GT battle was hot; Vipers first “race test” places them 10th and 12th
On a muggy day in Mid-Ohio, along with the heat, there was very little attrition in the American Le Mans Series race on the Mid-Ohio road course. Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf were unstoppable as they easily took the overall and P1 class victory.
Chris Dyson and Guy Smith had just been put a lap down by Graf in the Pickett Muscle Mail Racing Honda ARX-01a. Third overall and winners in the P2 class were Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker in the No. 055 ARX 03b.
It was not an easy win for Greg Pickett’s drivers, even if they seemed to run away with their fifth consecutive win this year. “From the outside looking in, it might have looked easy, but everyone, Klaus, myself, everyone from Muscle Milk Honda are working overtime and very hard. It is very special to win 5 in a row and in this style.”
When Graf took over for his stint, there was a moment of concern when the Honda did not start right away. Luhr said, “It got all of our attention, some extra heart beats.”
Graf who brought the car commented: “It just wouldn't start immediately. Usually you look at the button and the HPD fires up. We actually then had to do another pit stop and were concerned it would do it again. It did, but there was a lot of excitement.”
“We didn't have to go super aggressive in traffic, but we tried to get our rhythm. Traffic is always really heavy here, from turn 5 to turn 9, it is very hard to overtake cars. There was a really fierce battle in GT, so you don't want to destroy their race. It's about finding the right time in traffic to make the move. Lucas and I did a good job; we didn't put a scratch on the car.”
Dyson Racing’s No. 16 Mazda Lola was again off the pace of the HPD, but neither Guy Smith nor Chris Dyson gave up the fight during the race.
The P2 drivers, and their teams, put on a good show for the fans plus they had a few close calls. Bouchut explained their win over the No. 37 Morgan Nissan: “We got in the back of a GT car; fortunately I was able to get him held up enough I could make my move. When I was getting in the car, I had a big gap to make up. We were on a very soft tire but good grip. I was really on the limit, but I made up a lot of tenths by laps. I got back and luckily got to make the pass.”
Once again the BMW, Corvette and Ferrari drivers were right on one another’s bumper; just waiting for the perfect moment to gain a position. On the closing laps, Oliver Gavin was chasing Jorge Bergmeister for the victory. Corvette Racing’s Gavin found the right moment to make the move and it was a clean pass to land the GT class win for himself and Tommy Milner.
“It was an excellent pass on the 45. I could see that I was catching up on Jorge on his out lap. I knew if I caught him I had to nail it. I got a good run off the straight. He was protecting on the inside. I knew I could use the pass from last year and do it again. I just passed him on the outside going in to turn 4.”
Milner added, "I had a great start. I'd like to say that I planned it, but it was more about being in the right spot at the right time. I gained three spots and then the Corvette crew did a great job with the first pit stop. That was a brilliant call that put me ahead of the BMW. I ran down the No. 45 Porsche, but just couldn't get close enough to pull off a pass. It was a perfect day from the crew – the right calls and flawless execution."
The Flying Lizard Porsche had to settle for second. Pat Long had the first stint and like his teammate, the on-track fight was intense, and with only one caution period, the concentration was stellar. There were a few touches and bumps but that is normal for the close racing action.
"That was a close and exciting race. Patrick had done a phenomenal job, as did the crew, turning the car over to me in the lead. At the end, the timing of the pit stop made the difference. He got by me in the brake zone in Turn 4 where I couldn't defend: my temps and tire pressures just weren't there. But it was a great race - and over the last three races we've shown that we can again be competitive,” said Bergmeister.
Long added, "Second's never easy but today we executed at 100 percent and crossing the line two-tenths from the lead is something to be proud of. My stint was tough: there was so much traffic and I was defending against both Corvettes and the BMW.”
Third in the popular class went to Bill Auberlen and Jeorg Muller in the No. 55 BMW Team RLL. The team did win the Michelin Green X Challenge for their class.
The new GT team arrived at Mid-Ohio with one goal, to finish the race and acquire the data that will allow them to determine their future plans for the rest of this year. With a full season entry scheduled for 2013. The SRT Motorsports’ Team Viper saw both cars finish the race. Team driver Tommy Kendall returned to the series and celebrated the finish as if he had won the race.
Now that their first “race test” has been completed, they will sort out their plans on the four remaining races on this year’s calendar: Road America, Baltimore street circuit, VIR, and Road Atlanta. “Our first goal was to get through the race without any major problems,” said Gary Johnson, Road Racing Manger – SRT Motorsports. “We accomplished that. In fact, we were making progress throughout the race. The cars were getting better. Today’s race gives us an opportunity to know where the issues are and where we need to focus.”
Marino Franchitti is very glad to be back in the ALMS. After earning the Prototype Challenge pole yesterday, he and Rudy Junco Jar had a great race, and came out the victors for the PR1 Mathiasen No. 52 Oreca FLM09. Franchitti spent a great deal of his time in the first half of the year with the Highcroft Racing Nissan DeltaWing experimental prototype, and while it was a success, the plans for the future are unknown. After the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Scotsman was free.
In today’s race, he and Junco had one heck of a good battle with the two CORE autosport team cars, the RSR Oreca, and Dempsey Racing. In the end the final countdown in the boxing match was between the PR1 Oreca and CORE autosport‘s Alex Popow and Scottish racer Ryan Dalziel.
It appeared that the No. 06 from the CORE team would take the win, but Franchitti was giving it his best when suddenly the leader in the PC class had to dive in for a splash of fuel, handing the win to Junco and Franchitti. The pit stop cost the No. 06 a loss of 90 second s!
Franchitti and Junco were thrilled to take the victory. “Our setup was really good, but it took a while for it to really come in,” said Junco. “The temps in the tires were long going. We struggled at the start, but the car came in and we could go really fast. We had another car that was totaled at the other race, so the guys have been working nonstop to put this car back together for today. This was a fantastic weekend. I loved working with Marino and I learned a lot today.”
Franchitti commented: “It was a nice debut with the team, isn't it? Once I got comfortable the car, I could just ebb and flow through the traffic. Great job from the team, and it was a pleasure working with Rudy all weekend.”
The GT Challenge GTC) class was held on the results for a bit of time. On track, the JDX Porsche took the checkered flag, but it was Spencer Pumpelly arrived in the press conference for the “winning” TRG Porsche. Sound confused? So did the teams and the drivers.
When all was sorted out, TRG finished the race second with Pumpelly and Al Carter. However they ended up with the first place points toward the 2012 championship.
IMSA, the sanctioning body of the ALMS, stated that the JDX entry was disqualified for not meeting the minimum drive time for one of their drivers. On further reviews of their own rules, IMSA officials declared that the victory on the track would count, but the team would lose their first place points.
"The way the race developed with so few cautions," said Pumpelly, "we ended up having to do two full stops under green, while the No. 11 used a different 'strategy' to go for the win. Fortunately, we ended up with the all-important first place points which keeps us in the hunt for the championship."