Returning to North America on a full-time basis, in a factory Porsche 911 RSR, seems to be a return to normality for Joerg Bergmeister.
Bergmeister has spent the last two years in the FIA World Endurance Championship, but his primary focus will center on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this year.
The CORE autosport-run Porsche North America operation is yet to confirm its full-season lineup, but Bergmeister will be back in the TUDOR Championship GT Le Mans class while a majority of Porsche’s other factory drivers are assigned to FIA World Endurance Championship LMP1, GTE-Pro and GTE-Am roles.
It’s a homecoming of sorts for the German, who now enters into the Morgan Brady-led team full-time after past experiences with the Flying Lizard Motorsports and Petersen/White Lightning teams.
“Basically I just like the tracks,” Bergmeister told Sportscar365. “I had the chance to come back here this year, and luckily Porsche agreed. I’m really happy to be back in the States.
“[The CORE guys] worked with Patrick [Long] for a while, so once I came in it was a very smooth transition. It’s run really well, the program over here. I felt right at home.”
Bergmeister made only four starts in the TUDOR Championship last year, and didn’t make a single appearance in the American Le Mans Series during its last season in 2013.
Still, Bergmeister has seized his opportunities here when he’s had them. He co-drove with Long – like at Flying Lizard – and new factory driver Michael Christensen to the GT Le Mans class win in last year’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The win was clouded in controversy given a penalty incorrectly assessed for contact to the GT Daytona class No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America. Bergmeister seeks a smoother race this year where the No. 912 car he’ll share with Earl Bamber and Fred Makowiecki doesn’t get wrapped up in any potential issue.
He said he expected the race to run better given the reduction in car count. After 63 cars started last year, just 43 took times in Thursday’s practice sessions. The reduced congestion should ease the flow of the race, Bergmeister said.
The paddock has evolved since his last full-time U.S. season in 2012, but Bergmeister said it hasn’t changed that much. Although he hadn’t explored as much as he’d like, he said there were many familiar faces.
However, the Porsche factory driver lineup has further evolved over that time, with new recruits Bamber, Makowiecki and Nick Tandy now on board.
Bergmeister may be one of Porsche’s longest-serving factory drivers, but said the new factory recruits have more than earned their place on the team.
“I mean Fred, I wouldn’t call him a junior anymore. He has so much experience,” Bergmeister said.
“Earl has been in A1GP, and raced in Supercup a lot. For Earl, most of the tracks are new. So, I’m trying to help him there on the special tricks. So far it has worked out pretty well.”
While he didn’t exactly know where Porsche stacks up this weekend, given the tightness in the GTLM class, Bergmeister said he expects to have a shot to repeat his win and score his fourth Sebring class win (2014, 2008, 2005).
“Honestly coming here, we have no idea where we will stack up,” he said. “With BoP it’s hard to judge.
“Feeling-wise, I think this race, I think the BMW should be good. Obviously the Corvette was very good at Daytona and there’s no reason they’ll be slower here, even though they had a small adjustment on BoP.
“If we stay out of trouble and keep our nose clean, we’ll have a shot.”