Benicia, CA - It's been a very busy off-season for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, as the American Le Mans Series team has been preparing for the 2013 season as well as for its biggest challenge yet: the defense of its ALMS P1 Championship title.
While both the team and drivers are looking forward to kicking off the season next week at Sebring International Raceway, they also know that repeating its 2012 feat won't be an easy task.
The team's first challenge is the biggest, most important event on the ALMS calendar, the 12 Hours of Sebring, also known as the hardest sports car race in the world.
The Greg Pickett-led squad will not only be facing tough on-track competition, as they go up against the likes of the factory Audi team, Rebellion Racing and long-time rivals Dyson Racing, but the 3.74-mile, 17-turn road course is a challenge in itself.
Furthermore, as one of the top points paying events of the season, the race becomes that much more important as a team's performance at the once around the clock event can make or break a season.
No matter the challenges that will be presented to them by the 12 Hours of Sebring, Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, Romain Dumas and the entire Pickett Racing team are ready for the first battle of the season.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, who finished second in class in 2012 after a strong debut performance aboard their HPD prototype, will kick things off at Sebring International Raceway with a full day of testing on Monday, March 11, with more testing on Tuesday and Wednesday before official practice begins on Thursday, March 14.
The 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring fueled by Fresh from Florida goes green on Saturday, March 16th and will be broadcast live on SPEED starting at 10:30 am ET.
Klaus Graf - driver #6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing: "Everyone at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing is looking forward to the first race of the season. The 12 Hours of Sebring is the most important race of the year. It can decide the outcome of your season, as we've experienced both ways in the past!
"Sebring is one of the rare tracks that still provides a pure form of racing. Doing a 12 hour race is already challenging enough but doing one at Sebring makes it that much more difficult. I think it's the hardest sports car race in the world.
"The track itself is so demanding, it can be brutal with all the bumps and finding the right setup can be tricky, not just because of those bumps, but the track conditions change all the time.
"A lot of preparation goes into this race in particular. The P1 prototypes require a lot of work and the team is focused on every detail. All in all, it's a race that takes a lot out of the engineers, mechanics and drivers.
"We've done a lot of testing leading up to this event and our number one goal at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will be to get away with some points.
The competition will be tough with the factory Audi cars amongst others, but we ran competitively against them there last year with our HPD prototype, which was brand new to us at the time, and we hope to do it again."
Lucas Luhr - driver #6 Muscle Milk Muscle Milk Pickett Racing:
"It will be nice to finally get the season started. It's always great to head to Sebring and after our performance there last year, I'm really looking forward to it.
We didn't get the result we had hoped for last year but we ran strong and we now have a full year of experience with our HPD prototype so it's promising.
"Sebring is a very tough track, its very bumpy and it can be difficult to find a good setup, especially when you are running into the night with the temperature changes and the fact that the track conditions change constantly from one session to the next.
"That said, there are also some smooth parts so it's important to find the right balance between the different sections. The bumps are not only hard on the car but also on the drivers as you are constantly being bounced around! It's not an easy race.
"Everyone at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has been working hard getting ready for this race. We always have the big picture in mind during the off-season but the main focus is always Sebring, it's such an important race and getting a good result can have a huge impact on the Championship, or vice versa! The 12 Hours of Sebring is our biggest event. In other sports you sort of build up to it, but not for us!"
Romain Dumas - driver #6 Muscle Milk Muscle Milk Pickett Racing: "It's no secret that Sebring is a unique track. This circuit is among the most difficult.
We often say that it is hard for the car because of the bumps, as well as the heat, but it is also hard on the drivers! The track is pretty nice because it mixes really fast corners and slower turns.
The last corner is quite tricky, probably one of the most complicated. In a Le Mans Prototype, Turn One is so exciting and I'm sure that with the downforce of the Muscle Milk HPD, it will be good fun!
"I always have a special feeling when I arrive at Sebring. I won there in 2008, with a broken knee, and it remains a great memory. But before that, I had several unlucky races and I know that Sebring is decisive when you are fighting for the title.
In one hand, you have to be smooth with the car because it's a long race. In the other, you have to stay close to the leaders to be in a position for the win. Pit stop and strategy under caution are also very important.
Like for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, you have to gather together a lot of parameters to win. Maybe even more than at Le Mans! "Adding to that, the atmosphere is simply amazing.
I went to the campsite a few times to meet the fans. They are always very welcoming. It's nice to talk with them and see all their stuff and games they play.
Each year, Sebring is one of the highlights. After Daytona, this is the first BIG race and I am always looking forward to that. This year, I'm very happy to be back with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. The team and the car are strong and I hope to do well with my teammates."
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing