Porsche wins, but just bearly!
Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas scored another upset overall victory in the American Le Mans Series as the duo led the way for Penske Motorsports, which claimed its second straight LMP2 team championship. Bernhard took the lead with only three minutes left in his Porsche RS Spyder as Allan McNish's Audi R10 TDI became stuck in gear.
Bernhard took the checkered flag 19.5 seconds ahead of McNish. The victory was the fifth for the No. 7 duo, all of which have been overall wins. They also lead the class driving championship.
McNish and Dindo Capello finished first in LMP1 for the seventh time this season and clinched the P1 team championship for Audi Sport North America.
"We have shown in the past year that this team is one of the best. But we already knew that," Dumas said. "Everyone knows the success of Penske Motorsports and Roger Penske. Last year we had a nice car but the competition was not so high. This year we have a new car and thank goodness for that."
McNish appeared to have the race locked up late when he inherited the lead from Bernhard on the Porsche's final stop. But the first sign of a gearbox malfunction began to creep in with 10 minutes left. What had been a 22-second lead evaporated to two seconds with five minutes remaining.
"I was so busy trying to pass slower traffic and maintain my position ahead of the Acuras and my Penske Porsche teammates for the LMP2 victory that I did not realize the Audi was having mechanical problems," Bernhard said. "I thought he had made a pit stop, and was having trouble getting back up to speed. It was only after I passed him and could not see him again in my mirrors that I heard on the radio that his car had trouble."
"With 20 minutes to go I was already cleaning my helmet and thinking we had won the class again," Dumas said. "That was the goal as it always has been. It was difficult to keep the Audi in sight early at the start. I knew if we kept good contact we would have a chance."
Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen finished third overall and second in P2 in the other Penske Porsche, followed by the second diesel-powered Audi of Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner. Fifth overall and third in P2 was Andretti Green Racing's Acura ARX of Bryan Herta and Marino Franchitti. The top five cars finished on the lead lap.
For Audi, Sunday's finish means it will have to wait at least one more race for its first overall win since St. Petersburg.
"We were in a very good position and had the Porsche covered on lap speed," McNish said. "The team did a great job with the second stop on fuel. That fell in our favor for once. But with seven or eight minutes to go I had a big problem coming out of the hairpin and was stuck in gear. We don't know what happened. The car was great before the end. We had the race under control."
The Audis ran first and second overall for much of the first hour. The fast corners and long straights at Mosport made the R10 TDI feel at home.
"The start was very good," said Capello, who qualified on the overall pole. "On cold tires I was able to push and I had a gap to our sister car. The behavior of the car changed however. In the first part, it had a bit of an understeer with no grip. But after the safety car (at the eight-minute mark) it had an oversteer. You had to clean tires often."
News and photo of the Porsche celebration by the American LeMans Series, race photos by slot brother Van LaPointe.