For some drivers, winning the Grand American Rolex series in a Daytona Prototype would be the end to a great season. While Jorg Bergmeister has clinched the championship in Grand Am, he is in the middle of his favorite part of the racing season- the final three races of the American Le Mans Series.
As defending GT2 Champion in ALMS, Jorg Bergmeister is trailing Johannes Van Overbeek by 16 points with two races left in the season.
We caught up with Jorg Bergmeister and teammate Patrick Long during the autograph session at the ALMS race at Road America.
Mecca of Speed: Road America has done some repaving on selected corners for 2006. How does the car feel on the new track surface?
Jorg Bergmeister: Right now it’s pretty tricky with the different pavement changes. As soon as you hit the new pavement with the front, you pick up some grip. Then you have oversteer until the rear touches the new pavement as well. But it’s still my favorite track over here (United States). I just love it here, it’s great fun.
Mecca of Speed: Do you feel the Porsche has any advantage at this track compared to some of the other manufacturers you are competing against?
Jorg Bergmeister: Our straight line speed is definitely very good, but I expect the Ferrari to be really strong in the race. I don’t know why they weren’t any quicker in qualifying. This should normally be a track that would favor them, as there are so many quick corners.
Mecca of Speed: How is dealing with traffic this year, between the prototypes (LMP1 and LMP2) and the GT cars? Is the series well seasoned, or are there rookies you have to give a little extra room?
Jorg Bergmeister: No, traffic is not that bad. There are not that many cars out there, on a track like this (Road America). You have plenty of long straights, where it’s easy for the prototypes to overtake. So far it hasn’t been a problem this year. Maybe we are just lucky, but I hope it’s going to stay like this for the remainder of the season.
Mecca of Speed: Considering this is a three-hour race, is there anything from Road America that translates well for an event such as the Petit Le Mans, where you are running longer, but at another fast circuit?
Jorg Bergmeister: I think from this race on, it’s like a little change in the schedule. So far we have been on pretty slow tracks. After here we are at Mosport, which is pretty quick, then Road Atlanta, which is also quick. I’m always looking forward to the last couple races of the season. I think quick corners favor our car quite a bit.
Mecca of Speed: You have a long time relationship with Porsche running in various series. Do they ever ask you to fill in for other drivers, or give you a one off race option?
Jorg Bergmeister: I still have close contact with Porsche, even though I’m running for a different manufacturer in another series. We are talking about working together next year, so we shall see.
Mecca of Speed: Regardless of the series, do you have a favorite circuit or a couple of tracks that you are always happy to see on the schedule?
Jorg Bergmeister: Definitely Elkhart Lake, in the United States it’s probably my favorite track. Watkins Glen is also nice. Over in Europe, Spa and the Nurburgring are some of my favorite tracks.
Mecca of Speed: Looking at your driving style, do you think you drive more from a technical standpoint, or instinct?
Jorg Bergmeister: That’s a good question, actually. It’s probably all instinct to a certain level. I started go-karting at the age of three, so at some point you get so used to it, so you need a certain instinct to do it.
Mecca of Speed: What’s the most entertaining thing you have had happen with a fan, either a child or an adult?
Jorg Bergmeister: Oh (laughs) good question. Actually I met my wife at a race.
Mecca of Speed: And she still lets you do autograph sessions?
Jorg Bergmeister: No, No, I’m married.
Patrick Long: She took advantage of him.
Jorg Bergmeister: Really, why?
Patrick Long: He said “she still lets you do autograph sessions.” It wasn’t you trying to pick up on her.
Jorg Bergmeister: No, no, no (laughs) no comment on that one. I really enjoy doing the autograph sessions. That is something completely different then in Europe. Here the fans are so much closer to the drivers, teams and to the cars. I really enjoy that.
Mecca of Speed: How is your driving style compared to your teammate Patrick Long? Are they similar so there isn’t too much adjustment to the car during a driver change?
Jorg Bergmeister: Our driving styles are slightly different, but set-up wise there are no differences.
Mecca of Speed: This is more of a sprint race compared to Le Mans or Petite Le Mans; do you change your mind set or technique when you are in a long endurance race?
Jorg Bergmeister: To a certain extent, you have to push, even in the long races. The problem is when traffic gets between you and the class leader and then there is a yellow. You loose a lap, and then your race is over.
You always have to go at least the pace of what the leader is doing, so there isn’t really time to save the car. The Porsche has no problem being pushed for 24 hours. You are in the lead for a lap, and then you push like in a sprint race.
Mecca of Speed: With this car (Porsche 911 GT3 RSR), is it fairly comfortable popping over the curbs, or do you want to touch the curbs, but stay off of them to keep the car balance?
Jorg Bergmeister: It depends on the whole set-up of the car. You can make it really good over the curbs, but then you suffer in the quick corners because you have to go softer. On a track like here it’s a little challenging. You touch the curbs, but you aren’t really on them.
Mecca of Speed: Having European and U.S. experience, when you are out on the public streets do you think there is an area the average driver should work on to be a better driver?
Jorg Bergmeister: Something very common in Europe is driver training and it’s a really good thing. You learn what you have to do with your car in extreme situations. You know what is understeering and oversteering, how to properly brake and things that can help you out on the street in extreme situations.
Mecca of Speed: We are about out of time so I would like to wish Patrick and you the best of luck today.
Jorg Bergmeister: Thank you.
Content credit Jorg Bergmeister and John Vatne. Photo credit Scott Rohloff.