Rebellion Racing came to Petit Le Mans with only one goal: to win overall. They did easily, although its best competition overall and P1 was involved in an accident barely more than an hour into the race, the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a. As it ran 334 laps (only needed 277), they did clinch the ALMS P1 title with drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr.
Nonetheless, the Bart Hayden-led squad of Neel Jani, Nicolas Prost and Andrea Belicchi piloted the Lola B12/60 Toyota to the outright win by 3 laps over a quartet of P2 class entries. The win marks the team's first in ALMS competition, as one of the world's top privateer prototype teams now has a major trophy on its mantelpiece.
"The start was the toughest part of the whole race," said Jani. "I had a big fight with Lucas. There were a lot of close moments in traffic. They got us on stops on the first round. He took too much risk, then, I guess, when he made that pass. I just had to bring it home."
"It's been a tough three weeks," Hayden said of Rebellion's stretch of races in both the FIA World Endurance Championship with this ALMS race sandwiching events on the other side of the world in Fuji, Japan and Shanghai, China, respectively. "We couldn't afford two disasters going into Shanghai. We had to have a sensible race today. I'm a bit sad for the Muscle Milk guys; I think it robbed the fans of a great race, but that's the way it goes. This win feels very special."
Neither Dyson Lola Mazda entry figured in the decision. Both cars struggled for pace and with reliability throughout the race. The No. 16 car with Guy Smith and Chris Dyson still had a fighting chance at the title if Muscle Milk didn't hit 70 percent, but when that was decided, so too were Dyson's title aspirations.
The P2 class was set to mark a split decision. Conquest Endurance was on pace to take a forceful third win of the season with Martin Plowman, David Heinemeier Hansson and new recruit Eric Lux behind the wheel of the team's Morgan Nissan.
But it all went away in the final 20 laps. Plowman went off and on at Turn 10 from a puncture, which caused a pit stop for a tire change. It only got worse from there as he was called for speeding in the pit lane, a penalty that took the Englishman from the class lead, and a full 28 seconds behind Level 5's Luis Diaz.
Diaz brought home the No. 95 HPD ARX-03b, so the car doubled up in taking the class win and class title for his co-drivers Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut. Tucker explained the team's decision to see him and Bouchut switch from their usual No. 055 to the 95 for this race.
"We had a gut feeling about the 95," he said. "We'd tested both cars for four days. We got feedback and the 95 came out on top. We came to win the championship, and we did."
Conquest was a frustrated second ahead of the second Level 5 car (Tucker, Dario and Marino Franchitti) with the Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca 03 Nissan fourth, and top of the four European Le Mans Series P2 entries. That, unofficially, netted that team the ELMS P2 title - it was driven by Pierre Thiriet, Mathias Beche and Christophe Tinseau.
The Nissan DeltaWing ran the entire race distance, a stellar sixth overall for drivers Gunnar Jeannette and Lucas Ordonez. In Jeannette's words, the car ran "absolutely perfect. It was flawless."
GT came down to a near carbon copy of the 2010 class finish, involving the same principals. Toni Vilander ran out of fuel while driving Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GT on the last lap, which allowed Corvette through to the class win.
This time, Vilander had enough fuel to take the finish while in Extreme Speed's Ferrari F458 Italia. He co-drove with Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek.
Corvette Racing finished second with Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor. With the runner-up result, Magnussen went a full year without winning in ALMS. BMW finished third and fourth in what could be the signoff for the Rahal Letterman Lanigan M3s. Porsche netted fifth and sixth with the Flying Lizard No. 45 and Falken No. 17 cars.
CORE autosport (Ryan Dalziel, Alex Popow, Mark Wilkins) took another PC class win, with the Imsa Performance Matmut (GTE AM) and NGT Motorsport squads (GTC) picking up additional class wins. Dalziel's win for CORE completes a stellar 2012 season where he's won Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans all in class, and was second at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
The Imsa Porsche (ELMS) was driven by Nicolas Armindo, Anthony Pons and team principal Raymond Narac, and NGT by Henrique Cisneros and ALMS series debutantes Jakub "Kuba" Giermaziak and Mario Farnbacher, brother of SRT Viper driver Dominik. Alex Job Racing was in a position to challenge for the class win but went off course late in the going with its WeatherTech No. 22 entry driven by Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Dion von Moltke.
