LONG BEACH, Calif. (April 14, 2012) -Co-drivers Bryce Miller and Sascha Maassen unofficially retained their top-five position in the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón GT point standings after two races, and the No. 48 Dunlop/Chopard/TOTAL Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was right on pace throughout the Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, giving the Paul Miller Racing team reason for optimism after two of 10 races.
Miller and Maassen co-drove the No. 48 Porsche to an eighth-place result in the GT class and all involved believed a fifth-place run might have been within reach. The die was cast for the team on its lone pit stop of the two-hour timed event when Miller turned the car over to Maassen near the halfway point of the race. Somewhere in the process, ALMS officials determined that the No. 48 was guilty of speeding on pit lane, which brought Maassen back on to pit road for a costly drive-through penalty.
Maassen rejoined the race in seventh position after the penalty. His lap times over the second half of the race were similar to many other top GT contenders but the loss of track position and the lack of any full-course cautions over the second half made any positions gains impossible. Then, with five minutes remaining, Maassen lost seventh spot to the Flying Lizard Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister. Nevertheless, Miller and Maassen unofficially maintained fifth place in the point standings.
“The positive thing is that we found some speed in our car,” Maassen said. “I think we were pretty good also compared to our Porsche colleagues and this is something we are also looking at, because we have to measure ourselves first compared to the Porsches and that was good. This time we had some bad race luck. We got a pit speed violation. I don’t know how or when it happened. Also, I made a mistake at the end of the race. I missed a brake marker and that’s when the 45 car came by us. It happens. Still, we did a good race. I think we can be happy and we see progress.”
The starting grid for the race was established based on championship points due to a rainout of qualifying on Friday so Miller started the unseasonably chilly race from fifth place. He ran his entire stint in positions five through seven, and was sixth when he pitted to give way to Maassen.
“I’m really pleased with the team,” said Bryce Miller. “They gave us a good car today that was consistent and held a really good pace. It was quite competitive. We’re the only team in the field that has a new car and a new tire combination, so this is a challenge for us, and for the team to come out swinging and throw a setup on it like this with the conditions we’ve had the last couple days, I’m really pleased about it. Dunlop also gave us some good dry pressures on a tire combination that we hadn’t run in the dry here as well on this car, so hats off to the crew and Dunlop for that.
“Otherwise, we had a couple mistakes today that cost us. I think we definitely would have had a sixth place today if not a fifth place. I think a fifth place was possible. We had a pit speed violation and we’re not really sure how this happened yet, but we’ll go to work and figure out how it happened, why it happened and fix it. I’m just really happy we were able to score points here this year, because last year it didn’t end well for us, so it’s nice to collect these points and carry it with us into the remainder of the season.”
Team owner Paul Miller echoed his son’s post-race sentiments.
“We were really encouraged by our pace today,” Paul Miller said. “Even though it was a frustrating result, we’re very much in the game and able to run with the pack. We actually surprised ourselves with our pace relative to several other cars that we look to for an indication of our performance. From a pace point of view, we’re very pleased. We just had one little mistake and it cost us dearly. We really think this was a fifth-place car today, which would have been very rewarding under the circumstances. The guys really did a great job with the car.”
Next up for the No. 48 Dunlop/Chopard/TOTAL Porsche team is the American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patrón at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on May 12. That race will see the debut of a new, Porsche-specific Dunlop tire, which the team eagerly awaits.
“I’m really quite optimistic,” Bryce said. “I think the team has really continued to deliver a reliable car to us that can finish races over a period of time now stretching back to last season. The reliability is really good here and that’s important in an overall average when it comes to collecting points throughout a championship, so I’m really pleased with that. There’s improvement ahead for us, because we’re only going to learn the car more and figure out how to make it faster. Also, the tire is only going to get better as we continue to develop it.
“Laguna is an exciting event that I think we’re all looking forward to because it’ll be the first event that we see a purpose-built Porsche RSR Dunlop tire on our car. It’s going to be progress for us going forward. To have these two results under the conditions that we’re working with is really strong for our team. Hopefully it gets better and we can start to change our approach and get more aggressive and compete more towards the sharp end of the pack.”