The first race of the 2007 American Le Mans Series is in the books with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring concluding in utterly spectacular fashion. Before we get to the story of the race -- the jaw-dropping GT2 finish -- we need to fill you in on the rest of the action. Audi, as expected, took the overall win as Marco Werner drove the #2 car across the finish line, giving Audi its 8th consecutive win at the event. Emanuele Pirro and Frank Biela were the co drivers on the winning machine. The defending champion #1 Audi, which was essentilly rebuilt following a practice crash Thursday night finished fourth overall with Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello, Allan MacNish, and Le Mans god Tom Kristensen behind the wheel.
In P2, Acura made a smashing debut, taking the first two spots in the class and second and third place overall. The Andretti Green Racing team of bryan Herta, Dario Franchitti, and Tony Kanaan took the class win (2nd overall) in their Acura ARX-01a. They were followed by the Fernandez Racing Acura (3rd overall), with the #7 Penske Porsche taking the final P2 podium spot and fifth place overall.
GT1, as expected, was an all-Corvette affair, with the #4 car piloted by Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta, and Max Papis edging its sister, the striking white #3 car helmed by Ron Fellows (in whose honor the car wore its new finish), Johnny O'Connell, and Jan Magnussen. 17 seconds separated the two 'Vette C6.Rs.
That leaves the epic GT2 finish, which we'll detail for you after the jump.
[Sources: ALMS, Motorsport.com]
The GT2 finish at Sebring is what everyone's going to talk about for a long, long time. As the final lap began after a full 12 hours of racing, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430GT driven by Jaime Melo held a .555-second edge over Flying Lizard's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which had Jorg Bergmeister behind the wheel. It was going to be Ferrari vs. Porsche in a winner-take-all 1 lap showdown, and what a show they put on.
Bergmeister, running a more powerful car with fresher tires, was stalking Melo when the Ferrari locked its brakes going into the hairpin (Turn 7), letting Bergmeister and the Porsche get right on his tail. Melo was forced to simply defend against Bergmeister's onslaught, and the Porsche almost made a successful pass on the inside at Turn 10. With fireworks exploding on the horizon for the Audi, which had by now won the race, the Porsche/Ferrari duel simply became more intense.
Coming out of Turn 16 and into the final straightaway, Bergmeister did get inside position, setting up a wheel-to-wheel drag race to the final turn. The SPEED coverage was magnificent, with cameras mounted on both cars, and viewers were treated to the sight of the Porsche pulling ahead, only to have the Ferrari find a little extra, taking the lead back for a moment before Bergmeister regained the lead flying into Turn 17, the last of the race.
That's when it happened. Going through 17, Bergmeister, who had the inside line going into the turn, went a little wide, allowing Melo to take the Ferrari inside. As they exited, the cars were wheel-to-wheel once again, and Melo gave Bergmeister a very NASCAR-style rub, which was enough to let the Risi Ferrari shake loose and cut ahead of the Porsche for the checkered flag. It was incredible, and if this is the level of competition the 2007 ALMS season has in store for us, we couldn't be happier.
Watch the video of the GT2 finish here.