Photo courtesy ALMSEnlarge Photo
This past Saturday was the last chance to see the American Le Mans Series combatants until well after the 24 Hours of Le Mans in mid-June. The ALMS traditionally keeps its calendar open to accommodate the many teams within its ranks that head for The Sarthe circuit and the world's most famous endurance contest, now in its 80th incarnation.
A six-hour race on the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca 2.238-mile, 11-turn classic road course yielded a second straight victory for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's HPD-ARX03a LMP1 open prototype, taking a three-lap victory over Dyson Racing's Lola/Mazda coupe. It was a simple strategy for drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr, who took the lead from pole position and never looked back, both driving an error-free race.
"We certainly had a good handle on the car here," said Graf. "We did a lot of work in each session and we used them well. I think the key was that is was just Lucas and I in the car as there are not a lot of practice sessions, so to fit a third driver can be complicated sometimes."
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing also won the prototype portion of the Michelin Green X Challenge for the second straight race, notching all three categories: clean, fast and efficient.
By contrast, the final 90 minutes of the GT race was the highlight of the Monterey contest. Seven cars in the class raced within two seconds of one another in the closing hour including the two Corvette C6.R competitors, two BMW M3 GTs and one each Porsche 911 GT3 RSR race cars from Flying Lizard Motorsports and Team Falken Tire.
AT the close it was Oliver Gavin taking the winning pass on Wolf Henzler, taking the lead in his Corvette over the Porsche with a little less than half an hour remaining in the six-hour enduro. Bill Auberlen moved one of the BMW M3 GTs up to challenge the Corvette before Gavin's teammate Jan Magnussen muscled his way into second place with 15 minutes left.
"It was so tight in our class," said Gavin. "You could never let off and think, 'I'm alright now'. I had a few close calls in the pit lane and then Wolf passed me for the lead. He was hard but fair and gave me just enough room to get by at the last turn. I managed to sneak by a lot of people today," the Briton maintained, "and we managed to catch all the breaks. It was a great race for me today," as Corvette won its second straight ALMS race.
In LMP2 Level 5 Motorsports took its third straight in three races with a victory for Franck Montagny, Scott Tucker and Luis Diaz. They overcame a couple of pit road penalties and a wild day for each of the three cars that led the class, finishing second overall in the six-hour race. In their LMP2 debut, Dempsey Racing's trio of team owner Patrick Dempsey, co-principal Joe Foster and Briton Jonny Cocker placed fourth with their Lola-Judd coupe.
CORE Autosport, too, won for the third time out in the LMPC class, with Colin Braun and Jon Bennett taking the honors over RSR Racing's Bruno Junqueira after passing the Brazilian on the penultimate lap.
Jeroen Bleekemolen gave TRG its first GTC victory of the season as the 2010 class co-champion beat GMG Racing's James Sofronas by 12 seconds at the close.
The American Le Mans Series returns to action at Lime Rock Park on Saturday July 7 for a 2:45 minute sprint race on the 1.5-mile, 10-corner road course.