Nancy Knapp Schilke, ALMS Correspondent
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing to contest new year with HPD and drivers’ Graf and Luhr
Greg Pickett’s Muscle Milk American Le Mans Series LMP1 team finished the 2011 season in a tight battle with Dyson Racing. During the season, they landed poles, race wins and podium finishes and just lost out on the team, manufacturers and drivers titles. For 2012, they aim for the championships but this time with Honda Performance Development.
Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr will return for the new season as the two full-time drivers of the ARX-03a. They will begin their challenge in February at the ALMS’ Winter Test in Sebring, Florida. “It goes without saying, I am very much looking forward to having both Klaus (Graf) and Lucas (Luhr) back together again and this time for a full season,” said Pickett.
“They've provided us with many happy memories this past season and I can't wait to see what they will achieve aboard our new Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a this upcoming season. Between them and our LMPC drivers Memo Gidley and Mike Guasch, I think we will have a very exciting and competitive year,” he added.
I am very excited to be here with Greg, Klaus and the entire team.
Graf commented, "I'd like to welcome Lucas back to our team. To have him on board full-time is another important piece of our continued growth and commitment as an organization. Lucas and I are a perfect fit, not only can we put in strong performances together but we also enjoy each other’s company very much, which makes things a lot easier.”
The two-time Le Mans GT class winner was not available for the full 2011 season due to a previous commitment in the FIA GT1 series, but after his first time with the team at Sebring, his smile alone expressed his delight at being part of the team. “I am very excited to be here with Greg, Klaus and the entire team,” said Luhr back in March of this year. Luhr and his co-driver Michael Krumm earned the FIA GT1 World Championship this year.
About staying with the team in 2012, Luhr said, "I want to say thank you to Klaus, Greg, the entire Pickett family and the Muscle Milk brand for giving me a chance to compete in the ALMS again with a very cool and nice car that is the HPD LMP1 prototype. As I got to know Greg and his entire family last year, I was extremely impressed with their commitment and passion about winning. We had a good season last year, especially in terms of wins, but we are going for more in 2012 and I would like nothing more than to win an ALMS title for this team."
Pickett owns the health and nutrition company known as CytoSport and Muscle Milk is one of their main products and as in past years, it will be the sponsor on their prototype. Their new deal with American Honda and CytoSport includes Muscle Milk as the sponsor of the Honda factory motocross team which now will be known as Team Honda Muscle Milk. In this day and age with the economy problems across the world, the two formed a win-win situation for both parties.
Pickett said, “From a company and brand perspective, to begin a relationship with the iconic brand that is Honda, and to be involved in two out of three of its major U.S. motorsports programs is fantastic and I couldn't be more appreciative.”
This will be the third full season for the Pickett owned team in the ALMS. Michelin will again be their partner and tire supplier. "We're very proud to announce this deal with HPD as we feel confident that their car and engine package along with our tire partner Michelin offer us the best combination to achieve our ultimate goal of 2012, which is to win the LMP1 championship," said Pickett.
HPD’s vice president Steve Eriksen commented, "We are really excited to work with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. Having competed against them in the past we are well aware of their strong potential to win on any given race weekend. "I'm also excited about the cross promotional possibilities offered by Muscle Milk's involvement in both the Honda motocross team and the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing LMP1 program next year.”
“We look forward to helping the team achieve their dream of winning the ALMS LMP1 championship in the coming year,” added Eriksen.
Graf and Pickett built up a close relationship at their first meeting and have stuck together through the good and the bad times. It would have been odd if Graf did not return to the Muscle Milk team. "I'm very thrilled about our new LMP1 program for the 2012 ALMS season," expressed Graf. "The Honda Performance Development ARX-03a, powered by HPD's proven 3.4L LM-V8 engine, should be the right package to achieve our goal which is to win the ALMS Championship.
"The HPD LMP1 prototype is a state of the art LMP1 built with the latest technology and resources. It's a privilege to be able to drive one of these modern LMP1 cars and a great thanks to Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and Greg (Pickett) personally for this commitment. Every year, the team gets stronger and stronger and our four race wins last season have proven that," added Graf.