BRASELTON, Ga. (October 21, 2012)– A difficult week of prerace preparations at Road Atlanta foreshadowed a difficult 1,000 miles of racing in Saturday’s Petit Le Mans, but No. 48 Dunlop/Chopard/TOTAL Porsche 911 GT3 co-drivers Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and Richard Lietz persevered to finish 10th in the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón season finale for Paul Miller Racing.
After Lietz qualified the car on Friday afternoon, Miller started the No. 48 Porsche from ninth on the GT class grid on Saturday morning. He moved up to eighth place early on and was running competitive lap times when he cut down a tire within the first 30 minutes of the race, causing an unscheduled pit stop and forcing the No. 48 Porsche off the lead lap. Another cut tire and subsequent pit stop with Lietz at the wheel put the team further behind the leaders and forced them to adopt a conservative strategy and get the car to the checkered flag.
“The car was tricky to drive,” said Bryce Miller. “We had to give something up to support the tire the best we could. In the end, the pace was not so much the issue, but just the driver comfort. The life in the tire always is an issue here at Petit Le Mans. Road Atlanta just really works the left side very hard. Everyone had the same issues. We came a long way this year in the development of the tire and I think the pace also shows some of that. The guys worked really hard all this week and I’m proud of everyone that we were able get through this season and progress as a team. There was a lot of development as a team and we learned a lot of lessons that I think we can take into next season.”
It was the ninth time in a grueling 10-race season that the No. 48 Porsche was running at the finish, and the team finished inside the top 10 in every race. Season-long co-drivers Miller and Maassen were rewarded for their efforts with ninth place in the final ALMS driver standings.
“We had our highs and our lows,” Maassen said. “Usually, the longer the races go, the better it is for us, because normally others make mistakes. This time, it was a very tough race. We struggled, but we hung in. Everybody did a great job; the team, the drivers. We didn’t make any mistakes and that’s the most important thing in a long race. We finished in the points; that was our goal. We did that quite regularly this year. The highest position was a fourth place [at Road America] and two fifth places [at Sebring and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park], so I’m not disappointed. I hope the team learned something for next year.”
The team undoubtedly benefited from the presence of Lietz throughout race week. The Porsche factory driver brought his considerable knowledge of the 911 GT3 RSR to the team and his feedback helped to improve the No. 48 car’s setup.
“It was really an adventure for me but a good adventure,” Lietz said. “We finished the race and that was basically the goal that we had. For me personally, I learned a lot from the team and learned a lot from the Dunlop tires. I think there’s a lot of potential to develop something really great. In this race, unfortunately, we had to stop a little bit earlier than we expected to just be safe with everything. It was the right decision to do this because we finished it and we got a lot of mileage so we learned a lot. I’m happy that Paul Miller invited me for this race. You never know what the future will bring, but maybe I will race again next year for this team. At least we had a lot of fun and we finished it, so I think the team can be happy.”
Petit Le Mans ended the second year of ALMS competition for Paul Miller Racing. The team fielded an entirely different package from the 2011 season – utilizing a brand-new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Dunlop tires – and team owner Paul Miller was pleased with the team’s progress throughout the year.
“I’m really proud of how our guys rose to the occasion in this race and throughout the season,” said Paul Miller. “We faced a steep learning curve this year and everybody put in a tremendous effort. We had some really good races this year and definitely have something to build upon as we head into next season.”
PHOTO: The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Porsche team in action at Petit Le Mans. Credit: Bob Chapman/Autosport Image