Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard have secured Penske Motorsports an eighth successive outright victory in the American Le Mans Series on 'home' turf in the Detroit Sports Car Challenge, at the end of a thrilling battle as the sport made a welcome return to the fabled 'Motor City'.
After Emanuele Pirro had stolen the advantage with just 50 minutes remaining as Audi sought to seal its first overall ALMS success since March, a fraught closing few laps then saw Dumas' Porsche RS Spyder and Pirro's Audi R10 TDI twice exchange the overall lead. The result marked the fourth straight triumph and sixth of the 2007 campaign for LMP2 championship leaders Dumas and Bernhard, while also allowing Porsche to wrap up the LMP2 manufacturers' laurels.
“My car got better and better, had good front grip and it got easier to catch him and pass him,” Dumas remarked afterwards. “I saw my car was more stable in the corners, took a different line to Emanuele and overtook him. I looked in my mirror and unfortunately there was a straight after the corner and thought this time it wouldn't be possible, but at the next corner I braked outside and crossed the racing line. It was really fun.”
“Roger (Penske) put a really great race track here,” added Bernhard, “and it's very nice. We wanted to give him a present like a class or even overall victory. Then we got the front row for the Penske team and he was very happy about that. That's what the fans wanted to see – a Penske win and a close race to the end. It was a good show.”
Pirro and team-mate Marco Werner finished first in LMP1 for the third time this season, getting the jump on the sister machine of Dindo Capello and Allan McNish in the pit-stops around the 90-minute mark. The two-three result helped clinch the LMP1 manufacturers' crown in Audi Sport North America's backyard.
“When you start to lead for so long you start to believe a little bit in the impossible,” said Pirro, whose challenge was stymied somewhat when slower traffic forced him to go off-line and pick up old tyre rubber in the latter stages of the race. “At the end of the day we finished second after starting eighth and I can only be happy about that. We put on a very good show.
“After the final re-start I started to get a lot of pick-up on my tyres. I saw (Dumas) pushing me more and more. I had to drive around a slow car, but by then I had signed my life sentence and got too much pick-up. I tried to pass him again on the straight but I couldn't manage it.”
“Our strategy was really good,” concurred Werner. “At the beginning and under the first yellow we added fuel and new tyres and that was the key to going quicker than the LMP2s.”
Dyson Racing's Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace ultimately wound up fourth overall and second in LMP2, a scant three tenths of a second in front of the Highcroft Racing Acura ARX of Stefan Johansson and David Brabham.