Mid-Ohio: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING ALMS SQUAD SUFFERS TOUGH DAY AT HOME TRACK LEXINGTON, Ohio - A sunny Saturday in Central Ohio appeared to be tailor-made for Rahal Letterman Racing's American Le Mans Series squad as a large crowd flocked to the Mid-Ohio...

RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING ALMS SQUAD SUFFERS TOUGH DAY AT HOME TRACK

LEXINGTON, Ohio - A sunny Saturday in Central Ohio appeared to be tailor-made for Rahal Letterman Racing's American Le Mans Series squad as a large crowd flocked to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to cheer the Ohio-based RLR #18 BellMicro Porsche 911GT3 RSR squad to victory in today's Acura Sportscar Challenge.

And while the first 12 laps went well, with Ralf Kelleners running down and passing one of the Risi Ferraris for position, things clouded over quickly for the first-year GT2 team. Electrical problems forced Kelleners to make a 37-minute pit stop for repairs, denying the team the chance to repeat its podium performance from Lime Rock Park two weeks ago and leaving it to finish eighth in the class.

But for as tough as the racing luck was today, the grit and determination showed by the Rahal Letterman Racing team was even tougher as the team rebounded and gained a pair of positions in the race's waning stages.

Starting sixth in the GT2 class, Kelleners put up a strong fight in the first dozen orbits of the house Les Griebling built before being felled by the trouble.

The BellMicro RLR team dutifully diagnosed the trouble and got the Porsche back out on track after the delay, keeping the team in the race. The quick pit work was key as the ALMS Rule Book states that a car must be on-track for 70 percent of the race in order to be classified. The RLR squad completed the work with 12 minutes remaining before the car would have been unable to reach the 70 percent mark, which would mean that the car would have been removed from the race.

"We knew how much time we had to work with when the guys took the car behind the wall," said lead engineer Chris Yanchar. "It ended up being one of those things at the end where you have one eye on the problem and another on the clock, but we got it done and got back in the race."

The work paid off handsomely as both Kelleners and Milner turned quick laps after the repair. Milner's fastest lap of the day, which came with three laps to go in the race, was faster than any lap turned by the GT2 class-winning car of Jorg Bergmeister and Johannes van Overbeek.

"It is really a shame because we showed we had a competitive car today," said Kelleners. "We ran with the Ferraris early and could have given them a good fight. When we went into the pits, I was hoping it would just be a small problem, but it turned out to be bigger. All you can do is sit there and wait to get back out."

Kelleners took the car back out to complete his stint before handing it over to Milner, who started his day in 10th place. Undaunted, he started ticking off laps around the 13-turn road course in search of positions. He got into ninth when the #21 Panoz expired, then slipped into eighth just 10 minutes from the end of the race when the #71 Tafel Racing Porsche had problems on its final pit stop.

"It's never fun being that far down and being out there on track because everyone is out there racing for position, so you have to try and give them some room to race, like you want them to do for you," Milner said. "But we kept with it, gained some spots and turned some fast laps at the end which was encouraging."

The ALMS cars will have the next weekend off before heading to the fabled 4.048-mile layout at Road America for the Generac 500 August 9-11.

-credit: rlr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Jörg Bergmeister , Johannes van Overbeek