Nancy Knapp Schilke, ALMS Correspondent
Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf were the winners in today’s American Le Mans Series race at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Bowmanville, ONT. The two drivers of the No. 06 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing P1 HPD ARX-03a Honda celebrated their 2012 birthdays this weekend – Graf took the pole yesterday on the day he turned a year older, and today was Luhr's birthday. The teammates took the win with over ten seconds to spare. It was their fourth victory this season. “”It's great to win our fourth race in a row this season.|Lucas Luhr|right””
It was the third consecutive win for the team at the Canadian road course. Graf said, "Winning here again, for the third time in a row and it also being our fourth consecutive race win this year means a lot for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and our partners HPD and Michelin. We had a little excitement today but in the end we came out on top and once again increased our points lead. We couldn't ask for more this weekend. Canada has always been good to us.”
Luhr was driving with an ankle injury he sustained on Saturday. He commented: "It's great to win our fourth race in a row this season. The guys keep on doing an awesome job and it's great to be able to reward them with this win. The best part of the birthday celebration was putting a cake into Klaus' face but unfortunately they had planned pay back on me so I got cake in the face as well! That wasn't so fun."
The No. 16 Dyson Racing Mazda Lola finished second with Guy Smith and Chris Dyson. At the start of the two hour and forty-five minute race, Dyson was ready to jump and he did; taking the early lead. Unfortunately for the team they ended up behind the eight-ball due to the safety car periods plus a stop and to penalties. They fought back and made up the ground to take second overall.
"If they had stumbled we would have been right there at the end," said Dyson. "We really unlocked some performance on our last compound combination of Dunlops, and this gives us a big step in the right direction for our next race.”
Smith gave it and the car all he could to make up lost ground. “The car was good at the end. We made a lot of changes throughout the race with tire splits and tire combinations. When I got in the car, it felt pretty good - certainly the best it has been all weekend. After the restart on the last yellow, we were forty seconds behind. Then they said I was twenty-five behind and then fifteen seconds. I kept on pushing because you want to be there to take advantage of any problems they may have at the end,” he said.
Third in the P1 class was the No. 20 Dyson car with Eric Lux and Tony Burgess.
In the P2 class, Conquest Endurance landed their first ALMS victory over the powerhouse Level 5 Motorsports team. Martin Plowman and David Heinemeier Hansson placed their No. 37 Morgan Nissan third overall; earlier in the race they had several battles with both of the HPD ARX-03b prototypes.
Despite an early penalty for passing under s a yellow flag, Heinemeier Hansson made up the lost ground and before his stint was over, he was able to grab the lead back from the No. 055 Level 5 of Scott Tucker. Plowman finished the race and concentrated on increasing the gap over the 055 HPD.
“It feels amazing to get our first win. We put all the pieces of the puzzle together, we had great pit stop, a great car, and just executed flawlessly. It was really fun racing Scott Tucker out there, I don’t think I’ve ever had that close of a dogfight in P2 before,” said a delighted Heinemeier Hansson.
Plowman added, “I feel great, it’s been a long time coming! I have one word for the win today: Finally! The team did an amazing job all weekend, the car was as close to perfect as possible, and David did a great first stint. He gave me the car in the lead and I managed to get a pretty good gap to Bouchut.“
The final ten minutes saw a tight fight between three GT cars. The leader after the final caution was Jorge Bergmeister in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche. Second on the track belonged to Jan Magnussen for the Corvette Racing team closely followed by Johannes van Overbeek in the Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari.
It was a good show with Bergmeister taking care to not make a mistake while holding Magnussen at bay, and at the same time van Overbeek was looking for the change to move into second. When Magnussen went wide on the final lap, van Overbeek went inside and took second.
Bergmeister and Pat Long scored the scored the win. Van Overbeek and Scott Sharp were second with Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in third.
