Muscle Milk Pickett Racing silky smooth at VIR
The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a Honda ran silky smooth to cop the inaugural American LeMans Series race, the VIR 240, at the picturesque Virginia International Raceway. Taking command at the outset, star drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr weren’t to be denied as they powered into the lead and never looked back en route to their sixth victory in nine races during the 2012 season.
It is very nice for the whole team to get rewarded for their hard work.
The winning pair was never seriously challenged and their dominance started at the drop of the green flag. Racing into the first turn, several cars came together, sending them through the grass. Included in the melee was one of the Dyson P1 cars driven by Mark Patterson, Bruno Junqueira and Jan Magnussen in one of the two factory Corvettes.
At the end, the winning duo had a three lap advantage over the second place Dyson Racing Lola Mazda of Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Johnny Mowlen.
Said Luhr, “It feels very good to win, especially when you are always the quickest car on the track. Our last two races we had small technical issues, which affected us. It is very nice for the whole team to get rewarded for their hard work. At one point, we were running hot but my team took care of that. We had very consistent pit stops and a good effort. Klaus Graf did all the hard work today.”
Graf thought the traffic was a challenge but he managed to overcome it. “The traffic was difficult to manage. There were certain places you just couldn’t get around others and it was hard to overtake others. I drove conservatively at first. For us it was a trouble-free race, and we did what we came here to do -- to win.”
Third overall and the P2 class winner was the Level 5 Motorsports HPD-ARX-03b Honda of Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut.
Due to changing tires after grinding them down on Friday, the pair started from the back of the field but battled back from that and a penalty to cop the victory, their fifth of the season.
“It was a disadvantage to start from the rear, but we took advantage of yellow flags and stayed out of trouble,” said Tucker. “I got through the first wreck pretty good, and it all worked out well for us.” He went on to thank his team for their strong effort, an effort he believed made the difference in the end.
Stated Bouchut, “We knew we had to win if we are going to win the championship. We don’t like to lose any time. It was a pretty convincing way to win the race.”
Winning the GT class was the Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 of Oliver Gavin. In winning, they also walked away with the 2012 driver’s championship, the team championship and the manufacturer’s championship.
“It was a crazy start to the race,” Gavin said of the first-turn incident. “We got passed by one car and then I saw the dust and cars spinning, so I went to the inside and somehow the mess evaporated.”
While running second in the race, Gavin managed to chase down Johannes van Overbeek, who got caught up in traffic. “I got a run on him, and he gave me room,” Gavin said.
Milner indicated the car handled perfectly and when his tires started to go away early, his team made an adjustment that benefitted the car. “The car was really, really good for me, and it turned out to be a boring day for me.”
Regarding the championship, Gavin said, “It means a huge amount for me. I haven’t won since 2007, so it has been a long break. This year we have been a factor in every single race.”
Stated Milner, “It feels very good. I’ve had very good cars from Corvette, and everyone has made me feel at home.”
Colin Braun and Jon Bennett pushed their Oreca to the PC class win and in doing so, their sister car driven by Alex Popow took home the driver’s championship. The latter finished second in class.
Said Bennett, who owns the CORE Autosport team, “Colin and I are fierce competitors, so you want to win for yourself, but if it’s not us who wins, it needed to be Alex (Popow). He has been a pleasure to have in the paddock; he has been all over the country, other continents and multiple races.”
“It hasn’t sunk in,” Popow said. “I am sitting here and still don’t have it. Today, we were running strong but we had troubles during the race. Our steering wheel broke in half, so it was eventful. The team did an awesome job, and they have been the key to winning the championship.”
The GTC class winner was Leh Keen and 20-year old Cooper MacNeil. The pair drove Alex Job Racing’s Porsche GT3 Cup entry. In winning, MacNeil earned his first-ever driver’s championship. “The championship is great and it is unbelievable – first year here and first championship. I couldn’t have done it without Leh and of course, I have to go back to school tomorrow, so I’m not thrilled about it.”
Joe Jennings, ALMS Correspondent