Graf sails to Road America pole in Pickett’s Muscle Milk HPD ARX Honda

Nancy Knapp Schilke

On the 4.048 mile Road America road course, Klaus Graf put the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing No. 6 HPD ARX-03a on the American Le Mans Series pole in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. One of the two German hot shoes for the team, Graf turned his best lap at 1:50.191. The other hot shoe is of course Lucas Luhr. The dynamite team now has five poles this season as they continue to dominate the P1 class this season, and they are well on their way to clinch the overall and class 2012 championship.

"The team has grown a lot in the last couple years and it is getting better and better and we're always very competitive," said Graf. "Lucas and I are also very competitive against each. We have a lot of respect for each other and there is no ego involved, it's a very healthy relationship but we all want to go out and do the best job we can."

Graf added, "The #16 car wasn't out today, so that was unfortunate, but we still went out and tried to do the perfect lap. The lap was very good and we could've done more laps if we had to, but there was no point in doing that. We were pleased with the performance of the car."

Try as they might, the Dyson Racing Mazda Lola is no match for the speed of the Honda. However as Graf alluded to, the In today’s qualifying, the No. 16 car of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith did not make it out onto the track due to gearbox problems. Instead the second fastest P1 was the No. 20 Dyson Mazda in the hands of Eric Lux. His best lap was over three seconds off the pace of Graf as Lux clocked a 1:53.392 to land on the front row; just 0.826 seconds faster than the top P2 team.

Third fastest overall was the No. 37 Conquest Racing Morgan Nissan with Martin Plowman laying down a 1:54.218 to nail the P2 pole. Not far off the pace of Plowman was Christophe Bouchut with a 1:54.407 in the No. 055 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03a. Third was the Level 5 team owner, Scott Tucker, with his best lap of 1:55.977 in the team’s No. 95 Honda

It was Plowman’s first time at Road America and he commented, “I’m very excited with our result today. Road America is a pretty special place, even though I had never been here before I did a bunch of laps in iRacing before coming here so I knew which way it went, but once you drive it in real life its not nearly as easy. This place is very fast, very fun, and its epic, its one of the iconic tracks in America but you need to have a lot of respect for it.”

Marco Holzer put Porsche on the coveted pole with his best lap of 2:04.415 in the Flying Lizard No. 44 911 GT3 RSR. After earning his first ALMS career pole, and a new track record, Holzer said, "It was an unbelievable day for me. The car was fantastic. “

Per usual in the GT class, the teams were in a tight fight for the pole. Missing the pole by 0.013 seconds was Jorg Bergmeister in the Lizard’s No. 45 Porsche with his best lap of 2:04.428.

Holzer commented on the battle between the two Lizard Porsches: “It was a tough quali because on each lap, after I had crossed start/finish, they radioed that I had P1, then ten seconds later that Jeorg had overtaken and I was now P2. For four laps we both pushed hard and kept alternating for P1. On the last lap, I nearly went off, I was so over the limit, but I made it for the fast time. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow; Road America is my favorite track in the U.S. and has everything you could want as a driver."

Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin placed third with his best lap of 2:04.871 in the No. 4 Corvette C6-ZR1. The Briton was the first to break the track GT record, and he commented: “It was a bit frustrating not to be on pole, of course, but we’ve been really encouraged by our pace in all the sessions so far. I think we’ll be really good on the longer runs in the race tomorrow and, in a four-hour race, all sorts of things can happen.”

Merchant Services Racing’s Kyle Marcelli grabbed the Prototype Challenge (PC) pole with a 1:57.172 in his No. 8 spec Oreca FLM09 for a new class record. He said, “(Road America) is a fast circuit and you have a lot of time to think. We had a car that is working so well for us. I told my engineers it was a perfect qualifying car, but we'll need to make some adjustments for the race.”

Second went to Thomas Kimber-Smith in the No. 05 CORE autosport PC with a 1:57.790; just barely faster than third placed Bruno Junqueira at a 1:57.829 for RSR Racing. The gap from the pole winner to third was a mere 0.657 seconds.

The GT Challenge pole was won by Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 with his fastest lap of 2:12.773. The Dutch racer commented on his record breaking lap, “It seems every class is beating the record. It is cooler here, so we have a lot of power in the engines. It will be a fight in the end again, for sure. We have four or five really strong cars where the lap times during the race will have two- or three-tenths of a second in difference.”

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Guy Smith , Klaus Graf , Bruno Junqueira , Lucas Luhr , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Christophe Bouchut , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Eric Lux , Alex Job , Marco Holzer , Martin Plowman , Chris Dyson , Scott Tucker , Kyle Marcelli
Teams Conquest Racing , Corvette Racing , Muscle Milk Pickett Racing , Dyson Racing , Alex Job Racing , RSR Racing , CORE autosport
Article type Qualifying report
Tags alms, bleekemolen, featured, graf, holzer, honda, hpd, marcelli, pickett, plowman, road america