Joe Jennings, ALMS correspondent
Luhr and Graf overall ALMS winners at Long Beach; Gavin and Milner GT winners
German aces Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf pushed their Muscle Milk Picket Racing HPD ARX-03a to victory in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series two-hour race late Saturday afternoon at Long Beach.
A large crowd turned out on a cool but sunny day to watch the intriguing race.
“I caught up to Chris Dyson and we went side-by-side for a bit, but I was able to get ahead of head and got the lead.
The victors led 52 of the 86 laps around the challenging 1.968-mile street course and they had a 43-second advantage when the checkered flag dropped. Their only competition came from Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in the Dyson Racing Lola B12/60. This pair led the opening 18 circuits and another 16 in the middle of the race.
Said Luhr, who started the race, “It was a close fight for me with Guy Smith, but he had a coming together with a BMW on the backstretch, and two laps later I had an opportunity to get by him. After making the move, I was able to pull out to a nice gap. It has been a tough weekend here without track time.”
Graf finished the race and was pleased with the result. “We did have a refueling problem during the driver change. I was ready to go but the fuel wouldn’t go in, so we lost the lead. We had planned on just one pit stop but decided to go with two, to give us enough fuel at the end. I pushed hard throughout and did qualifying laps for many laps
“I caught up to Chris Dyson and we went side-by-side for a bit, but I was able to get ahead of head and got the lead. The difficult part today was getting the tire pressures right on the car. Overall, it was a great day for us.”
Dyson and Gavin held on for second place.
The P1 class had three competitors.
The PC winners and third-place overall finisher was the CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel.
Popow started the race and said he drove aggressively from the outset. “It was a very stressful race for me, as it was my first time at Long Beach. I went aggressive from the start but later on I started saving fuel. I did make contact with another car, losing the lead, but got it back.”
Dalziel praised Popow’s driving and credited him for the team’s victory. The now Florida resident was celebrating his 10th anniversary of racing at Long Beach, the first place he raced after coming to the United States.
“It is exciting to be at Long Beach, which is one of my favorite races,” Dalziel said. “Our car was great and I had a very quick pit stop, but Alex’s performance won the race for us.
Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner put Corvette back into victory lane with a solid win in the GT class.
For Milner, it marked his first ALMS victory. “I have been racing in the ALMS since 2006 and have had opportunities to win but didn’t get it done until today,” he commented. “I am very happy with the victory but this is a total team effort. Today we had the best combination.”
Gavin drove the car to the checkered flag and had to fight off challengers to get the lead and the eventual victory. “The car was very competitive and it was all about the car’s set-up,” he said. “When I got in it, we were third and I quickly got into second over Scott Sharp and then I squeezed my way past the first-place car. It got hairy toward the end as a lot of guys were struggling.”
Three GT cars finished on the same lap. Second in class was the BMW E92 M3 of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller and third was the Ferrari F458 of Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek.
Finishing 10th overall and the P2 victor was the Level 5 Motorsports HPD-ARX-03b of Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut.
The GTC class victor was the Green Hornet Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry of Damien Faulkner and Peter LeSaffre.