Michael Petersen – Doing It Themselves
so much racing going on, there's almost no time to reflect on what
has just happened before the next event is upon us. That was certainly
the case regarding Le Mans. Gary Horrocks caught
up with Petersen - White Lightning co team owner Mike Petersen at
Portland, and finally, a week or so later, here is the result.
time they did it on their own. They won the GT class at Le Mans,
and this time full credit will go to Petersen Motorsports / White
“It has been something
that I have dreamed of since seeing Steve McQueen in the movie Le
Mans when I was a child and it has been a goal for Dale White and
I since we got together,” remarked Michael Petersen –
at Portland. “We had intentions to go in 2001, but circumstances
dictated otherwise. Last year, we were presented with the opportunity
to go to Le Mans with Alex Job Racing. It took us about two weeks
to pull it together, and obviously it worked out. It was our intention
to go that year, to get our feet wet, ultimately with the idea of
doing it ourselves later.
many people were scratching their heads, wondering ‘can they
do it?’ It was an awesome experience and the outcome was unbelievable.
We had a delay about 10 hours in, when we had a problem with the
shifter cable. We were up two laps at that time, but ended up three
laps down after the 20 minute stop, in which we repaired the shifter
problem, replaced a LF shock and also changed the brake pads. We
had to chase down the Freisinger team from then on, but we were
able to do it. It was incredible.”
The repair of
the shifter cable was rather interesting. Instead of having to replace
the entire cable, the team utilized the spare one they had installed
earlier. “Having those spare cables really is a no brainer.
From our experience in off-roading, we have learned to prepare and
learn from mistakes and problems. Sometimes they are your mistakes
and sometimes they are others. I feel that racing is 80% skill and
20% luck. You need to be prepared.”
For a team that
featured as strong a driver line-up as this one, it was strange
that in almost every session, the car was into the gravel. “I
was starting to wonder what was going on. Maybe the drivers put
too much expectation on themselves. I don’t think we did,
but in the end, I feel we had the ‘pick of the litter’
with Patrick Long, Jorg Bermeister and Sascha Maassen. We knew most
of the lineup earlier, but it wasn’t until the week before
the Le Mans test that we knew we would have Patrick in the car.”
As far as the team goes,
Michael feels that they have put together a group that can go anywhere.
But that doesn’t mean that they are looking at moving out
of the ALMS soon. “The ALMS is the place to be. The standards
are set very high. We have the top drivers and teams involved and
I like the tracks. The Grand Am was OK, but I didn’t see the
caliber of competition there that I see here. Ultimately, I see
the level even higher here.
“We are always
looking at moving up and at opportunities for making money. It is
possible to make money in NASCAR, but that is something that I don’t
enjoy. F1 is a mess. What I would really like would be to have factory
support and stay here in the ALMS.
“I feel that we
have put together a team that can go anywhere and compete. The Supercup
could be fun. I just think to go to Europe and hand their lunches
to them would be fun. There appears to be an opinion that we can’t
race over here, but if you look at the results at Le Mans, I would
have to say that that is not correct. The FIA Series would be different,
but ultimately I believe it would be a step down for us.
now in the ALMS, the playing field in the GT class is more level
that it has been in the past. The teams are stepping up to the plate
and whittling away at the performance gaps. The teams like AJR are
still going forward but everybody else is catching them. Competition
is what it is all about.”
Will we ever see Michael
back in the car again? “I still get some seat time, but usually
it is only in the test sessions. I broke my neck a while ago, and
I just don’t want to risk anything at this point in my life.
I can still get into the car and go for short stints. I was available
as a back up for Sebring, but that would only be if we were in a
stable position where I could ‘cruise’. The wrong sort
of an impact could end it for me. I feel it is better to live life
than to risk it that way.”
Oh, about the
lion head on the car that debuted at Infineon? That was a present
to his mother. It was from a painting that she had done, and as
the race at Infineon was the first time that she would be at one
of their events, it was decided to put a copy of the painting on
the car as a tribute.