Klaus Graf shares the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a with Lucas Luhr in the American Le Mans Series.
It's safe to say that Baltimore is not one of our lucky places to race at! For the second time in as many visits to the street circuit by the Inner Harbor, we have not had much success, unfortunately.
Last season we had a weekend to forget after an electrical problem sidelined us up until the race and we didn't have much more luck in the race itself despite being really quick.
This year, I honestly thought our luck had turned around. We had good practice sessions and we were able to qualify on pole, our sixth one this year, but we had an issue in the race that cost us.
I was really looking forward to going to Baltimore this year. The circuit is in a great location by the harbor and the baseball stadium and street circuits are always fun. The track is great – minus the light rail tracks on the front straight!
To be honest, I'm surprised they had not come up with another solution for that part of the circuit after last year. We were fortunate to be on track after the Indy cars on Friday morning so we knew what to expect when we reached the light rails tracks.
Before going out for our session, we saw a picture of Simon Pagenaud catching some air in his Indy car, so I was very careful when I headed out and I slowed down before getting to the tracks on the straightaway, because the last thing I wanted to do was damage our Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a.
It's too bad they had to put a chicane to slow the cars down but it was the best thing to do, the safest thing to do. Our cars are not made to be catching air like that. Hopefully for next year, they can come up with a better solution or just put the chicane there in the first place so we don't have to change the schedule around and cut practice times to make track changes.
Overall, Baltimore is a great event, but for some reason it's just not good to us! Lucas did great in qualifying to capture the pole position in what was his first visit to Baltimore. He then had a really good start and had built up quite a lead in the race.
However, once again we were faced with an issue that sent us to pit lane for repairs. It was very frustrating to see the car come in for an unscheduled pit stop because of the shifting problem we had. With the way things had been going up until then it should have been an easy "Saturday afternoon drive" around the streets of Baltimore.
Instead, we lost something like eight laps to the leader. Too many times this season we've been forced the make a miraculous come back and this time there just wasn't enough time in a two-hour race.
On the bright side, we were able to make it back on track and score points and our championship rivals in the No. 16 Dyson Racing car had problems of their own. The impact on the driver's championship could have been much worse but at the end of the day we only lost three points. That said, not too long ago we were leading by 16 points, now our lead has been cut down to 9 with two races to go.
We need to pull together as a team and ensure that the final two races are flawless. We can't afford to lose any more points. Everyone on the team is aware of this and I'm confident that we will come back strong at Virginia International Raceway.
Finally, as I am writing this blog following the merger announcement of the ALMS and Grand-Am, I wanted to say a word about it. I think the merger of the ALMS and Grand-Am should be the right move for U.S. sports car racing. Both series have some great venues on their schedule and to bring the two together should just spice this up.
For me as a driver and member of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, it will be exciting to see how the technical regulations will shape up, because for several years now I have had the opportunity to drive the coolest sports cars in the LMP1 category.
I was lucky to be part of the early days of the ALMS with Panoz Motorsports and I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr. Don Panoz for all his passion for the sport.
Thanks for reading!
Follow Klaus on Twitter at @klaus_graf, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing at @MuscleMilkRace and Honda Performance Development at @HondaRacing_HPD.