Title is fifth in six seasons for Porsche standout

In October 2005, the thought had never occurred to Jörg Bergmeister. One American Le Mans Series championship was a remarkable accomplishment. But two? Three or four? Five???

“I didn’t think too much of it back then,” said the German of his first of what is now five driving titles in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. “That year was tough because I had been dropped by the factory the year before. It was the first season for myself and Patrick in the Petersen/White Lightning car. But in the end, that was very satisfying.”

Bergmeister, a mainstay at Flying Lizard Motorsports since 2007, tied Olivier Beretta’s mark for most career titles by a driver with four wins in this year’s American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón championship. Were it not for an illness that caused the Porsche works pilot to miss Sebring in 2004, we might be talking about a sixth championship for Bergmeister. Alex Job Racing seatmate Timo Bernhard went on to win that year with Bergmeister third in the standings.

“Having the first championship out of the way is always important,” said Bergmeister, who successfully defending his title in 2006 – again with Petersen/White Lightning. “It makes you realize you did the right things with the team and gives you that confidence. You learn what it means to win that championship. I had done it in other series, but this was my first in long-distance endurance championship. I was lucky enough to have a great team back then with White Lightning. And of course having Patrick as my teammate was a great help as well.”

Bergmeister won the 2008 championship with Wolf Henzler, and he re-united with Long in 2009 for more hardware. During that stretch, Bergmeister won 14 times in class; he leads all drivers with 33 GT2/GT victories. Much of that success, he said, goes to a reinvigorated effort from Porsche following the 2007 season. If you’ll recall, Ferrari and Risi Competizione dominated that year with eight wins in 12 events.

“We were fighting with the Ferrari for the championship but we weren’t on the same level. Then in 2008 Porsche stepped the game up,” Bergmeister said. The next year, things started to jell in the Lizard camp. The team has been close to dominant since.

“In the end, the more stability you have within the team the better you get. It always takes awhile to get down the communication between each other,” Bergmeister added. “It takes an entire team and I think that’s where the Lizards are so good right now. They are looking at the small details and putting them together.”

It’s a good thing given how the competition in the class has advanced over the last three years. It culminated this year with Porsche going head-to-head with BMW, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Ford and Jaguar.

The competition was unreal,” Bergmeister said. “At the beginning of the year, we thought the Corvette would dominate after what we saw at the end of last year. But everyone within the team and Porsche always stepped up. We weren’t the fastest but in the pits and strategy we were the best.”

As for the deciding factors in winning the driver championship again? “Probably the races after Mid-Ohio,” he said. “Road America and Mosport were not our best tracks because of the long straights. But we came out of there with a second-place and a victory. That was the most memorable part of it. You can never give up.”

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