Salinas, CA - Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was ready to fight at Laguna Seca, and they proved it by picking up their second win of the season in what was a hard fought battle with Rebellion Racing throughout the four hour event.
However, the outcome of the race came down to some good moves by Lucas Luhr, who took the lead of the race twice in the famous Corkscrew.
The first time was with about one hour and 45 minutes to go in the event when the German took advantage of Neel Jani braking a little too late into the Corkscrew to take the lead.
Luhr sat atop the timing sheet for about 30 laps before entering pit lane for what would be his final stop. The Rebellion beat the Muscle Milk HPD out of the pits but Luhr would once again move ahead of Jani with another amazing pass in the Corkscrew soon thereafter.
Checkered flag While Luhr tried to build a gap between he and the #12 Rebellion car, Jani wasn't going down without a fight and about a handful of laps later the two made contact. Both cars were able to continue despite pretty good damage to the Muscle Milk car.
It initially seemed that Jani had come out unscathed but the Rebellion driver was forced to pit lane with a puncture, which gave the lead back to Luhr.
With Rebellion's unexpected pit stop, Pickett Racing comfortably sat in the lead until a full course caution came out with about 12 minutes to go. Fortunately, after the 'pass-arounds' were complete there was still a good distance between the two P1 prototypes when the race resumed for one final lap.
Luhr went on to take the checkered flag just over six seconds ahead of Jani. The win was the second of the season for Pickett Racing and their second consecutive win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The victory gave the team the outright points lead in the Championship as well as place Lucas Luhr alone atop the ALMS charts for the most winning driver with 43 wins.
The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team now enter a month and a half break from racing, with the next round of the American Le Mans Series taking place at Lime Rock Park July 6th. The team will take advantage of the break to do some testing with its Muscle Milk HPD prototype as it prepares for the rest of the season.
Klaus Graf (driver #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a): "It's a fantastic day. What a race. I think this is sports car racing at its best. I'm very, very proud of the team. They did very good pit stops, the strategy was great and Lucas drove a hell of a race today. I think together we are a very good sports car pairing at the moment. It was just fun!
"The Rebellion was a little bit quicker in outright speed. We had to adjust the tire pressure a little bit after my first run but afterwards I was able to stay much closer to Nick (Heidfeld) and push him a little bit harder. We actually had some really close moves.
He was taking a lot of chances as well and running very hard and so did I, so we kept it very close all race long. At the end, it came down to the moves Lucas made in passing Jani.
We ran the same strategy, a good strategy and I think today we just had a little bit better race craft and maybe a little bit better race luck and sometimes that's what you need."
Lucas Luhr (driver #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a): "It's nice to be the ALMS driver with the most wins but honestly, I just think from race to race. It's nice to come here week in and week out and to compete in the P1 class and now with Rebellion we have some very, very strong competitors with Nick (Heidfeld) and Neel (Jani).
"It's sports car racing, some people don't get it, it's not always about who has the quickest car, it's who has the quickest car under all circumstances like in traffic. I have to pay a big compliment to the team for the strategy. We had a discussion on the radio at the end as I wanted to take tires and the team said no, so that I would be able to stay close to Jani.
"I took a big risk when I had to get by him, but for me it was clear that was our only chance and I took it. Then later on we had a little coming together, by no bad meaning from him, it was just an unlucky race situation but the way he hit me, I doubt very much that he would have made the corner without me being there. It was quite a big hit. At first I thought that everything was falling apart but I kept on going and I was able to regain the lead and win the race.
"I have to say a very big thank you to Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and I think I speak for Klaus as well. It's so comforting for a driver to come into the pits and you know not to worry, that the guys will get it done, that they have made the right decision.
As a driver inside the car you don't always get the picture and you get fired up, but our engineer Brandon (Fry) is the calmest and he was on the radio and said 'don't worry, we got it buddy'. A big thanks to them. It's an awesome win."