Lisa Davidson, ALMS Correspondent
Porsche gets first GT win of season with Long and Bergmeister
Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr handily won the race for Honda at Saturday’s very competitive contest at Lime Rock Park in the American Le Mans Series Presented by Tequila Patron. While the race ended under a caution due to hometown racer Guy Cosmo's late race encounter with a Prototype Challenge car, one of the CORE Autosports cars (#05 & 06), there was plenty of great racing prior to that last yellow flag. Fortunately, Cosmo emerged from his car apparently intact.
While most expected tight racing all day between the pole sitting #16 Dyson Racing Lola Mazda car piloted by Guy Smith and Chris Dyson, and the Muscle Milk #6 car, the entire day was about Comeback Kids, including the incredible drive of those Muscle Milk twins, Luhr and Graf. Lucas Luhr was comfortably in the lead in the first hour of the race and it appeared he could just cruise to a win as he seemed to be the class of the field.
I thought maybe this is over…we were going to lose anyhow so I just put the hammer down in traffic.
Luhr then started having trouble that appeared to be electrical. And, in a situation most of us have experienced before, an onboard computer malfunctioned, sending Luhr to the pits to see what was wrong. After checking the mechanicals, the crew rebooted his computer with a Control-Alt-Delete, and off was Luhr, but now 4 laps down. Incredibly, he drove the car back toward the front before handing off the Honda to his teammate, Klaus Graf. According to Luhr, “I thought maybe this is over…we were going to lose anyhow so I just put the hammer down in traffic...By the end of my stint, we were only one lap down”.
And, then, according to Graf, “I did the pass early on to get the lap back. I could not have driven any quicker”. Graf and Smith were at one time fourth and third overall, due to the spectacular performance of the P2 team from Level 5 Motorsports, the #055 team of Tucker and Bouchut.
Before the green flag, several significant changes were made to the starting grid, with the Prototype 2 class pole car sent to the back of the grid for technical violations during qualifying. Class pole sitter, Christophe Bouchut was thus forced to start, not where he qualified, but dead last in P29. (The GT class pole sitter, Bill Auberlen, had to start from the pit lane, one lap down. Thus, of the five class pole sitters, only three were actually able to start at the head of their respective classes.).
But, as this was a day of comebacks, Bouchut powered his Honda through the field not just claiming his class lead, but at the same time, lapping both of the P1 cars so that near the end of the second hour of the race, it was 2 P2 cars leading 2 P1 cars!
As Scott Tucker noted, “In racing, it’s better to be lucky than good sometimes. We used the traffic a lot to make up some speed and gaps.” Incredibly, their #055 and the Conquest Endurance Morgan Nissan driven by Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson managed to finish on the same lead lap as the 2 P1 cars!
It was also a great day for Porsche, as the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 driven by everyone’s favorite redhead, Patrick Long and his well respected teammate, Jorg Bergmeister took the victory. As Long said, “Surely the pit stops were a big part of the win today. We had to go out and get it. The first stint and a half were on the same set of tires. It speaks to the quality of tires Michelin brought today”.
In the other two classes, a win was posted in the PC class by the all-American team of John Bennett and Colin Braun, driving an Oreca Chevrolet on Michelin tires. Indeed the Michelin Man was working overtime today, as the manufacturer won in every class in which they entered. And, in the GTC class, polesitter Leh Keen drove with first time victor Cooper MacNeil to take the win in their Alex Job Racing Porsche on Yokohama tires.
The American Le Mans series next races at Mosport on July 22nd.