Great performance ends in disappointment
Salinas, CA (September 18, 2011) - Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing saw their American Le Mans Series championship hopes disappear on Saturday at Laguna Seca when they crossed the finish line fifth in class, despite another great effort by the team.
The Benicia, California-based crew was faced with many adversities throughout the race, starting with a 60-second stop and go penalty given to Lucas Luhr for what was considered avoidable contact between the sister Aston Martin Racing factory car and the Muscle Milk car just over an hour into the race.
Although the German wasn't responsible for the contact, he served the penalty and unfortunately found himself one-lap down upon exiting the pits. As has been the team spirit since the beginning, Luhr didn't give up and just pushed harder to get back on the lead lap only eight laps later.
Luhr then went on to reduce the gap from over one minute 25 seconds to just over 25 seconds before a full course caution came out 10 minutes later. The team took advantage of the caution period to pit for fuel and tires and do a driver change.
When the race went back to green, Klaus Graf found himself in second place fighting for the lead with Guy Smith in the #16 Dyson Racing car. The two continued to battle for another hour and a half but just when Graf was closing in on Smith, the German encountered problems with the oil pump that sent him to the team's paddock area for repairs.
While it initially looked like the team was not going to make it back out, the Muscle Milk team once again prevailed, never giving up, and headed back on track one hour and 13 minutes later.
Even if the team was 50 laps down to first place, Graf kept on pushing and running laps faster than the leaders, but the damage was done and they had to settle for fifth in class.
The team's position at the finish combined with Dyson Racing allowing their #16 car to pick up first place points, meant that the Muscle Milk team would see their class rivals take home the Championship honors.
Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing will be back on track in two weeks time for the season finale at Road Atlanta.
Bullitt wins Hard Charger Award in Race 1 at Laguna Seca
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's Mark Bullitt picked up the Hard Charger award in Saturday's IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama race for his drive through the field in Race #1 at Laguna Seca.
Bullitt, who started 16th, crossed the finish line in seventh after making up six positions on the first lap alone.
The German maintained his 10th place position until a first caution period came out about 15 minutes into the race. Having picked up one spot before the yellow, the driver of the #6 Muscle Milk Porsche GT3 Cup Car made up another one on the restart to put him eighth.
With less than eight minutes to go following another restart, Bullitt gained one more position to take over seventh place. Despite making his way to sixth, in the final minutes of the race, he once again found himself in seventh by the time he crossed the finish line.
Based on the fastest lap times of Race #1, Bullitt will be starting tomorrow's race in tenth position when the one hour and 15 minute IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge race goes green at 12:45 pm local time.
MUSCLE MILK QUOTES
AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES DRIVERS
Klaus Graf, co-driver Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
"Tough day. Once again, it is what it is. What can you say, it just wasn't meant to be. I think we had a strong package, certainly strong enough to win today, even with some hiccups and a stop and go and all kinds of stuff going on. We fought back and we were looking very strong at the point when the problem occurred.
"Honestly, I didn't think that we would make it back out, I thought that was it. But hats off to the guys, again. John Ogden, our Aston Martin engineer, he's a great guy and he said we could probably fix it and we did and got back out.
"That shows the spirit of the team and that's important. It's obviously a disappointing day for us but we look forward to the final race at Petit Le Mans. It's a fun place and I love it there.
"Finally, congrats to Dyson Racing, they've run very consistent this year, and that's what you have to do to win a championship, we had some problems and yes it's disappointing but at the same time it probably means that Greg (Pickett) might be driving at Petit Le Mans and that would be great."
Lucas Luhr, co-driver Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
"Our Muscle Milk guys worked really hard, we improved the car a lot from qualifying to the race and we were very competitive. Everything was going really well, but then I got a penalty for avoidable contact, which was completely unnecessary. I didn't do anything, Stefan Mucke spun in front of me and then I touched him, but I had no where to go. I still don't understand why I got a penalty, but there's no use in complaining about it now since it's over.
"Afterwards, we made a good comeback and got back on the lead lap. Everything was going great, we were competitive and Klaus was doing a great job but then out of the corkscrew he lost the power on the car because of an issue with the oil pump. Fortunately, our boys, once again, did an awesome job to bring us back on the track.
"I'm just really sad for Klaus because I think he deserved to have another shot at the championship but congrats to Dyson Racing for winning it. We'll just keep working hard and come back strong.
IMSA GT3 CUP CHALLENGE BY YOKOHAMA DRIVER
Mark Bullitt, driver #6 Muscle Milk Team CytoSport \"The car was really good today after fixing the small brake issue that we had on Friday. I had a really good start and we were able to hang with the front guys. As I got more comfortable with the braking again, we started picking up spots. But at one point going into the corkscrew I flat spotted at least two tires and after that it was a little bit sketchy with the car but we still had a good finish. I'm happy with today's result and that the car ran really well in the race.
"We're starting 10th tomorrow, so we've improved our starting position by three rows from today, and I'm really looking forward to it, especially since we get an extra 30 minutes of racing."