Dempsey Racing had a tough day with its P2 and PC cars colliding and the P2 car involved in two full course cautions.
Results - 394 laps:
Pos Cl Drivers Team/Car Time/Gap
1. P1 Belicchi/Jani/Prost Rebellion Lola-Toyota 9h37m43.578s
2. P2 Tucker/Bouchut/Diaz Level 5 HPD + 3 laps
3. P2 Tucker/Franchitti/Franchitti Level 5 HPD + 4 laps
4. P2 Beche/Thiriet/Tinseau TDS ORECA-Nissan + 4 laps
5. UNC Ordonez/Jeannette Highcroft DeltaWing-Nissan + 6 laps
6. PC Popow/Dalziel/Wilkins CORE FLM + 9 laps
7. P2 Nicolet/Baguette/Pla OAK Morgan-Nissan + 11 laps
8. PC Junqueira/Drissi/Vera RSR FLM + 11 laps
9. PC Junco/Dobson/Julian PR1 Mathiasen FLM + 12 laps
10. PC Bennett/Braun/Gonzalez CORE FLM + 13 laps
11. PC Marcelli/Downs/Ducote Merchant FLM + 18 laps
12. GT Sharp/van Overbeek/Vilander Extreme Speed Ferrari + 19 laps
13. GT Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor Corvette + 19 laps
14. GT Muller/Auberlen/Summerton RLL BMW + 20 laps
15. GT Muller/Alzen/Summerton RLL BMW + 21 laps
16. GT Bergmeister/Long/Pilet Flying Lizard Porsche + 21 laps
17. GT Henzler/Sellers/Ragginger Falken Porsche + 22 laps
18. PC Richard/Ende/Lewis Dempsey FLM + 22 laps
19. GT Neiman/Holzer/Tandy Flying Lizard Porsche + 25 laps
20. GT Wittmer/Farnbacher/Hunter-Reay SRT Viper + 25 laps
21. GT Brown/Cosmo/Lazzaro Extreme Speed Ferrari + 26 laps
22. GT Miller/Maassen/Lietz Miller Porsche + 27 laps
23. GTE-Am Pons/Narac/Armindo Imsa Porsche + 31 laps
24. GT Sweedler/Bell/Mowlem Alex Job Lotus + 34 laps
25. GTC Cisneros/Farnbacher/Giermaziak NGT Porsche + 38 laps
26. GTC Di Guida/Pumpelly/Canache TRG Porsche + 43 laps
27. GTC Collard/Gutierrez/Hedlund TRG Porsche + 43 laps
28. GTC Cumming/Valiante/Johnston JDX Porsche + 43 laps
29. GTC MacNeil/Keen/von Moltke Alex Job Porsche + 45 laps*
30. GT Gavin/Milner/Westbrook Corvette + 46 laps
31. P1 Dyson/Smith/Kane Dyson Lola-Mazda + 56 laps
32. P2 Brundle/Buncombe/Kimber-Smith Greaves Zytek-Nissan + 56 laps
33. P1 Luhr/Graf/Dumas Pickett HPD + 60 laps
34. P2 Hartley/Hughes/Firth Murphy ORECA-Nissan + 64 laps*
35. P1 Burgess/Patterson/McMurry Dyson Lola-Mazda + 72 laps*
36. GTC Benitez/Bullitt/Segal NGT Porsche + 76 laps
37. GTC Faieta/Avenatti/Calvert-Jones Competition Porsche + 127 laps*
38. GTE-AM Perazzini/Cioci/Griffin AF Ferrari + 162 laps*
39. GT Goossens/Kendall/Bomarito SRT Viper + 170 laps*
40. P2 Dempsey/Foster/Cameron Dempsey Lola-Judd + 174 laps*
GTC LeSaffre/Faulkner/Wong Green Hornet Porsche 40 laps
P2 Plowman/Heinemeier Hansson/Lux Conquest Morgan-Nissan
* Not running at the end