Muscle Milk Pickett Racing swept to its fifth consecutive overall win in the American Le Mans Series Saturday at Mid-Ohio, but once again, the top battle was in GT.
Having built a gap through the pit stop cycle of one lap to everyone in class from fourth on back, the two Corvette Racing C6.Rs and No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche paced the 13-car GT class field. Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 car held off Jorg Bergmeister in the No. 45 to secure his and Tommy Milner's third win of the 2012 season by 0.283 of a second.
“That was pretty tough, and for us today it came down to the guys in the pits,” said Gavin. “They did a phenomenal job and Tommy put in a brilliant opening stint. It was a marvelous day for us.”
The bounce back for Bergmeister and Patrick Long was a nice result after the team's disqualification at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for failing the post-race stall test, if still short of the ultimate result of winning.
BMW got a podium for team principal Bobby Rahal on his home soil with the polesitting No. 55 M3 of Jorg Mueller and Bill Auberlen. Team Falken Tire (Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers) followed its 2011 Mid-Ohio class victory by equaling its best result of the season with fourth in its Porsche, ahead of the sister BMW (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller).
Neither Extreme Speed Ferrari had a good day, with results of sixth and eighth; the SRT Vipers almost ran without incident to 11th and 12th in class and Tommy Kendall had a late off at the Keyhole but recovered.
As in Mosport, one Corvette had a rough day except on this occasion it was the No. 3 entry of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia. The class points leaders entering the race had late contact with one of the Green Hornet GTC class Porsches and retired with left front suspension damage, scoring no points.
Up front, Muscle Milk took the lead for the last time on strategy ahead of Dyson Racing, closer than in prior races but still unable to mount too big a challenge. Dyson pitted later to hand from Guy Smith, who ran the opening two hours, to Chris Dyson, while Muscle Milk's last stop was for fuel only. The win is the fifth in a row for Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr in the Pickett HPD ARX-03a.
“It's never as simple as it looks,” said Graf, who ran the final stint of the race. “It was difficult conditions and the track wasn't in the best shape from earlier. Lucas drove very well in the beginning.”
Level 5 Motorsports resumed as winners in P2, with both cars starting for the first time since Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May. The team's primary No. 055 took the win as Christophe Bouchut made a late-race pass on Conquest's Martin Plowman into the Keyhole after a successful dice through traffic. Bouchut and Scott Tucker took their fourth win of the season, with Conquest's hard luck pair of Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson in their fourth runner-up. Level 5's second HPD ARX-03b took the final class podium with Tucker and Ricardo Gonzalez, a PC class veteran running in P2 for the first time, ahead of Dempsey Racing's trio of Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and Dane Cameron.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports took a last ditch PC class win – its first of the year – with Marino Franchitti, Butch Leitzinger's replacement, and Rudy Junco. Franchitti, who hadn't had the chance to race the Nissan DeltaWing at Le Mans or for PR1 the last ALMS race at Mosport, ran second behind fellow Scotsman Ryan Dalziel in the dying stages of the race.
Dalziel, who said on the radio “I don't want to finish second!” ended up doing so following a late-race splash for fuel. He co-drove with Alex Popow; Merchant Services Racing came third for its first podium of the year with Kyle Marcelli and Antonio Downs.
JDX Racing took its first GTC class win, in its first race utilizing drivers and former class champions Jeroen Bleekemolen and Tim Pappas. Initially, the car was disqualified for not meeting the drive time requirements, but was later reinstated following a correction. That would have handed the win to TRG for the second race running and drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Al Carter, the latter in his series debut.
After a week off, the series resumes with a four-hour race at Elkhart Lake's Road America in two weeks.
The race, which was set to be shown on a mix of the series website, then on ABC television an hour in, was not seen by some users per a technical server issue that crashed the ALMS website. Series president and CEO Scott Atherton addressed the situation here.
Results - 123 laps:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. P1 Luhr/Graf Pickett HPD 2h46m04.189s
2. P1 Dyson/Smith Dyson Lola-Mazda + 1 lap
3. P2 Tucker/Bouchut Level 5 HPD + 2 laps
4. P2 Plowman/Heinemeier-Hansson Conquest Morgan-Nissan + 2 laps
5. P2 Tucker/Gonzalez Level 5 HPD + 3 laps
6. PC Junco/Franchitti PR1/Mathiasen FLM + 5 laps
7. PC Popow/Dalziel CORE FLM + 5 laps
8. PC Marcelli/Downs Merchant FLM + 7 laps
9. P2 Dempsey/Foster/Cameron Dempsey Lola-Judd + 7 laps
10. PC Junqueira/Drissi RSR FLM + 8 laps
11. GT Gavin/Milner Corvette + 8 laps
12. GT Bergmeister/Long Flying Lizard Porsche + 8 laps
13. P1 Marsal/Lux Dyson Lola-Mazda + 9 laps*
14. GT Muller/Auberlen RLL BMW + 9 laps
15. PC Richard/Ende Dempsey FLM + 9 laps
16. GT Henzler/Sellers Falken Porsche + 9 laps
17. GT Hand/Muller RLL BMW + 9 laps
18. GT Sharp/van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari + 10 laps
19. GT Neiman/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche + 10 laps
20. GT Brown/Cosmo Extreme Speed Ferrari + 11 laps
21. PC Bennett/Braun CORE FLM + 11 laps
22. GT Miller/Maassen Miller Porsche + 11 laps
23. GT Wittmer/Farnbacher SRT Viper + 12 laps
24. GT Sweedler/Bell Alex Job Lotus + 14 laps*
25. GT Goossens/Kendall SRT Viper + 14 laps
26. GTC Pappas/Bleekemolen JDX Porsche + 15 laps
27. GTC Carter/Pumpelly TRG Porsche + 16 laps
28. GTC Faieta/Huisman Green Hornet Porsche + 16 laps
29. GTC MacNeil/Keen Alex Job Porsche + 16 laps
30. GTC LeSaffre/Faulkner Green Hornet Porsche + 17 laps
31. GT Magnussen/Garcia Corvette + 18 laps
PC Burgess/Kovacic Merchant FLM 98 laps