team principal and driver of the No. 44 Porsche Seth Neiman said, “It was a tough day at the track for the Lizards. It seems like not much went right for us today out there. We knew we didn’t have the pace to run consistently with the Ferraris but that’s not a new situation and we felt that we were in the hunt for a podium. Unfortunately, luck was not with us today.”
Bergmeister and Long are now second place in points in the GT championship and the team is in third with five races to go. Up next for the Lizards is Lime Rock, July 24. More at http://www.lizardms.com/.
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