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Pickett’s Charge Wins Lime Rock

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 7 2012

The Muscle Milk car of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf put on a show at Lime Rock.


Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf came from four laps down to win the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix.

It was the second victory at Lime Rock Park for the Muscle Milk team but first with Honda Performance Development’s ARX-03a prototype.

The comeback thwarted Dyson Racing’s efforts for a second straight win on its home track. A late-race, full-course caution period with 10 minutes left sealed the Muscle Milk win. Graf – who made the winning pass on Guy Smith with a little less than 30 minutes left – and Luhr extended their winning streak to three races as well as their P1 championship lead.

“I could not have driven any quicker,” Graf said. “Until I had gotten into the lead, I wasn’t aware of our position. I just pushed like crazy in traffic, taking a lot of risks. I must have blacked out I was pushing so hard. (Smith) was quicker on the straight a little bit, but around here unless you get some traffic, you have to get lucky. Guy is a world-class driver so it was not going to be easy to get around him.”

The victory looked like a formality for Chris Dyson and pole-sitter Smith when the Muscle Milk car pitted with shifting problems 45 minutes into the race. Luhr was unable to upshift on the circuit, and the crew looked at the actuator and gearbox before determining that the Electronic Control Unit needed to be reset. By that time, Luhr had lost four laps.

From that point on – with the exception of a penalty for speeding in pitlane – Luhr and Graf were in attack mode. The duo took advantage of some timely wave-around periods under yellow and the usual manic traffic around Lime Rock the rest of the way.

“I thought maybe this is over,” Luhr said. “I thought we were going to lose anyhow so I just put the hammer down in traffic. No matter where, I just pushed it; I pushed really hard. By the end of my stint we were only one lap down. All we did was push and fight back.”

After Smith and Dyson in second, Dyson Racing’s second Lola-Mazda of Eric Lux and Michael Marsal were third in class.

Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long won in GT for Flying Lizard Motorsports in a fantastic fight with Corvette Racing and Extreme Speed Motorsports. Bergmeister celebrated his 100th ALMS start with his sixth win in seven Lime Rock races. He held off a stern challenge from Corvette Racing’s pair of Jan Magnussen – also in his 100th ALMS race – and Oliver Gavin.

“They (the Corvettes) were really good in turns 1 and 2, but on the rest of the track we were just slightly quicker,” Bergmeister said. “So I had some really good restarts where I could pull away. We saw a lot of tire failures today; luckily we never had any problems. The car was perfect, the tires were perfect, the drivers were perfect all day.”

Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished second, just ahead of Gavin and Tommy Milner – the class championship leaders.

The Lime Rock victory was the first for the 2012-spec Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the first for the Lizard pairing since 2011 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Saturday’s finish certainly was chock full of drama. The GT fight saw the top-four cars within 0.8 seconds during the last 15 minutes of the race. Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Guy Cosmo was part of that battle until his Ferrari F458 Italia crashed at the last corner to bring out the final caution period.

“We had to go out and get it,” Long admitted. “The competition in GT is so tough, nothing comes to you. A bad day is an eighth place finish; a good day could still only be fourth. We had some bad luck this whole season, but that only makes it much more sweeter now that we’re back.”

Scott Tucker held off Martin Plowman in a thrilling P2 battle as Level 5 Motorsports won for the fourth time in as many races. It was a remarkable day for the Level 5 pairing of Tucker and Christophe Bouchut as their HPD ARX-03b started the race from the last position.

It took Bouchut 22 laps to move into the class lead, and the No. 055 led overall on two occasions.

“Scott said we had a chance to win today. But at Lime Rock this was going to be difficult,” Bouchut said. “We had to overtake so many cars and there are not a lot of places to do that. I was running really well and I just kept pushing as hard as I could. It turned out that was enough to keep driving around and making good passes.”

Plowman and David Heinemeier-Hansson placed second in their Morgan-Nissan prototype. Plowman was able to close to within a second of Tucker in the final 15 minutes before traffic and the race-ending caution halted his charge.

“In racing, its better to be lucky than good sometimes,” Tucker said. “We used the traffic a lot to make up some speed and gaps. Martin Plowman is such a great driver; I was surprised I could hold my gap to him. I made a couple bold moves at times, and it paid off.”

Dempsey Racing’s Lola-Judd of Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster finished third for their first ALMS podium finish.

CORE autosport’s duo of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun won in Prototype Challenge for the second straight race and led a 1-2 finish for the team. Braun moved from third to first in his ORECA FLM09 with 55 minutes left and led the rest of the way.

Braun’s move around PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports’ Butch Leitzinger may have been the pass of the race. The CORE pilot went hard on the throttle during a restart with 50 minutes remaining and passed Leitzinger halfway through the final turn. Even Braun admitted he didn’t know for certain if the move would stick.

“I had to capitalize on the opportunity,” Braun surmised. “It was really tight. I had was my shot and I went for it. After that we just kept driving hard.”

Alex Popow and Tom Kimber-Smith were second in the other CORE entry – the first 1-2 for the team this season. The result kept CORE in the class’ team championship race, and Popow retained the lead in the driver points. It was quite a change of fortunes from a day earlier when Kimber-Smith crashed and Braun battled mechanical issues in qualifying.

