Flying Lizard Motorsports emerged on top of a titanic GT class battle at Laguna Seca to take their second consecutive class win in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS).
And at the team's home track in the series – being based in Sonoma.
The series' strongest class didn't disappoint was BMW, Ferrari and Corvette as well as Porsche all took their turns to at least challenge for the lead, if not lead the class as the opening two-thirds of the six hour race saw the leading seven cars within 20 seconds of each other, though this was no doubt helped by the total of ten caution periods that interrupted the racing throughout the afternoon.
Even as the field spread out, the longer race finally taking it's toll on even the normally dependable GT grid the lead battle remained exceptionally close, with Patrick Long in the no.45 Flying Lizard effort racing Joey Hand's BMW and Oliver Gavin's Corvette to the flag after the final restart.
With the yellow flag only being withdrawn with eight laps to go (in hindsight, the race being timed to six hours, rather than a set distance) the result came down to the final laps, Long seizing an opportunity and coming out on top of a huge battle into the tight, left-handed final corner to pass the BMW on the inside, and going just about enough to keep the BMW behind him for the remainder of the race, the final margin between the two cars after six hours of competition less than four tenths, with the Corvette on three seconds behind.
“During the yellow, the team had to make a decision – would we go for the safe finish and points or for the win, but in the end, we got both,” explained Long. “Today was, by far, the most memorable race of my career. It was not only what happened in the last few minutes but the entire race, fighting the BMWs, the Corvettes, the Ferraris- it was healthy, hard racing and a lot of fun.”
“Today’s win was really about great teamwork,” said Long's driving partner Jorg Bergmeister, passing out congratulations. “We didn’t have a good qualifying session and started from eighth. We went into the race knowing that a win here would be very tough to achieve. Thanks to great strategy and pit stops we didn’t have to make up all of those positions on the track, and once we were in the top three, we could see our way to a first place finish. Since Patrick finished the race I was able to watch the last hour from the pits and this was some of the most exciting racing that I’ve been a part of.”
The team's second car – the no.45 of Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Timo Bernhard – fared less well, contact with a spinning Ferrari damaging the Porsche's radiators and dropping the trio to an eleventh place finish in class.