A gamble on fuel paid off Saturday for Penske Motorsports as Ryan Briscoe and Sascha Maassen gave the team and Porsche its third straight overall victory in the American Le Mans Series with a 10-second victory over Audi's Allan McNish in the Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park.
The Penske team stretched its final fuel load while Briscoe took the lead with 40 minutes to go when McNish pitted his diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI for a final splash. The Aussie drove the final 75 minutes on a single set of tyres and tank of fuel. The sister Porsche RS Spyder LMP2 of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas won overall at Long Beach and Houston.
Maassen was one of six cars to pit at the 18-minute mark following an early caution period when the #22 Panoz Team PTG Panoz Esperante GTLM became stranded on the circuit. Roger Penske's call set up the strategy for the car to make just one more stop over the remaining distance.
“The gas was a bit of concern but the engineers in the box told me what number to conserve to and they were working with me on that,” said Briscoe, who scored his second career class win. “On my second lap of the stint I was saving a lot of fuel. They kept me updated as we were going. We knew we at least had the second place buffer. After the first yellow Roger called the best strategy which put us in the right place.”
Maassen started from the outside front row but dropped back to ninth on a frantic restart. Emanuele Pirro jumped from eighth at the start to the race lead as the field was four-wide going into the first turn. Maassen didn't have the momentum of the Audi and decided not to take a risk early.
“One of the Dyson Porsches got to the side and I had to let up,” Maassen said. “I could have closed the door but thought I had the best car and I knew this race was two hours and 45 minutes. I could make up the time not doing anything in the first corner.”
In the end, his patience paid off. It wasn't without its moments however, as Maassen was unsure Briscoe could make it to the race's end without a stop.
“I didn't know we only needed to go one more stop when I came in,” he said. “I think we could have won with a splash and dash but Roger wanted to play safe. That's the best thing to do in an endurance race.”
McNish and Rinaldo Capello won their fourth straight race in LMP1 to extend their championship lead. They were almost two minutes clear of Audi mates Emanuele Pirro and Marco Werner.