Pole sitter KLAUS GRAF and teammate LUCAS LUHR/Muscle Milk HPA ARX-03a/Honda/Michelin/E-10 won the six-hour American Le Mans Series Presented by Patron sportscar endurance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Saturday. It was the only car on the lead lap – 242. This victory is the first for the team at Laguna Seca.
Luhr turned the fastest race lap overall and in P1 – 1:15.544.
Luhr said “It was a good race for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing, especially now that we have two wins in California in front of our home crowd. It was very important for the whole team and our motivation. It was very nice.”
The other P1 car, CHRIS DYSON and GUY SMITH in Dyson Racing’s Lola B12/60 Mazda/Lola/Dunlop/Isobutanol finished twenty-third overall with 227 laps.
The fireworks shot straight up from the Start-Finish bridge as the checkered flag started to wave, startling a few. And the fog rolled in.
The second overall-place car, Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b P2 driven by team owner SCOTT TUCKER, LUIS DIAZ, and FRANCK MONTAGNY was three laps down.
Second and third P2 cars were Conquest Endurance Morgan/Nissan/Dunlop/E-10, twentieth overall; and Level 5 Motorsports SCOTT TUCKER and CHRISTOPHE BOUCHET/HPD ARX-03b/Honda/Dunlop/E-10, in twenty-ninth position.
Tucker did drive in both of his P2 cars, but IMSA rules mandate that one of the two cars has to be ‘declared’ before the race to gain points. Tucker chose No.055, which finished twenty-ninth overall.
The Level 5 Motorsports two-car P2 team had highs and lows. Montagny was leading P2 before being overtaken by his team owner in the sister car. A minute later Montagny came together in Turn Eleven with CHRIS CUMMINGS/JDX Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup/Yokohama/E-10 GTC. Montagny recovered and led P2 on and off during the afternoon. Cummings soldiered on, but finally retired after 119 laps.
MONTAGNY turned the fastest P2 lap – 1:17.003.
The competitive PC class had its winner finish third overall. COLIN BRAUN made a killer move in the closing lap, which worked to pass pole sitter BRUNO JUNQUEIRA/RSR Racing. Braun and team owner JON BENNETT drove one of the two CORE Autosport Orecas FLM09.
Braun said “The last few laps was exciting. I was racing Bruno and I knew I had to push really hard. I knew I had to set him upon in traffic, and that was going to be the only way I could get by. He went one way, and I went the other, and it turned out right for me.”
Junqueira turned the fastest PC lap – 2:19.298, a new race lap record.
Second and third in PC were Pole Sitters RSR Racing with Junqueira and TOMY DRISSI, fourth overall, followed by the other CORE car in fifth overall, driven by ALEX POPOW and TOM KIMBER-SMITH.
The other exciting group to watch, GT, had position changes up to the end and those cars were fearless in making pass after pass, even on prototypes. OLIVER GAVIN and TOMMY MILNER Corvette Racing Chevrolet/Michelin/E85 GT finished, ninth overall, with teammates JAN MAGNUSSEN and ANTONIO GARCIA hot on their heels after a killer pass near the end, to finish second in GT, tenth overall.
Gavin turned the fastest GT lap – 1:20.048.
Gavin said “I had a few close calls in the pit box, and maybe a P2 in the blend line coming out of pit lane. And then Wolf passing me for the lead, he was hard but fair; he gave me just enough room to get by. I managed to sneak by a lot of people, but we managed to catch all the breaks. Then I’d be able to get a bit of a gap. It was a great race for me today.”
Third and fourth in GT were teammates BMW Team RLL with JORG MUELLER and BILL AUBERLEN eleventh overall; and JOEY HAND and DIRK MULLER, twelfth overall.
Fifth in GT was SCOTT SHARP and JOHANNES van OVERBEEK/Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia/Michelin/E-85.
The pole-sitting Aston Martin 007, with ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, DARREN TURNER and STEFAN MUCKE finished eighth in class. Team Principal, JOHN GAW, said “Finishing eighth in class isn’t what we wanted having started from pole position, but it’s clear there is some work required to equalise refuelling times of similar cars in the ALMS because these delays cost us the chance to fight for the Vantage GTE’s first win. It’s a shame because although we didn’t come here to score points, the ALMS a terrific championship and a race win would have given the whole team a real boost.”
The top GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, TRG’s Venezuela team finished twenty-fourth overall with EMILIO Di GUIDA, JEROEN BLEEKEMOLEN and BRETT CURTIS.
Second and third finished twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth overall – GMG Racing with JAMES SOFRONAS and ALEX WELCH; and BOB FAIETA and MICHAEL AVENATTI.
DAMIEN FAULKNER/Green Hornet Racing finished fifth in class, twenty-eighth overall, but turned the fastest GTC lap of 1:28.611.
The weather seemed warmer than the high sixties it was during the first few hours. A nice breeze kept the weather in check and chased away most of the wannabe clouds. The track temperature four hours into the race was 83 degreesF.
Saturday started with a forty-minute fog delay, and ended with the fog rolling in. Curtis said “Little evidence of the sweet, close racing that happened here all day long. And that’s why we come — for the racing, not the weather.”
For those who didn’t watch the live streaming of the race, catch the race tape delay 5pm EDT on ESPN2 Sunday 13 May 2012 – Mother’s Day. The last hour was a wowser. The cars were running three abreast, making sandwiches of the middle car, with some of the passers being the GT Davids to the prototype Goliaths.
The stunt performed Thursday evening by ESPN Pit Reporter, TARO KOKI, was actually a demonstration to show the very steep elevation drop-off from the Corkscrew down to Turn Nine. It’s a 12 percent drop, the equivalent of five and a half stories from Turn Eight to Turn Eight A. Then it’s an ten story+ drop=109 feet from Turn Eight A to Turn Nine. Not sure they were able to find room to position in-trike cameras, but the footage shows how scary it was. Koki fell off,or at least pretended to. He’s fine.
After a character-building weekend kept the Alex Job Racing Lotus Evora/Cosworth/Yokohama/E-10 in the garage much of the time, BILL SWEEDLER got his first-ever laps in the car – ten in all. TOWNSEND BELL started the race and the car lasted 22 laps before the transmission gave out just past the Start-Finish Bridge, in an unsafe location. The car was towed to the garage where the crew changed the gearbox. With two+ hours remaining, Bell got back on course, but eventually retired after 66 laps.
PATRICK DEMPSEY/Lola B12/87 JuddMW V8/Michelin/E-10 spun and eventually continued after spinning out into the temporary cones driver’s left apex at the top of the Corkscrew. The cones were to keep drivers from going off there, and kicking up dust and sand upon re-entry.
When JOEY HAND/BMW Team RLL/Dunlop/E-85 took over the GT lead mid-race, he then lost his rear bumper cover after dragging it part way around the course. He drove over rumble strips out of the line trying to lose it, but instead it went flying over the hood of his rival ANTONIO GARCIA, running second in GT driving the Corvette Racing Chevrolet/Michelin/E-85.
PC Pole Sitter BRUNO JUNQUEIRA was running third in class with less than two hours to go, when he hit BUTCH LEITZINGER/52, beaching him in the gravel pit causing a Safety Car to tow him out.
ED BROWN, team owner of Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458/Michelin/E-85 spun out and stalled, causing another Safety Car situation to tow him out. During that caution, it was wholesale pitstops, with Michelin reporting the teams were switching from the medium afternoon tires to soft evening tires as the track cooled.
Six cautions punctuated the six-hour race, for a total of 35 laps. Thirty of the thirty-five cars were running at the finish.