“I wouldn’t say we had a bad day, it was just an averagely bad day,” said Bennett, also the team owner. “We kept our heads up. The team put the cars back together, and we really regrouped. Colin’s instructions to me was to keep the car in one piece and not bend it. I turned it over to him and it was magic. Overall, it was a very a good day.”

Dempsey Racing’s Duncan Ende and Henri Richard were third – their first podium finish of the season.

Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen won GT Challenge from pole position for the team’s first victory of the season. Four different Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs led throughout the race but Keen made the winning pass with 45 minutes remaining by getting around JDX Racing’s Chris Cumming.

“The Alex Job guys were working so hard on the car all week,” said MacNeil, who extended his lead in the class championship. “I knew we’d have a good car to start with despite the wet conditions early. This really was a tough run with so much competitive driving here. There are a lot of great drivers in GTC and the other classes. I love the class, the team, my co-driver… I couldn’t ask for any more.”

It was a bit of a rough-and-tumble stint for Keen. He was pushed off-track twice in the final hour but kept his wits about him and – more importantly – kept the Porsche pointed ahead.

Keen finished ahead of a hard-charging Damien Faulkner and Peter LeSaffre in the first of Green Hornet Racing’s Porsches. GMG Racing’s Alex Welch and James Sofronas were third.

“We had a decent lead, but those (off-course moments) took big chunks out of it,” Keen said. “We were able to hold on and go for the win. Being at Lime Rock you have to drive with your mirrors as much as your windshield. It shows how tough it is out there, and being here with all of these world-class drivers it makes a win like this even more special. With the traffic, it shows how much experience plays.”

The American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón next heads north for Mobil 1 presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. The two-hour, 45-minute race is scheduled for noon ET on July 22 from the 2.459-mile, 10-turn Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. ESPN2’s broadcast featuring live coverage begins at 1 p.m. ET. Full coverage is available starting at 11:45 a.m. ET on ESPN3.

Saturday’s unofficial results

1. (2) Lucas Luhr, Germany; Klaus Graf, Germany; HPD ARX-03a Honda (1, P1), 168.

2. (1) Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, Beverley, UK; Lola B12/60 Mazda (2, P1), 168.

3. (3) Scott Tucker; Christophe Bouchut, France; HPD ARX-03b Honda (3, P2), 168.

4. (6) David Heinemeier Hansson; Martin Plowman, Indianapolis, IN; Morgan/Nissan (4, P2), 168.

5. (12) Jon Bennett; Colin Braun, Ovalo, TX; Oreca FLM09 (5, PC), 164.

6. (11) Alex Papow; Tom Kimber-Smith, England; Oreca FLM09 (6, PC), 164.

7. (9) Joe Foster, Lawrenceville, GA; Patrick Dempsey; Lola B12/87-Judd BMW V8 (7, P2), 162.

8. (13) Henri Richard; Duncan Ende, Los Angeles; Oreca FLM09 (8, PC), 162.

9. (17) Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Jörg Bergmeister; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (1, GT), 160.

10. (18) Antonio Garcia; Jan Magnussen; Corvette C6-ZR1 (2, GT), 160.

11. (15) Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Oliver Gavin; Corvette C6-ZR1 (3, GT), 160.

12. (19) Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; Ferrari F458 Italia (4, GT), 160.

13. (16) Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Dirk Mueller; BMW E92 M3 (5, GT), 159.

14. (14) Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Jörg Muller, Germany; BMW E92 M3 (6, GT), 159.

15. (20) Bryan Sellers, Centerville, OH; Wolf Henzler; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (7, GT), 158.

16. (21) Bryce Miller, Hoboken, NJ; Sascha Maassen; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (8, GT), 157.

17. (27) Marco Holzer; Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (9, GT), 157.

18. (22) Bill Sweedler, Westport, CT; Townsend Bell, Santa Monica, CA; Lotus Evora/Cosworth (10, GT), 156.

19. (10) Ken Dobson, Carmel Valley, CA; Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Oreca FLM09 (11, PC), 156.

20. (30) Guy Cosmo, Long Island, NY; Ed Brown, Las Vegas, NV; Ferrari F458 Italia (12, GT), 153.

21. (4) Michael Marsal; Eric Lux, Jacksonville, FL; Lola B11/66 Mazda (13, P1), 153.

22. (23) Cooper MacNeil; Leh Keen, Dublin, GA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (1, GTC), 151.

23. (28) Peter Lesaffre, Rye, NH; Damien Faulkner; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (2, GTC), 151.

24. (25) James Sofronas, Newport Beach, CA; Alex Welch; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (3, GTC), 150.

25. (29) Michael Valiante, Vancouver, BC; Chris Cumming, Vancouver, BC; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (4, GTC), 150.

26. (26) Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, GA; Peter Lesaffre, Rye, NH; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (5, GTC), 148.

27. (8) Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, CA; Bruno Junqueira; Oreca FLM09 (6, PC), 146.

28. (24) Mike Piera, Newton, CT; Spencer Pumpelly, Mason Neck, VA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (7, GTC), 145.

29. (7) Lucas Downs, North Mankoto, MN; Kyle Marcelli; Oreca FLM09 (8, PC), 21.

| , RacinToday.com Saturday, July 7 2012
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