One of Porsche’s more experienced factory drivers isn’t slowing down, with Joerg Bergmeister, who turns 40 next month, preparing to embark on yet another packed season of racing on several continents.
Bergmeister’s North American presence shifts from a Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR in GT Le Mans to the manufacturer’s new Porsche 911 GT3 R. He’ll share the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports with Patrick Lindsey in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class.
Meanwhile, with a full year of Super GT in the GT300 class, the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring for Porsche’s factory GT3 effort there, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans back in a GTE-Pro Porsche Team Manthey 911 provided their entry is accepted, Bergmeister should easily be in the 20 to 30-race ballpark in 2016.
“It’s going to be a busy year for me with lots of programs,” Bergmeister told Sportscar365. “It will be interesting and hopefully successful.”
The GTD switch brings Bergmeister back full circle in two separate ways.
For years, Bergmeister raced in what was the American Le Mans Series’ GT2 class either with Petersen/White Lightning Racing or Flying Lizard Motorsports, in what was then the lowest class.
He also raced with another Patrick, albeit this time his longtime friend and fellow factory ace Patrick Long.
Now, in GTD, he’ll be entering a class that sees increased manufacturer involvement and a bigger car count than in 2015, with plenty of enhanced lineups and packages for the full season.
“Another Joerg and Patrick, right?” Bergmeister joked. “Obviously he is a very nice guy. I look forward to it. So far, it’s very relaxed.
“I think there’s definitely very strong lineups, and the car count is quite high with 22 cars here.
“Therefore there’s plenty of competition, and it will be tough to be up front.
“That’s definitely the goal with the new car. We still have some learning to do. But in general, we’ve improved our package and we hope it will be successful.”
Bergmeister has been instrumental in the development of the new 991-based Porsche GT3 R over the last year, and said the improvements are substantial.
“Definitely the downforce is quite improved, and compared to the 997, the longer wheelbase is incredible,” he said.
“All the steps we made on the (991) RSR are similar on the GT3 R now.”
For both Bergmeister and Park Place, Daytona marks an opportunity to kick off a season with a better result compared to 2015.
Bergmeister’s GTLM chances ended once the two 911s collided last year. Park Place retired from the race as well, with the No. 73 car spearheaded by Lindsey and Spencer Pumpelly ending 16th and falling into a hole in the GTD championship.
The team already suffered a minor setback during the Roar Before the Rolex 24 test, when Lindsey had an abnormal accident exiting Turn 5 on Saturday.
He hit an exposed concrete barrier that required a fix to the shock tower on the right front; however, the Park Place team repaired the car to get it back running on Sunday.
With the incident now in the past, Bergmeister is optimistic that’s the bad luck done for the month. He’ll look for his fourth Rolex 24 win, joining the overall triumph in 2003 and additional class wins in 2002 and 2009.
“I haven’t done that much driving yet, but that will change through the year,” he said.
“It’s all good and relaxed. I know quite a lot of people within the team already. It’s all going in the right direction, I would say.”