(Muscle) Milk Flowing Through VIR’s Hills Quickest on test day for ALMS’ first visit to circuit
With an eye toward regaining the form that won it five straight races earlier this year, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing set the fastest time in testing Thursday at VIRginia International Raceway for the weekend’s VIR 240. The No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a turned a best lap of 1:37.457 (120.792 mph) with Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr sharing seattime.
Saturday’s four-hour race – the ninth round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón championship – is the first at the venue for the ALMS.
Muscle Milk’s car was 1.627 seconds clear of Dyson Racing’s No. 16 Lola-Mazda coupe of Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Johnny Mowlem. Dyson Racing is on a two-race winning streak and debuts a flywheel hybrid system in the No. 16 car this weekend.
Extreme Speed Motorsports’ No. 02 Ferrari F458 Italia led the GT runners with a lap of 1:47.233 (109.780 mph). Guy Cosmo and Ed Brown share the Ferrari, which was 0.755 seconds clear of Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner. The pairing can clinch the GT drivers’ championship this weekend with at least a runner-up finish Saturday.
ESM’s No. 01 Ferrari of Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek was third-fastest in GT on Wednesday at 1:48.005 (108.995 mph).
Level 5 Motorsports’ two HPD ARX-03b prototypes were 1-2 in the P2 class. The No. 055 entry of Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut set a time of 1:40.333 (117.329 mph) on the car’s last lap. That gave it a 1.048-second gap back to the No. 95 sister car.
Conquest Endurance was third in class with a lap of 1:41.443 (116.045 mph) in the No. 37 Morgan-Nissan of David Heinemeier-Hansson and Martin Plowman.
Prototype Challenge team champion CORE autosport went quickest in the class thanks to a 1:41.998 (115.414 mph) for the No. 05 ORECA FLM09 of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. The gap back to the second-place No. 8 Merchant Services entry of Kyle Marcelli and Lucas Downs was a slim 0.077 seconds. The No. 7 Merchant Services ORECA was third at 1:42.987 (114.306 mph) with Tony Burgess, Pablo Sanchez and Eric Lux driving.
Green Hornet Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup was the fastest GT Challenge runner at 1:52.942 (104.230 mph). Damien Faulkner and Peter LeSaffre share driving duties in the No. 34, which was 0.948 seconds clear of NGT Motorsport’s No. 30 Porsche of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Henrique Cisneros. Class championship leader Alex Job Racing was third with a 1:54.140 (103.136 mph) lap for the No. 22 Porsche of Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen.
AJR can wrap up the team championship with a third-place finish or better. MacNeil will win the drivers’ title with at least a fourth-place finish.
Friday will see two practice sessions for the ALMS with qualifying set for 3:30 p.m. ET.
Klaus Graf, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing No. 6 HPD ARX-03a (P1) “It’s totally different now than in the June test. You would think it would be easy to overtake but it’s not actually. Traffic will be an issue. A lot of the track is just a single lane. GT cars are very much fighting with their own cars while going through the quick corners. So if you catch one of them in the wrong place, you can lose four to five seconds per lap. The track can have a very good grip level, and that’s a good thing for the race. At the moment it is very dusty, so we will work hard to find a good setup. It is a very good mixture here with high-speed sections and technical parts. We didn’t run as much downforce as you would think. You need a very good mechanical balance and traction in the slower parts. This track has three long straights – coming out of Turn 5, out of the Oak Tree Turn and Turn 17. These are very key corners. Our priority is to have a trouble-free, four-hour race. We have done that many times this year. It’s one of those things where we have to get the monkey off our back.”
Johnny Mowlem, Dyson Racing No. 16 Lola B12/60-Mazda (P1) (Comparing Dyson flywheel hybrid with Corsa Motorsports Zytek with KERS) “The principal is similar in that you’re regenerating under a certain level of brake pressure and it releases when you’re not traction limited. In other words it releases in third gear. The last time we had an OEM battery and that made it tough to generate enough kilowatts to get any real extra horsepower. By the end of the 2009 season we went very well against the Acura P1s. Before then it was more of a hindrance rather than a help. This system from the get-go is going to be a help. The feeling so far with this system is that it is very good. It’s exciting for me to be one of the few people to drive a KERS and flywheel system.”
David Heinemeier-Hansson, Conquest Endurance No. 37 Morgan-Nissan (P2) "The track is phenomenal. I really like it as a driver’s track. It’s going to be very interesting. When I was out there by myself it was very easy to get into a good rhythm, but as soon as you throw some GT cars into the mix it gets a whole lot tougher. It seems like this track is made for one car; there’s not enough room for two cars to go comfortably down side-by-side in even the slightest kink. That’s going to be the biggest challenge here: to get through traffic without ending up in someone’s fender."
Sascha Maassen, Paul Miller Racing No. 48 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT) "The track is amazing. It’s very challenging with a lot of very interesting corners. On the other hand, the racing is going to be very difficult because we have so many different cars at different speeds, and I’m afraid that the track will be pretty busy. It will be difficult to avoid contact."
Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing No. 4 Corvette C6 ZR1 (GT) “It’s fantastic. The circuit is a bit narrow in parts. It’s a lot of fun. There are a lot of high-speed corners, and the Esses up the hill are a real challenge; in qualifying I think you should be able to do it flat out. With the slow-speed stuff, you have to use a bit of curb here and there, but you have to be careful how much you use. The surface is a little bit slick in places, but overall our car seems to be performing really well here. The circuit has a nice rhythm to it and at the moment I’m really encouraged by it. I like the track a lot, and I think the thing that’s really going to shape the race is the traffic. The circuit’s so narrow and there are some pretty big speed differentials in the corners. Between the five classes, I think there are going to be some places where you could lose some significant time.
“I think you’re going to see a lot of action around Turn 1, Turn 3 and Turn 4 area. People are going to have to be quite disciplined through the Esses. There’s only room for one car up there through; if you try to get side-by-side through there it’s going to end up in a real mess. I’m sure you’ll see a lot of dirt and stuff flying through the Esses because people will take chances to try and make up time. I think coming down the back straight and into the last corner, you’ll see some overtaking moves there; you can brake pretty deep there.”
Bill Auberlen, BMW Team RLL No. 55 BMW M3 GT (GT) "VIR is an amazing track. When you put an amazing car on an amazing track, it makes for an incredible experience. To drive this BMW around this track is so challenging and so fun. It puts a smile on my face. I love it. These are technically, the best cars in the world and are going to be some of the fastest cars this track has ever seen. Great drivers and great cars make for great racing.”