Klaus Graf shares the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03 with Lucas Luhr in the American Le Mans Series.
What another great weekend in Canada!
Mosport, or I should say Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, has been really good to us the last three years. We entered the weekend having led every single on track session we've taken part in from practice, qualifying, warm up to the race since our first visit there in 2010 and we had every intention of keeping that streak going, which we did.
We opted to not take part in the Friday test session but we were still very quick right off the truck. By now, we know the baseline of the car pretty well and we have a great engineering staff. We also knew what we needed at that particular track, but having said that, you never quite know until you've been on track, plus it was our first time with our Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a.
Additionally, both Lucas and I have been there many times and while it takes a few laps to get use to how fast the track is, we immediately were up to speed and went on to top the time sheets in both practice sessions ahead of qualifying.
Although it may not look like it from the outside since we go in and are fast right off the bat, we do put a lot of work into getting the car right. People might thing it looks easy but we put a lot of thought into it and we made a lot of changes. The guys worked really hard in between sessions to improve the car.
We have a good group of people and good partners with HPD and Michelin that together create a great combination and it is what we owe our success to thus far.
With Lucas qualifying at the last race, it was my turn to qualify our Muscle Milk car in Canada. If you wonder how we choose who qualifies and starts the race every weekend, it's very simple: We alternate at each event and whoever qualifies also starts the race. However, we had to change that up this weekend since Lucas had injured his ankle on Saturday (I'll get back to that later).
In qualifying, I had a huge moment on my second lap that gave me quite the wake-up call. Let's just say that there was not a lot of track left! I had big eyes on that one, believe me. The "moment" reminded me that you really have to stay on it all the time, especially at Mosport, you cannot let off for a split second.
I was able to quickly recover from that and went on to post my fastest time on the following lap. A lap at the track that is now called Canadian Tire Motorsport Park is like nowhere else. We brake about four times and we are flat or really close to flat nearly the whole way around. One small mistake and I'd rather not think of the consequences.
I was asked in the press conference after qualifying what it takes to be fast at Mosport. The answer I gave was a little more reserved but here is my slightly edited, politically incorrect answer: It takes a big pair of you know what! It's a track that separates the men from the boys!
As I mentioned earlier, I was suppose to start the race but we made a last-minute change because Lucas hurt is ankle earlier in the day on Saturday coming out of the truck. I think he was too excited as he knew what was coming up… more on that later.
Not knowing if he would be in pain or not while driving, we wanted to be able to give him the option of getting out of the car if he needed to. But of course, once you are sitting in the car, the pain goes away and you don't think about it and that's what he did.
Lucas drove a great stint, as usual. He was able to build a nice gap after taking the lead back from Chris Dyson who had, once again, jumped the start. Our strategy worked out really well and we pitted about an hour and 15 minutes in and I took over driving duties for the remainder of the two hour and 45 minute race.
When I headed back out we found ourselves in fourth place since we were not on the same pit sequence as others. I was able to regain the lead not too long afterward and I just kept opening the gap between the Dyson car and myself.
When you get in the car like that it's important to quickly get into your rhythm and stay in it because you don't want to lose concentration and focus. Honestly, sometimes a big lead is harder to manage than if you have to push all the time.
We had a really good race but there were a couple of things that cost us time. Had it not been for those two things, we could have easily taken the checkered flag leading by more than a lap on the field.
Whether we crossed the finish line by 10 seconds or one lap, we still won and it was our third consecutive win in Canada and more importantly, our fourth victory in a row this year. It means so much to Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. The guys have been working so hard that it's really rewarding to be able to give them as well as HPD and Michelin another win.
Now comes the second highlight of the weekend.
For the second year in a row, both Lucas and I got to celebrate our birthdays at what is one of our favorite tracks by taking the pole on Saturday and a win on Sunday. I don't mind at all receiving that same gift each year!
The team had a nice dinner at a restaurant near our hotel on Friday night and they had a little celebration planned for us on Saturday at the track.
They had prepared a birthday cake for us with a picture of Lucas and I on it and they presented it to us after lunch between practice sessions. What I wasn't expecting was what came after we blew out the candles and what Lucas was running out of the truck for when he hurt his ankle.
Lucas got me good by smashing a whipped cream pie in my face. While it was completely unexpected for me, I think Lucas was even more surprised when he too got a pie in the face.
Fortunately, our PR rep, Karina – who had helped Lucas organize this – also made sure that he too got his share of the pie! I have warned Lucas that he better watch out from here on out when there are birthdays on the team! I will get my revenge!
Despite the fact that I can still smell the whipped cream in my nose and that I probably still have some in my ears, it was a great weekend all around.
Thanks for reading.
A GoPro video highlighting the team's weekend in Mosport is below.