Honda Performance Development continued its streak of victories in the 2013 American Le Mans Series Saturday at Virginia International Raceway, clinching its second consecutive LMP1 chassis manufacturers’ championship for HPD, as Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr successfully fought off a strong challenge from the Dyson Racing duo of Johnny Mowlem and Guy Smith to score their record-extending eighth consecutive overall and LMP1 victory.
In the LMP2 category, the duo of IndyCar veteran Ryan Briscoe and team owner/driver Scott Tucker finished third overall and first in class in their HPD ARX-03b Honda, after a race-long duel with the Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD of Anthony Lazzaro and Scott Sharp.
Starting from the outside of the first row, Graf wrested the early race lead from starting Dyson driver Mowlem, but a spin by Graf while lapping a GTC car saw Mowlem return to the front. Graf regained the lead during the first round of pit stops, handing over to co-driver Luhr. Smith and Luhr continued to battle at the front through the middle third of the two-hour, 45-minute contest.
With just over an hour remaining, the Muscle Milk team elected to pit Luhr for the final time, and he took over at the front when Smith made his final stop, and returned to the track mired in slower traffic. In the closing laps, Luhr pulled out a 22-second advantage to give the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team its 21st American Le Mans Series victory, a record-extending 49th career win for Luhr, and Graf’s 22nd victory.
Just behind the overall leaders, Level 5 Motorsports secured its third consecutive LMP2 teams’ championship after an early-race battle with Extreme Speed, with the two class rivals both running HPD ARX-03b Hondas. Tucker, who started the #551 Level 5 machine, led for the first 40 minutes, before giving way to Lazzaro.
Taking over from Tucker at the first scheduled pit stop, Briscoe chased down and passed Sharp, then gradually increased his advantage in the closing stages of the race. With Sharp finishing second, the battle for the LMP2 drivers’ championship will be renewed at the season finale at Road Atlanta with Sharp, Tucker and his Level 5 teammates Marino Franchitti and Guy Cosmo all separated by just a handful of points.
HPD, the most successful competitor in the LMP Green X Challenge since the award for “fast, clean and efficient” performance was established in 2008, received a record-extending 24th prototype Green X Challenge award, with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing once again leading the way in the prototype category.
The 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron concludes in two weeks with the October 19 Petit Le Mans endurance contest at Road Atlanta. The race also will be the final American Le Mans Series event, as the series merges with Grand-Am in 2014 to form the Tudor United Sports Car Championship.
Lucas Luhr (#6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c Honda) 1st overall and in LMP1 with co-driver Klaus Graf; ALMS series record 8th consecutive win for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and Honda in 2013; clinched the 2013 LMP1 chassis manufacturers’ championship for HPD: "Today, we had very strong competition from Dyson Racing with Guy Smith and Johnny Mowlem. We knew from the past that they have been very quick here.
Klaus did a great move at the exit of Turn 1 to get us into the lead, but in my first stint I lost the lead against Guy [Smith]. When [team manager] Brandon [Fry] called me in for my final stop, it really worked out well for us. As Klaus said, today’s victory mainly came thanks to that strategy call and the great pit stops by the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing crew.”
Scott Tucker (#551 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b Honda) 1st in LMP2 and 3rd overall with co-driver Ryan Briscoe; 7th class victory of the season for the team, clinching the LMP2 teams championship: "We had a lot on the line today and had a real good strategy coming into the weekend.
The car was great for me in my stint, and Ryan [Briscoe] did a great job. No mistakes, everything went as planned. We’re still gunning for the driver’s championship, so we’ll still need to put on our best game at Road Atlanta.”
Allen Miller (Honda Performance Development Large Project Leader, sports car racing) on Saturday’s championship-clinching victory for HPD: “Once again, the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team came through for the victory, despite a strong challenge from the Dyson team.
Congratulations to all of the Honda associates at HPD on our repeat win of the LMP1 chassis manufacturers’ championship in the final year of the ALMS, to go along with the Engine Manufacturers’ Championship clinched for Honda at Circuit of the Americas. The LMP2 battle between Level 5 and Extreme Speed was once again entertaining for the fans, setting up an exciting finale at Road Atlanta for the drivers’ championship.”
Honda Performance Development