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Graf Wins Close One At Road America

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011

Klaus Graf eked out a victory at Road America. (File photo courtesy of the American Le Mans Series)

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

Klaus Graf edged Guy Smith by 0.112 seconds after a 30-minute duel to claim the victory at Road America in the Lola-Aston Martin of Team Cytosport. “They kept telling me to save fuel and to push hard,” said Graf, who last year lost the race in Wisconsin when his Porsche Spyder ran out of fuel two corners from the finish.

Despite Smith hounding his rear wing in the Lola-Mazda of Dyson Racing while setting the fastest race lap, pole winner Graf held on. “I could catch him,” said Smith, who at one point drove through the grass at Hurry Downs to pass a brace of GTC class cars. “But he drove a great race and didn’t make any mistakes.”

Lucas Luhr lost the lead at the start in the Muscle Milk Lola to the No. 20 Dyson entry of Steven Kane at Turn 3, but regained it with a quicker pit stop during the second round of pit stops. The finish, the closest over-all in ALMS history, was set up by the race’s fourth safety car period that ended with 38 minutes remaining.

In GT, Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo was perfect in his final stint despite a clutch problem to bring the Ferrari Italia its first victory in the ALMS. He passed the RLL team’s BMW of Dirk Werner, which was on a fuel strategy, with 30 minutes remaining due to fresh Michelin tires and pace. After a poor final pit stop, the No. 56 BMW of Joey Hand fought back from fifth place to finish third.

The final safety car period occurred when Tom Milner crashed on two fresh tires at Turn 13 shortly after Corvette Racing tried to establish a fuel strategy with his No. 3 entry. The Risi Ferrari had dominated on pace up until then despite the usual argy-bargy in GT on the track and in the pits. “It won’t be the last victory (for the Italia),” said Melo of the car’s long development span, which required six races to find a trophy. “It just proves we must focus and never give up.”

The LMP2 class’s only entry, Level 5 Motorsports won its category with Scott Tucker, Luis Diaz and Christophe Bouchut sharing the team’s Lola-Honda. Pole winner Butch Leitzinger and Rudy Junco won in LMPC for PR1/Mathiasen, the team’s first victory. Jeroen Bleekemolen made the winning pass in GTC on the last lap for Black Swan Racing.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 21 2011
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