Sebring, FL - It wasn't quite the way that Muscle Milk Pickett Racing was hoping to kick off the 2013 season at the 12 Hours of Sebring. But, despite a fourth place finish overall, at the end of the day, the team still scored some valuable points in the Championship standings.
From then on, the Muscle Milk squad had an up and down day that was marred by two stop and hold penalties for avoidable contact.
It started with Lucas Luhr being forced to make an extra visit to pit lane after losing a wheel following a stop. Nevertheless, the team recovered well with Luhr and Romain Dumas making up time to the third place Rebellion car and Graf making his way back into third just past the six-hour mark.
After the team had battled back from its first incident, Graf made contact with a PC car that was going slower than normal. The German received a stop and 60 second hold penalty for the contact, which once again set them back.
Damaged Muscle Milk HPD That wasn't the end of the team's misfortunes though. As Graf was once again reducing the gap between he and the Rebellion car, contact with a P2 car was again blamed on him and he received another stop and 60 second hold penalty.
With the second penalty, the team found themselves one lap down to the #12 Rebellion car with about four hours and 30 minutes to go.
As they've done many times in the past, and earlier that day, Luhr, Dumas and Graf took their turns at fighting back as they aimed for a podium finish.
When Graf took command of the Muscle Milk HPD with about one hour and a half to go, he was just over 30 seconds from getting his lap back.
About a half hour after that, he was back on the lead lap, but it was too late as the checkered flag fell on the season opening race with the Muscle Milk team 55 seconds behind the third place Rebellion car.
Next up for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will be the Grand Prix of Long Beach April 19th and 20th, where the duo of Graf and Luhr have won the past two seasons.
Klaus Graf - driver #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a: "We had a very good car, our Muscle Milk HPD was really quick. We, for sure, had the best petrol car, clearly. But we didn't get away with a podium behind the Audis because we got two stop and hold penalties, which I feel was very unfair.
"In my opinion, race control took the race away from us today. We got two stop and 60 second hold penalties and that to me is ridiculous. I couldn't avoid the incidents, to me that is not acceptable honestly.
"Overall, we pushed hard, came back onto the same lap as Rebellion and the guys did a great job in the pits and we came close, only 55 seconds at the end to the Rebellion car. I guess it just wasn't meant to be.
"Congrats to them. They drove a great race with no mistakes and stayed clean. It was a very interesting 12 Hours of Sebring in what we can call the petrol class.
I think that we can look forward to a great ALMS season this year, between Rebellion, Dyson and us at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing."
Lucas Luhr - driver #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a: "It's very disappointing how the race ended because we had them (Rebellion) covered in outright speed. The first penalty was sort of objective, depending on how you looked at it, but the second one is a joke.
It gives a message to the slower drivers that they can do whatever they want. If they get hit, it's the other guy's fault, and it can be very dangerous.
"Overall, I have to say, I'm very, very proud of the team. We had some issues in testing during the off-season but they sorted everything out. The Muscle Milk HPD was awesome to drive and more importantly very reliable, so big credit to them.
"It's a shame because they did deserve a victory today. We were trying, but sometimes it's just not your day. It has nothing to do with luck or bad luck. Sometimes, it's just not meant to be but we'll get them in California next month."
Romain Dumas - driver #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a: "It was a very interesting race for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, even if we were a bit unlucky. The performance level between the cars was at a point that we couldn't allow ourselves to make many mistakes but we did and consequently it impacted our race.
We were the fastest petrol car throughout the race but we would have needed some more time to catch up. "It seems that's all we did all race was try to catch up from what brought us down. It's too bad but the performance and reliability was there, so that is encouraging for the team."
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing