Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf came back from four laps down to take a remarkable American Le Mans Series victory at Lime Rock.
Luhr had initially taken the lead from polesitter Chris Dyson's Dyson Lola Mazda just six laps into the race, and then edged away only for a gearshift issue to force a long pit stop for their HPD after 45 minutes, dropping them to 21st overall.
“We had to reset some things, and it worked fine,” Luhr explained. “For sure, I went out, and my neck was a bit bigger than normal. I thought maybe this is over. On the radio my engineer he said it was 4 laps, so I thought we were going to lose anyhow so I just put the hammer down in traffic.
“No matter where, I just pushed in, I pushed really hard. By the end of my stint we were only 1 lap down. We had just pitted and the yellow came out. And I thought here we go again. But Klaus did a super cool move around the outside in turn 1.”
Dyson and teammate Guy Smith were left in a seemingly dominant position, but a blistering charge by Luhr got his car back into contention, and the timing of yellows and pit stops meant that with half an hour to go, the two P1 cars were nose-to-tail approaching a restart. Graf's aforementioned move took him past Smith and able to clinch Pickett's third race win in succession as a late accident led to the race finishing under yellow.
Level 5 claimed another P2 victory after a complicated weekend. An issue with the series' driving time regulations led the team withdrawing its No. 95 HPD ARX-03b and saw the No. 055 put to the back of the grid. Christophe Bouchut surged through the field and led overall for a while, but teammate and team principal Scott Tucker came under heavy late pressure from the Conquest Morgan-Nissan of Martin Plowman.
The yellow-flag finish settled it in Level 5's favor for the fourth time in as many races; Conquest's runner-up with Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson was their third straight. The withdrawal of the second Level 5 car meant Dempsey Racing had its first class podium by default, although Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster finished a creditable seventh overall in their Lola Judd coupe.
Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister gave Porsche's flagship Flying Lizard team its first GT victory of 2012, just ahead of the Jan Magnussen/Antonio Garcia and Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner Corvettes. The former survived an early tangle with Dyson, while the latter led initially. The Lizards won four straight from 2007 to 2010 at Lime Rock, and this is Bergmeister's sixth win in seven years at the track. Last year's runner-up was his lone interruption.
“We didn't have a lot of push from the Corvettes behind us,” Bergmeister offered. “They were really good in 1 and 2, but the rest of the track we were just slightly quicker. So I had some really good restarts where I could pull away. We saw a lot of tire failures today, luckily we never had any problems. The car was perfect, the tires were perfect, the drivers were perfect all day.”
Extreme Speed's Ferraris were also part of the GT lead fight until both cars were involved in clashes with PC class cars. The second of these was the incident that caused the last-minute yellow, as a big crash for Guy Cosmo ended the No. 02 Ferrari's day when it was in a tense four-car lead train with the No. 45 Porsche and the two Corvettes. That at least brought the No. 01 of Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek back to fourth, despite an earlier incident, but it was a race where the promise was unfulfilled.
The Rahal Letterman Lanigan-run BMW team had a tough afternoon. A pre-race fuel leak meant its polesitting No. 55 car started from the pits, one lap behind, and an early puncture delayed the No. 56.
CORE Autosport took its first PC one-two of 2012, Colin Braun and Jon Bennett leading home Alex Popow and Tom Kimber-Smith. CORE has now taken all four wins in 2012, two apiece for the two cars. Silicon Tech/Dempsey Racing secured its first podium of the season with drivers Duncan Ende and Henri Richard.
PR1/Mathiasen fought the CORE cars until Butch Leitzinger tangled with Sharp's Extreme Speed Ferrari, while the polesitting Merchant Services car stopped on track just 15 minutes in.
Alex Job converted its GTC pole into victory for Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen, the first for that pairing and second for the team this season.
The series resumes in two weeks at the newly renamed Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, better known as Mosport.
Results - 168 laps:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. P1 Luhr/Graf Pickett HPD 2h45m31.207s
2. P1 Dyson/Smith Dyson Lola-Mazda + 12.392s
3. P2 Tucker/Bouchut Level 5 HPD + 27.024s
4. P2 Plowman/Heinemeier Hansson Conquest Morgan-Nissan + 27.212s
5. PC Bennett/Braun CORE FLM + 4 laps
6. PC Popow/Kimber-Smith CORE FLM + 4 laps
7. P2 Dempsey/Foster Dempsey Lola-Judd + 6 laps
8. PC Richard/Ende Dempsey FLM + 6 laps
9. GT Bergmeister/Long Flying Lizard Porsche + 8 laps
10. GT Magnussen/Garcia Corvette + 8 laps
11. GT Gavin/Milner Corvette + 8 laps
12. GT Sharp/van Overbeek Extreme Speed Ferrari + 8 laps
13. GT Hand/Muller RLL BMW + 9 laps
14. GT Muller/Auberlen RLL BMW + 9 laps
15. GT Henzler/Sellers Falken Porsche + 10 laps
16. GT Miller/Maassen Miller Porsche + 11 laps
17. GT Neiman/Holzer Flying Lizard Porsche + 11 laps
18. GT Sweedler/Bell Alex Job Lotus + 12 laps
19. PC Leitzinger/Dobson PR1 Mathiasen FLM + 12 laps
20. GT Brown/Cosmo Extreme Speed Ferrari + 15 laps*
21. P1 Marsal/Lux Dyson Lola-Mazda + 15 laps
22. GTC MacNeil/Keen Alex Job Porsche + 17 laps
23. GTC LeSaffre/Faulkner Green Hornet Porsche + 17 laps
24. GTC Sofronas/Welch GMG Porsche + 18 laps
25. GTC Cumming/Valiante JDX Porsche + 18 laps
26. GTC LeSaffre/Lazzaro Green Hornet Porsche + 20 laps
27. PC Junqueira/Drissi RSR FLM + 22 laps
28. GTC Piera/Pumpelly TRG Porsche + 23 laps
PC Marcelli/Downs Merchant FLM 21 laps
* Not running at flag