On the final laps of his 100th start in an ALMS race, van Overbeek said, “The Tequila Patrón Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari was perfect today. Jan is a tough customer and I figured that was the only shot I had at him and I didn’t want to telegraph it earlier, so I saved it for last. “There were three of us running in a train. Getting to them and getting around them was a whole different story. I had a bad aero push and I knew that was the only shot, in 5a and 5b, to get around the Corvette. I did the Hail Mary on the last lap and it worked out. I can’t wait for Mid-Ohio now.”
But the story did not end there when the Flying Lizard Porsche failed the engine stall test in the post-race technical inspection. Thus the Extreme Speed Ferrari was awarded their first victory. However per Porsche later press release: “The Lizards have filed an official protest of the decision, which will be reviewed by the stewards in the coming days. No further statement was issued by either the team or the IMSA stewards as the matter is still pending.”
Scott Sharp who earlier commented that “We have been really strong the last few races, and have been the quickest car.” After learning that he and van Overbeek ended up with the win, Sharp said, ““This isn’t exactly how we envisioned our first win happening, but we’ll take it. We had a strong Ferrari today and it kept getting better as the race went on. We certainly had a winning effort today. The entire team has worked tirelessly over the last three years to get us to podium finishes and wins. This is the start of wins for ESM. It can only go up from here.”
RSR were the victors in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class with drivers Tomy Drissi and Bruno Junqueira in the No. 9 ORECA FLM09. Their first win of the season saw the two racers maintain their pace and be ready to jump if the dominant teams in the class showed any signs of weakness or had bad luck. They were in the hunt for the win and Drissi had a really good start and after the first caution, he was sitting second but he ended up having to serve a penalty which dropped him down the running order. He did not give up and with their rivals in the all ORECA cars also had their own problems, he was able to hand the RSR car over to Junqueira in one piece and with a chance to take the victory.
“I got the call that we got a penalty. The team did a good job keeping me calm because I got really upset once I heard about it. I probably did the fastest 3/4 of a lap once I heard I had to come in. It went in, served it, and then the magic started to happen. We got some breaks, we trimmed up our strategy and it started to fall in to place. Eventually we came in with that win. I think the best way to get out of a hole is to stop digging, so when we got here we decided to just let go of the past. So now we're on top, and this is a good sign of things to come. I think now, we'll have the speed, both of us, together. I think the rest of the year, we have to be smart and now we have the confidence we can do it,” said Drissi.
Like his teammate, Junqueira also was trying to keep out of trouble while pushing his car to the limit and he made the pass on Kyle Marcelli to take the lead at the 2h 16m mark. He said, “I am very happy, I joined the team last year and struggled a lot. The only time we showed some speed was here last year. It was here we received the pole. We probably had it end to end, but we made some mistakes on our part. Then we got the second place at Laguna, and we were hankering for the first win. Finally we got it.”
CORE autosport‘s team owner Jon Bennett and his rookie star Colin Braun had a few minor problems but they never gave up the fight and placed second in their No. 05 PC. In the end they had to settle for second on the podium. Third went to the No. 06 team car driven by Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel despite an incident on track.
Spencer Pumpelly and Emilio Di Guida scored the victory in the all Porsche 911 GTS class; it was the second consecutive win for the team at the newly named Bowmanville road course that of course is the historic Mosport circuit which at one time hosted the Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.
“It was nice to finally capitalize. We took advantage of it and drove a really nice car. Given the speed here and speed difference around the racetrack, I was really impressed how well everyone worked together. You could look to the left and kind of telegraph what they wanted us to do for them - really some good heads up driving from the drivers today.”
Early leader JDX Racing lost out due to engine troubles late in the race, which also allowed the GT Challenge (GTC) points leader Cooper MacNeil and his teammate Leh Keen to score second place for Alex Job Racing.
For Keen, it was his first time at the Canadian venue and he said, “The key was to extend the points lead for Coop’s championship run. My 1st time here and I like the track.” MacNeil added, “First time here for Leh and he finished second! Looking forward to Mid-Ohio.”
The final caution was at Turn 8 due to contact between local racer and previous PC leader and a GTC Porsche. Marcelli made contact with Porsche before he hit the wall, spun and ended up in the gravel.