Laguna Seca: Sascha Maassen race report

Sascha Maassen - champion! Sascha Maassen experienced a "little miracle" as he and Lucas Luhr won their fourth American Le Mans Series co-championship after finishing second and first, respectively, in the final race of the season, ...

Sascha Maassen - champion!

Sascha Maassen experienced a "little miracle" as he and Lucas Luhr won their fourth American Le Mans Series co-championship after finishing second and first, respectively, in the final race of the season, Saturday evening at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. The title is their first in a prototype car; the miracle that they earned it driving different cars.

Maassen, of Raeren, Belgium, teamed with Timo Bernhard of Dittweiler, Germany, in the No. 6 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder. Luhr, of Monaco, shared driving duty with Romain Dumas of Basel, Switzerland, in the No. 7 Spyder.

Maassen started the four-hour race from the LMP2 pole position after setting a class qualifying lap record of one minute 14.030 seconds on the 2.238-mile road course. He drove the first race stint, encountering trouble as two LMP1-class Audi cars closed around him at the start. The resulting contact damaged the car's nose, but the crew quickly replaced it during the first caution period.

"I was really afraid about the start and I was right," Maassen said. "The Audis, with all the power, came next to me, really close. I was in the middle and I touched one, couldn't avoid it. The damage was not bad so I could continue and we changed [the nose] when there was a yellow. I was lucky."

Maassen regained track position and moved back up to first in class, second overall before handing off to Bernhard at 1h47. Luhr drove the final stint in the No. 7 Spyder, taking the class lead as Bernhard pitted for fuel and tires at 2h38. The pair continued to the checkered flag, giving the race win to Dumas and Luhr, the championship to Luhr and Maassen.

"Both cars finished, and we finished one and two in class and in the right order -- Lucas won and I finished second. That was the order we were aiming for in a perfect scenario, and it happened, so we could become co-champions," Maassen explained.

"It sounds simple, only mathematics, but it wasn't. Four hours of racing here at Laguna Seca -- so many things can happen, there are so many close incidents -- that it works out in the end is a little miracle. Even though we planned it, it was hard to believe we could achieve it. Also important was that the car lasted; without having the reliable car that Porsche gave us, it would not be possible."

Maassen was elated with the championship:

"The first championship, of course, is special. Then we repeated the championship -- it sounds like only repeating, but it hasn't happened very often to repeat a championship. The third championship was really nice because we were behind in the championship the whole year; we had to chase for it. It was something very emotional and exciting. This one is the first championship in a prototype. Right now, this one is overwhelming everything else. I think I will realize it in a few days ..."

-credit: sp

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Timo Bernhard , Romain Dumas
Teams Team Penske