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May 14, 2013 - 07:26 PM
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ALMS: Muscle Milk Breaks Through At Monterey
Posted by: newsla on May 14, 2013 - 07:25 PM
American Le Mans Series News
ALMS: Muscle Milk Breaks Through At Monterey

After battling the mights of Rebellion Racing following a thrilling duel, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing came out on top in Saturday's American Le Mans Monterey.


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Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf took their HPD ARX-03a to back-to-back P1 victories, thanks in part to late-race contact between the two prototypes, which ended in a puncture for the No. 13 Rebellion Lola B12/60 Toyota of Neel Jani.

The two cars had a coming together with less than 40 minutes to go, while navigating around a GTC car. It resulted in an unscheduled stop for the Rebellion machine to replace the left-front tire, just moments after Jani re-took the overall lead.

It gave clear sailing for Luhr, who took a 6.352-second victory over the Rebellion entry, despite a late-race safety car, which set up a two-minute dash to the checkered flag.

"I was able to stay with Jani immediately behind him," Luhr explained. "I took a big risk when I had to get by him. But for me it was clear that it was my only chance and I took it.

"Later on we had a little coming together but I think it was by no bad meanings from him or me. It was just unlucky a race situation with a GTC car in between... The way he hit me, I doubt he would have made the corner without me being there!"

Luhr notched his 43rd career victory, becoming the winningest driver in ALMS history.

Jani and co-driver Nick Heidfeld scored their second consecutive runner-up finish, after arguably having the quicker car again. Jani's fastest race lap was nearly a half-second quicker than the overall race-winning Muscle Milk machine.

"I think Rebellion was a little bit quicker in outright speed," Graf said. "At the end, it came down to the moves Lucas made in passing Jani. They ran a great strategy. I think today we just had a little better race craft and maybe a little better race luck as well, and sometimes that's what you need to win.

The two other P1 competitors faced misfortunes in the four-hour enduro, with the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola B12/60 Mazda dropping out with fuel pressure failure early and the DeltaWing battling engine-related issues before coming to a halt on track with less than 20 minutes to go.

With early race misfortunes for the pair of Extreme Speed Motorsports HPDs, Level 5 Motorsports cruised to 1-2 finish in P2.

Marino Franchitti took the No. 551 HPD ARX-03b to victory over the similarly prepared No. 552 entry, taken to the checkered flag by team owner Scott Tucker.

Tucker began the race in the pole-sitting No. 551 car, which enjoyed a trouble-free opening stint, a stark contrast to the pair of ESM machines, which hit trouble early.

The No. 01 entry of Guy Cosmo suffered two punctures in the opening hour, due to a suspected ride height issue, while the No. 02 car battled electrical gremlins with its shifter. Both finished third and fourth in class.

"It was a perfect weekend and a great way for Level 5 to bounce back after a tough weekend at Long Beach," Franchitti said. "Especially going into Le Mans, this is what we needed. The guys have been working day and night preparing for this race. Scott, myself and Ryan have worked really hard with the engineers on the setup of the car and I think it showed today."

Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia claimed top honors in GT, following a rather commanding performance by the No. 3 Corvette C6.R, amid a highly competitive battle throughout the four-hour enduro.

“I have to say, today was one of the most perfect races we’ve had with Corvette Racing," Magnussen said. "We were under pressure the whole way. We never had a big lead, we really had to work through traffic and not get stopped by the slower cars and lose too much time. It was a matter of being precise the whole race."

The No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler kept the Corvette pairing on their toes, although had to settle for a second place finish, ahead of the John Edwards and Dirk Mueller-driven No. 56 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE, which completed the podium in third.

West Racing/AJR's Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler scored a season-best fourth in their Yokohama-shod West/AJR Ferrari F458 Italia, thanks to a late-race charge by Bell.

Attrition and a number of on-track incidents highlighted the top production-based category, including gearbox issues for the No. 4 Corvette, No. 55 BMW and No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R, which only completed 12 laps.

The pole-sitting No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari had a race to forget, having received six penalties, which ranged from pit lane speeding violations to avoidable contact with other competitors. It included an incident between Prancing Horse and the debuting No. 06 CORE autosport Porsche, which soldiered home to finish seventh in class.

CORE autosport appeared to be en route to its second consecutive PC victory of the season, but an off-course excursion by Colin Braun on the final restart with one lap to go handed the class win to the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 of Luis Diaz and Michael Guasch.

The PR1/Mathiasen car led early in the hands of points leader Guasch, while Diaz kept it in contention in the closing stages, despite a close call with the No. 552 Level 5 car of Tucker in the final hour.

Diaz crossed the line 4.106 seconds ahead of Braun's No. 05 CORE entry, which he shared with team owner Jon Bennett.

"Our pace was not a quick as Collin’s but I tried to drive really hard in traffic, keeping the pressure," Diaz said. "Finally on the restart he had the big mistake and we took the lead.

"Now we are stretching the lead for the championship and we’ll have time to work hard on the car until Lime Rock and get the advantage on CORE."

The No. 18 Performance Tech entry of Tristan Nunez and Charlie Shears completed the podium in third.

The late-race restart also came back to haunt Dempsey/Del Piero Racing's Andy Lally, who was poised for a breakthrough class victory in GTC.

However, Lally was passed by Nick Tandy in Turn 5 on the final lap, giving NGT Motorsports and co-driver Henrique Cisneros its second consecutive class win.

"It’s always nice to get the win, but someone has to be the loser," Tandy said. "You do everything you can over a weeks worth of work to be the winner, and today we were."

Lally and team co-principal Patrick Dempsey, who appeared to be headed to his maiden first professional career victory, had to settle for a heartbreaking second place finish in class, ahead of the No. 22 Alex Job Racing entry of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil in third.

The American Le Mans Series takes a two-month break for the 24 Hours of Le Mans and will reconvene at Lime Rock Park for the Northeast Grand Prix on July 6.

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