Bernhard Posts Season-Best Second Place Finish in Montreal

August 29, 2009

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada (August 29, 2009) – Penske Racing co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas battled uncertain weather conditions and stiff competition as they drove the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley to a second-place finish in Saturday’s Montreal 200 at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve.

Intermittent rain showers wreaked havoc on the team’s strategy and ultimately cost the Porsche factory driving duo their first victory in the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.

Despite narrowly missing the top of the podium, both drivers were pleased with their performance on the 2.709-mile track. Combined, Bernhard and Dumas led 38 of 67 laps while posting their highest finish of the 2009 season – their previous best was third place at New Jersey Motorsports Park in May.

Dumas started the event from the third position. Rain showers moved over the 15-turn circuit during the race recon laps and that forced the field into a tire relay as Dumas drove down pit road. The Verizon Wireless machine took on four rain tires before heading to the starting grid.

Five laps after the green flag flew to start the race, the showers moved away from the track and Dumas was back on pit road for race slicks, which set the tone for the event.

Dumas returned to the track in 11th position but quickly moved back to P1 as the rest of the field circulated down pit road. Dumas held off Jon Fogarty in the No. 99 Daytona Prototype, despite several advances from the series leader.

At the 50-minute mark of the two-hour timed event, the Verizon Wireless pit crew prepared for a four-tire stop with fuel and a driver change. But just five minutes later, rain showers once again moved over the track and rain tires were placed alongside the racing slicks for a “game-time” decision.

Dumas drove down pit road for four tires, a full fuel fill and a driver change. He led a race-high 20 laps before turning the Verizon Wireless Porsche over to Bernhard.

As he pulled away from the pits with the slick tires on, Bernhard maintained the lead and ran at the point for 18 more laps.

Bernhard pulled down pit road several times as the Verizon Wireless crew went through the rotation of rain tires and slicks. He relinquished the lead with 19 minutes to go, but held on to finish second as the rain showers set in during the closing stages of the race. With the result, the team remained fourth in the series DP standings.

“Yes, for sure, it was a big day for us,” said Dumas, who praised the Grand-Am Series for instituting a rule change to restore the RPM limit on the cars to a maximum 9600. “Thanks to Grand-Am (for the rule change), and the good (Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley) the Penske crew gives us, we able to battle up front. It was a nice race and we had the chance to win. It has been six months since we felt that way. We’re happy with a podium but feel we could have won this race, and that makes the entire Penske Racing team feel good.”

“Like Romain said, we are very happy to be back on the podium,” said Bernhard. “This was our race to win but with the changing conditions – rain, then dry, then pouring rain, and not drying as well – it was difficult for the crew to decide what to do. Romain gave me a good car in the lead after his good start, and the changing (conditions) with the rain, hurt us in strategy. It was crazy changing from pouring rain to a dry track, so I am happy to be on the podium, knowing we should have won. We were strong, and that gives us hope for the next race.”

The Grand-Am Series returns to action on September 19 at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, Utah.