Dyson Racing finally scored its first overall win of the American Le Mans Series season as Guy Smith held off another remarkable comeback charge by the dominant Muscle Milk HPD to take the closest victory in series history.
Smith and teammate Chris Dyson had been forced to start from the back of the grid after a gearbox problem in qualifying. Dyson was up to second within just nine laps, but by that time Klaus Graf had already established a 45sec advantage for the Muscle Milk squad, having led by 6sec after only one lap.
Shortly afterward, though, it all went wrong for the HPD as a water leak led to a four-lap delay, and left Graf and Lucas Luhr playing catch-up for the second time in four races.
A mix of on-track passes and yellows falling their way amazingly meant Luhr and Graf were able to repeat their Lime Rock achievement of recovering a four-lap deficit. But unlike at Lime Rock, this time the Dyson crew were able to hold them off.
The final full-course caution brought Smith's advantage down to 13sec with 19 minutes to go, and the HPD lapping up to 3sec faster. They were nose to tail going into the final lap, yet Smith was able to use the Lola-Mazda's straightline speed to cling on and end Pickett's victory streak by the record margin of just 0.083sec.
“It was too close for comfort,” Smith said. “Last year was really close, I never expected something to beat that.
“Going into the final corner, Lucas was all over me,” he added. “I thought I had it covered, and to be honest he made a really good move. But I knew the way he got around me I could get back to him if I could slingshot around him. We opted over the weekend for the low-downforce strategy. So we thought if we had to drag them in the straight line we could keep them behind us. In this case, the strategy worked for us."
The second Dyson Lola-Mazda completed the overall podium, while P2 victory went to Conquest's Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson in fourth. Conquest kept Level 5 at bay for the majority of the race, and a late puncture for Christophe Bouchut left Plowman free to wrap up the win. That also vaulted the Dempsey Racing Lola Judd of Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster and guest driver Ben Devlin to second place in class.
GT began as a battle between the two Flying Lizard Porsches and the No. 4 Corvette, then became a tussle between the two Corvettes and the No. 45 Porsche as various strategies played out, before the BMWs emerged in first and second by not pitting under the final yellow.
Jorg Muller and Bill Auberlen were able to both stretch their fuel mileage and resist their pursuers to claim the class win. Flying Lizard's Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long took second, with Corvette's points leaders Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner fourth behind the Scott Sharp/Johannes van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari. The other Corvette and other BMW clashed on the last lap while fighting for third.
"We were lacking the straight line speed, so we knew to try to gain the strategy in the pits or with other options,” said Muller, who won for the first time in ALMS since 2001. “In the practices we were struggling on the pace – almost two seconds behind – but the sun came out and the car got fast. We had the right strategy and were really lucky with the yellows.”
CORE Autosport wrapped up the PC teams' title with a one-two, led by Alex Popow and Tom Kimber-Smith. Alex Job Racing's Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper McNeil edged out the JDX and No. 34 Green Hornet entries to win GTC. Bleekemolen has made three GTC starts this season and won all of them despite driving for different teams, having also scored for TRG (Monterey) and JDX (Mid-Ohio).
Results - 101 laps:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. P1 Dyson/Smith Dyson Lola-Mazda 4h01m48.009s
2. P1 Luhr/Graf Muscle Milk HPD + 0.083s
3. P1 Marsal/Lux/Burgess Dyson Lola-Mazda + 47.275s
4. P2 Plowman/Heinemeier Hansson Conquest Morgan-Nissan + 1m04.709s
5. PC Popow/Kimber-Smith CORE FLM + 1 lap
6. PC Bennett/Braun CORE FLM + 1 lap
7. PC Marcelli/Ducote/French Merchant FLM + 1 lap
8. PC Junqueira/Gonzalez RSR FLM + 1 lap
9. P2 Dempsey/Foster/Devlin Dempsey Lola-Judd + 2 laps
10. PC Richard/Ende Dempsey FLM + 2 laps
11. P2 Tucker/Bouchut Level 5 HPD + 2 laps
12. P2 Tucker/Diaz Level 5 HPD + 3 laps
13. GT Muller/Auberlen RLL BMW + 4 laps
14. GT Bergmeister/Long Flying Lizard Porsche + 4 laps
15. GT Sharp/van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari + 4 laps
16. GT Gavin/Milner Corvette + 4 laps
17. PC Downs/Downs/Downs Merchant FLM + 4 laps
18. GT Miller/Maassen Miller Porsche + 4 laps
19. GT Magnussen/Garcia Corvette + 4 laps
20. GT Sweedler/Bell Alex Job Lotus + 4 laps
21. GT Neiman/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche + 5 laps
22. GT Wittmer/Farnbacher SRT Viper + 5 laps
23. GT Muller/Summerton RLL BMW + 6 laps*
24. GT Brown/Cosmo/Lazzaro Extreme Speed Ferrari + 6 laps
25. GTC MacNeil/Bleekemolen Alex Job Porsche + 8 laps
26. GTC Cumming/Ragginger JDX Porsche + 8 laps
27. GTC LeSaffre/Faulkner Green Hornet Porsche + 8 laps
28. GTC Faieta/Avenatti Competition Porsche + 8 laps
29. GTC Sofronas/Welch/Villeneuve GMG Porsche + 8 laps
30. GTC Huisman/Wong Green Hornet Porsche + 10 laps
31. GT Henzler/Sellers Falken Porsche + 26 laps*
32. GTC Benitez/Benitez NGT Porsche + 30 laps
33. GTC Di Guida/Pumpelly TRG Porsche + 32 laps
GT Goossens/Kendall SRT Viper 45 laps
PC Junco/Franchitti PR1 Mathiasen FLM 23 laps
* Not running at finish