Monday, Feb. 5, 2001 | 11:14 a.m.
The weather may have been lousy for the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona, but it certainly didn't rain on Mike Petersen's and Dale White's parade.
Battling steady rain, the Las Vegas-based Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Team won the GT class and finished second overall in the 24-hour endurance road race, which concluded Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.
The Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RS, which was piloted by Mike Fitzgerald, Randy Pobst, Christian Menzel and Lucas Luhr, took over the lead during the 19th hour of the race.
A second entry fielded by Petersen and White finished 10th overall.
"This was our third time at Daytona and it definitely was the charm," Petersen said. "It certainly doesn't come any better than this: to take both the class win and second overall. I'm absolutely elated and extremely proud of the entire team."
Porsche earned the top five positions in the GT class and captured seven of the top ten overall positions. It marked the 53rd class victory for Porsche at the Daytona 24-hour event.
"We thought coming into Daytona that we stood a strong chance of winning," White said. "With factory backing and technological help from Porsche, two of their hot shoe drivers, Lucas Luhr and Christian Menzel, plus the behind-the-wheel capabilities of Mike Fitzgerald and Randy Pobst, the odds were in our favor.
"But with a 24-hour race, there are no predictions and we certainly didn't dream we would be second overall, just eight laps behind the lead car. Everyone did an incredible job and this win belongs to the whole team."
Believing their chances were good was the feeling shared by the whole team.
"It's really amazing," said Fitzgerald, who will be driving for the team throughout 2001. "The rain was pretty intense during the night. When we went over 100 miles an hour, which is all the way around Daytona's tri-oval, the windshield wipers weren't even touching the glass and we couldn't see.
"We also didn't have the use of our radio so we relied on a pit board and flashing lights. But, all in all, things couldn't have been much smoother. If you hosed our car off, it would look brand new; there's not a scratch on it."
Co-driver Pobst agreed.
"The Westward Ho Casino/MPIE-sponsored Porsche was perfect," Pobst said. "Winning this race is like surviving the perfect storm. As Mike said, the only problem was rain; visibility was truly awful. It was like taking a street Porsche, throwing a blanket over the windshield and driving at top speed. The only way to see was out the side windows."
While each of the four drivers is extremely accomplished, Luhr, Pobst, Fitzgerald and Menzel had never won the prestigious 24 Hours at Daytona.
In addition to their winning Porsche, Petersen's and White's Porsche 911 GT3 RS -- driven by Luca Cattaneo, Antonio DeCastro, Renato Bicciato and Franco Bugane -- finished 10th overall.
"To have two cars in the top ten at Daytona is awesome," White said. "And if this is any sign of things come, we should be looking forward to a great season."