Drayson Gets Victory at Road America
By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer
Jonny Cocker took the top-gear Kink at Road American flat out for the first time on the last lap to overtake Klaus Graf and capture Drayson Racing’s first LMP victory in the American Le Mans Series.
Cocker, who fell 16.5 seconds behind leader Graf after the final pit stop in his Lola-Judd, passed the HPD-ARX01c of David Brabham and the Lola-Mazda of Guy Smith during the penultimate three laps before catching Graf.
“Unbelievable,” said pole winner Cocker, who co-drove with team owner Paul Drayson in the two hour, 45-minute race. Cocker’s comeback might have been stymied by traffic. But he never lifted as he caught a GT car in the Kink on the back straight while closing on Graf. “It was worth the risk,” he said.
Cocker fell behind with a final pit stop under green after stretching his lead to 36 seconds. Pushing the limits of his fuel consumption, Graf was trying to complete a remarkable comeback for Team CytoSport and its Muscle Milk Porsche Spyder RS. After a heavy crash in practice at Mid-Ohio, the team had to withdraw and then re-build its car in time to continue the pursuit of Patron Highcroft Racing for the LMP championship in Round 7 at Road America.
Porsche Motorsport is assisting the CytoSport team by adding factory driver Timo Bernhard to the line-up in place of team owner Greg Pickett, injured in the Mid-Ohio accident. Romain Dumas is expected to join the team as well at the Petit Le Mans.
Coming to the white flag, Graf posted the team’s fastest lap of the day. Cocker, whose Lola and its V-10 Judd had been two seconds faster per lap due to the Wisconsin circuit’s long straights, nevertheless closed on Graf’s rear wing at the end of the back straight at Canada Corner, then passed him in the next turn when the Porsche sputtered due to low fuel.
Runner-up Graf maintained a 3.9-second gap over Highcroft’s Brabham to tighten the standings in the LMP championship. Dyson Racing’s Smith, who led with one hour remaining, had to pit during the race’s fourth full-course yellow flag due to the fuel consumption of its four-cylinder Mazda turbo.
That same caution encouraged CytoSport and Highcroft to risk running to the finish without an additional stop. They both had stopped during the day’s third caution near the halfway mark. Following the fourth caution period, Cocker took the lead from Graf on the final re-start with 52 minutes remaining, staying out of the pits because Drayson’s car could not make it to the finish even if it had pitted under the safety car period.
En route to setting the race’s fastest lap, Cocker opened up his 36-second lead before pitting under green for fuel only with just under 22 minutes remaining. After losing time when he nearly went off track on the marbles at the Carousel, Cocker caught Smith with just over four minutes remaining, then passed Brabham at Turn 5 on the penultimate lap.
Johnny Mowlem led the race for the first hour, which included two safety car periods, in the Autocon Lola before the car got stuck in fifth gear, forcing him to cede the lead to Simon Pagenaud in the Highcroft HPD. Dyson took the lead when Chris Dyson pitted just before the third safety car period for fuel, tires and the exchange to Smith. The same caution period eventually brought Highcroft and CytoSport (with Bernhard driving the opening stint) into the pits for their lone stop of the race and driver exchanges.
In GT, the championship battle was whittled down to the Flying Lizard Porsche team and Risi Competizione after the No. 92 BMW of Rahal Letterman Racing suffered an early crash with Bill Auberlen at the wheel. After qualifying on harder Dunlop tires, Auberlen was making his way through the GT field when he tagged the LMPC entry of Scott Tucker. A flat tire caused by the contact meant Tucker slowed and wobbled, knocking the overtaking Auberlen into the guard rail as the duo approached the high-speed Kink.
The M3 suffered severe damage just one week before Round 8 at Mosport.
Rahal Letterman’s No. 90 BMW, however, was virtually unstoppable. Joey Hand got into the lead on the eighth lap after starting fourth, overtaking the Corvette of Olivier Beretta on a re-start at Turn 1 with a brave outside-in maneuver. The Bimmer fell to fifth while taking fresh Dunlops during the exchange to Dirk Mueller near the halfway mark under the third safety car period.
Mueller emerged from the final stop with fuel only behind Patrick Long’s Flying Lizard Porsche and lined up behind the Risi Ferrari No. 62 and the No. 01 Extreme Motorsports Ferrari, both on different fuel and tire strategies. With strong power on the straights, Mueller quickly returned to the lead at the two hour mark and maintained a two-second gap over Long to the finish, claiming RLR’s first victory of the year.
In the battle for the championship, Long kept Gianmaria Bruni at bay in the Risi Ferrari and eventually the two Corvettes got past the Ferrari. That enabled the Lizard duo of Long and Jorg Bergmeister to extend their lead in the championship over Jaime Melo and Bruni.
Gunnar Jeannette and Elton Julian took the LMPC win on the strength of Team Gunnar engineer Mark Schomann’s strategy. Black Swan Racing’s Tim Pappis and Jeroen Bleekemolen again claimed the GT Challenge victory.
– Jonathan Ingram can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment