Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley Finishes Seventh At VIR

April 26, 2009

DANVILLE, Va. (April 25, 2009) - Penske Racing co-drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard overcame multiple challenges during Saturday's Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway, posting a seventh-place finish in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley. With their second consecutive top-10 finish to begin the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal, Dumas and Bernhard are sixth in points, just seven points behind first place.

With no experience on the 3.27-mile road course, Dumas and Bernhard set out to learn as much as they could in their first practice laps on Friday. Showing his learned skills late Friday afternoon, Bernhard secured the second starting position for the Verizon Wireless entry.

"We are happy with second," said Bernhard. "Grand-Am took away our sixth-gear and we are struggling to find areas where we can improve. We focused on race set-ups during practice all day. The team gave me a good car, so I had to give them a good starting position."

Bernhard took the green setting a steady pace. He moved to the point and led the field across the line on lap 9 and held the lead for nine laps of the 81-lap event. After a green flag pit stop 45 minutes into the 2 hour and 45 minute time-certain event, Bernhard was posted 10th and the strategy was set.

With a full tank of fuel Bernhard again moved through the field. He was posted in fourth position on lap 30 when he radioed the crew.

Bernhard said the clutch on the No. 12 was failing and he quickly dropped to 11th place.

"At first, I thought it was the transaxle," said Bernhard. "I pressed the clutch and it wouldn't go into gear when I tried to downshift. I went off circuit briefly and when I came back on I couldn't go anywhere.

"The car just revved. I stomped on the clutch a couple of times and finally it [engaged]. It was just sticky. I couldn't be soft with it; I really had to pop it."

With one hour and 26 minutes remaining, Dumas took over driving responsibilities during a pit-stop under yellow flag conditions. Thanks to quick work in the pits, the Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley returned to the track inside the top-10.

Unfortunately, the No. 12 was relegated to 23rd position after a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the ensuing race restart.

"It was a single file restart and before the green flag I moved up; I didn't pass anyone," said Dumas. "I don't agree that I jumped the restart because I didn't pass anyone.

"I have a lot of work to do in this series. I have to learn new [race] courses, new rules and definitely who I can work with on the track and who to stay away from."

Dumas continued to climb through the field until the end of the race and while seventh place isn't the finish he was hoping for, it was a solid result to build on.

"We had a much better car than seventh place," said Dumas. "It's a shame that we got that penalty. I feel like we were capable of winning, even with the clutch problems. We have great pit-stops.

"Penske Racing prepares good cars and the pit crew is just as fast. They practice all the time and really make sure we don't lose anything in the pits. We just need our first break in this series. We can win. It won't be long."

Round 2 of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal ended with Dumas 16.382 seconds behind the leader.

Penske Racing and the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley will return to action next week at New Jersey Motorsports Park. The Verizon Wireless 250 will air live on Saturday, May 3, at 1 p.m. ET on SPEED.