In GT, both Dunlop-shod BMWs were locked in fierce competition with three Michelin entries, Flying Lizard's No. 45 Porsche, Corvette's No. 4 C6.R and Risi's No. 62 Ferrari for most of the race. In fact the tail end of the race looked like a carbon copy of last year with Patrick Long in the Lizard Porsche doing everything humanly possible to fend off Joey Hand in the RLL BMW, before Hand made it through at Turn 3 when trailing Oliver Gavin in the Corvette. That was the net lead as both Gavin and Toni Vilander in the Risi Ferrari were due for pit stops.
Vilander was able to leapfrog the BMW pair of Hand in the No. 56 and Bill Auberlen in the sister No. 55 by making his last stop earliest. The win went begging once teammate Jaime Melo took over.
At the end of the race, Melo led Long before it all went south for Risi. Between a block on the front straight, contact with the No. 56 BMW and running out of fuel — as they did at the 2010 Petit Le Mans — Risi's race ended absolutely miserably. Adding insult to injury, the team received a 90-second penalty post-race for avoidable contact, and fell from third to sixth.
Long and Bergmeister, who didn't take the race on outright pace, scored their elusive first win of 2011. It's the pair's third straight at Mazda Raceway.
“I didn't believe in luck in racing until this year,” Long said. “Now I know we make a our own luck. Laguna is usually good to us, and so is Petit, so we're going to start coming out swinging and be ready for next year.
While Long appreciated his battle with Hand in the middle stint, he wasn't as complimentary about his time racing the Ferrari.
“The strategy was just to protect the car and not get into the barnburning racing that the GT class has progressed to,” Long said. “We tried to stay out of it, and hope the officials would tone it down. I'm pretty upset with how it went at the end. I'm hoping we can get back to racing at Road Atlanta.
“The middle stint fighting Joey for two stints and Bill for the other was really fun and difficult. I think Joey raced me really clean and fair and fun. We were hoping to get that with the 62. Joey was racing for a championship so knew what to do.”
Hand, for his role, admitted a fair fight and nothing that would compromise his and Dirk Mueller's championship charge.
“We would have been second anyway because Dirk got Jaime at the line,” Hand said. “I was getting an aero push fighting Patrick there. Plus I didn't want to make any mistakes for any of the championships.”
Almost forgotten with a quiet, consistent and outright successful second appearance on U.S. soil was Porsche's 911 GT3 R Hybrid, which actually finished ahead of all the other GT competitors. Romain Dumas and Richard Lietz completed the race on just four pit stops and set the fastest GT lap of 1:23.681, ahead of Hand's BMW. The flywheel-based entry came home 10th overall, running unclassified, one spot ahead of the Long/Bergmeister car.
TRG's Spencer Pumpelly, Duncan Ende and Peter Ludwig kept their GTC class championship chances alive with their third class win of the season. Pumpelly and Ende closed four points on Tim Pappas of Black Swan Racing. Pappas finished second with the Dutch brothers, Jeroen and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen.
With the P1 and GT class titles decided, the penultimate round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup takes center stage at the last ALMS race of 2011, Petit Le Mans in two weeks' time.
Results - 248 laps:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. P1 Fernandez/Primat/Mucke AMR Lola-Aston 6h01m02.936s
2. P1 Dyson/Smith/Cochran Dyson Lola-Mazda + 3 laps
3. P1 Al Masaood/Kane/Leitzinger Dyson Lola-Mazda + 3 laps
4. P2 Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz Level 5 HPD + 7 laps
5. PC Lux/Julian/Guasch Genoa FLM + 7 laps
6. PC Jeannette/Gonzalez/Junco CORE Autosport FLM + 7 laps
7. PC Ducote/Ducote/Marcelli Intersport FLM + 9 laps
8. PC Bennett/Montecalvo/Wallace CORE Autosport FLM + 9 laps
9. PC Moro/Drissi/Vera Intersport FLM + 11 laps
10. UNC Dumas/Lietz Porsche Hybrid + 12 laps
11. GT Bergmeister/Long Flying Lizard Porsche + 12 laps
12. GT Muller/Hand RLL BMW + 12 laps
13. GT Sharp/van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari + 12 laps
14. GT Auberlen/Werner RLL BMW + 12 laps
15. GT Gavin/Magnussen Corvette + 12 laps
16. GT Melo/Vilander Risi Ferrari + 12 laps
17. PC Nicolosi/Boon/Lueders Performance Tech FLM + 13 laps
18. GT Beretta/Milner Corvette + 13 laps
19. PC Dobson/Richard/Villeneuve PR1 Mathiasen FLM + 16 laps
20. GT Brown/Cosmo Extreme Speed Ferrari + 17 laps
21. GT Neiman/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche + 18 laps
22. GT Miller/Maassen Miller Porsche + 24 laps
23. GTC Ende/Pumpelly/Ludwig TRG Porsche + 26 laps
24. GTC Pappas/Bleekemolen/Bleekemolen Black Swan Porsche + 26 laps
25. GTC LeSaffre/Faulkner Green Hornet Porsche + 27 laps
26. P1 Burgess/McMurry/Willman Autocon Lola-AER + 28 laps
27. GTC Sweedler/Wong/Lewis Alex Job Porsche + 28 laps
28. GTC Sofronas/Welch GMG Porsche + 28 laps
29. GTC von Moltke/Buckler/di Guida TRG Porsche + 32 laps
30. GTC Ragginger/Kauffmann/Cisneros NGT Porsche + 33 laps
31. GTC Ham/Thompson/Blackett JDX Porsche + 35 laps
32. P1 Luhr/Graf Muscle Milk Lola-Aston + 48 laps
GT Junqueira/Wilden RSR Jaguar 186 laps
GT Henzler/Sellers Falken Porsche 101 laps
GTC Avenatti/Faieta/Wagner Competition Porsche 96 laps
GT Jones/Moran RSR Jaguar 5 laps