Muscle Milk Pickett Racing played the perfect strategy to claim a comfortable American Le Mans Series victory on the streets of Long Beach.
Lucas Luhr took advantage of one of three first-hour cautions to pit from second after just 15 minutes, handing over to Klaus Graf. A stop-start opening hour was led by Neel Jani for Rebellion Racing but Graf had worked his way up to second by the halfway point.
The duo pitted at the same time under the third caution and the Pickett HPD, requiring less fuel and no driver change courtesy of the early stop, jumped the Rebellion Toyota.
Nick Heidfeld gave chase once racing resumed but Graf made better headway through traffic and by the time the No. 12 car had made it through, Heidfeld was more than 20sec adrift, the gap extending to 36sec by the finish.
“We've definitely had 100 percent the right strategy,” Graf said. “The way the race unfolded, it was perfect. The guys did an awesome job in the pits – no mistakes. The Michelin street soft tires ran excellent – we ran the entire race on just one set. It was such a great weekend, and I am so proud of everybody.”
The victory moved Luhr into a tie for ALMS career victories (42), a mark he shares with Olivier Beretta.
“Sometimes, endurance racing is like this,” Luhr said. “Sometimes you have the busier day, and sometimes you have the easy day. With us two, it doesn't really matter. I can trust Klaus, and I hope he can trust me. You have to do, what you have to do to win. As a team we understand that. Of course I would have loved to drive more, but at that time you put your ego or your selfishness back a bit, and look at the big picture to do what it takes to win the race. If you have a problem with that attitude, you're in the wrong business.”
CORE Autosport was third overall with its LMPC machine, Colin Braun and Jonathan Bennett claiming a dominant class victory.
The final place on the rostrum had been left up grabs for the lower classes when Chris Dyson hit the wall while chasing former leader Jani and stopping on circuit, ending the Dyson Racing team's race over prematurely.
“At this point, it is hard to pinpoint exactly what happened. We will look at the data, go over the car and evaluate what exactly took place,” said Chris Dyson. “We had just gone green after the first yellow of the race. I was in second place and running well when the car did not turn in and just pushed into the wall at the hairpin.”
Luis Diaz and Mike Guasch were second for PR1 in the PC class after a lonely drive, well clear of class polemen Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende.
The first three LMPCs were impressively clear of the first LMP2 car of Scott Sharp/Guy Cosmo, which finished sixth overall. Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown, the next LMP2, finished eighth. The LMP2 pole-sitting Level 5 HPD ran into a series of problems, including a pit penalty.
“It feels great,” said Sharp. “With the strength of Level 5, we thought it would take longer than this. We really did a great job as a team coming together. The team has been flat out for two months. We knew as a team it would take a while to figure this car out and get some testing in. It's great to be back and winning in a prototype car.”
Bill Auberlen took the GT class win for BMW's new Z4 by stealth, recovering from an opening lap mistake by teammate Maxime Martin before slipping by long-time leader Dominik Farnbacher in the SRT Viper in the final stages.
The RLL BMW was only fifth fastest in qualifying but steadily worked its way to the front and when Farnbacher ran wide with 20 minutes to go Auberlen took full advantage. The Dirk Muller/Joey Hand shared BMW then snatched second from the No. 91 Viper on the penultimate lap of the race.
“Unbelievable. This thing was a rocket all day,” said Auberlen. “We had some bad luck; that bad luck turned to good luck. Our pit strategy worked out perfect. Everybody here in Long Beach: I'm from Redondo Beach. I'm your neighbor and I love you guys! I've wanted to win this thing forever and never have. What a great day for BMW.”
The NGT Porsche just held off the attentions of Flying Lizard duo Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr. to take GTC honors, Henrique Cisneros and Sean Edwards – in his first race at Long Beach – claiming the class victory.
1. (3) Lucas Luhr/Klaus Graf, HPD ARX-03c, 80 laps
2. (1) Neel Jani/Nick Heidfeld, Lola B12/60 Toyota, 80
3. (6) Jonathan Bennett/Colin Braun, ORECA FLM09, 79
4. (7) Mike Guasch/Luis Diaz, ORECA FLM09, 79
5. (5) Duncan Ende/Bruno Junqueira, ORECA FLM09, 79
6. (11) Guy Cosmo/Scott Sharp, HPD ARX-03b, 79
7. (17) Maxime Martin/Bill Auberlen, BMW Z4 GTE, 78
8. (12) Ed Brown/Johannes van Overbeek, HPD ARX-03b, 78
9. (20) Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller, BMW Z4 GTE, 78
10. (13) Marc Goossens/Dominik Farnbacher, SRT Viper GTS-R Viper V-10, 78
11. (18) Tommy Milner/Oliver Gavin, Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, 78
12. (16) Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen, Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, 78
13. (32) Bryce Miller/Marco Holzer, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 78
14. (21) Bill Sweedler/Townsend Bell, Ferrari F458 Italia, 77
15. (15) Kuno Wittmer/Jonathan Bomarito, SRT Viper GTS-R Viper V-10, 77
16. (19) Olivier Beretta/Matteo Malucelli, Ferrari F458 Italia, 77
17. (10) Tomy Drissi/Rusty Mitchell, ORECA FLM09, 77
18. (9) Charlie Shears/Tristan Nunez, ORECA FLM09, 76
19. (14) Bryan Sellers/Wolf Henzler, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 76
20. (24) Henrique Cisneros/Sean Edwards, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
21. (25) Nelson Canache Jr./Spencer Pumpelly, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
22. (29) Brian Wong/Dion von Moltke/Spencer Pumpelly, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
23. (23) Cooper MacNeil/Jeroen Bleekemolen, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
24. (28) Brett Curtis/Craig Stanton, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
25. (27) Chris Cumming/Kyle Marcelli, ORECA FLM09, 75
26. (31) Patrick Dempsey/Joe Foster, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 73
27. (26) Ben Keating/Damien Faulkner, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 73
28. (4) Scott Tucker/Ryan Briscoe, HPD ARX-03b, 66
29. (27) Mike Hedlund/Jan Heylen, Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 62
30. (22) Marino Franchitti/Scott Tucker, HPD ARX-03b, 57