Fuel strategy won out at Long Beach on Saturday with Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr taking American Le Mans Series honours for the second straight season. The Muscle Milk Honda ARX-03a stopped twice during the race’s sole caution period and ran the final 56 minutes without another stop to take the victory over Dyson Racing.
The Graf-Luhr pairing became the first to repeat at Long Beach in the ALMS’ six visits. Graf and Luhr now share the P1 championship lead with Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. The race marked the end of a hectic weekend in which Friday’s qualifying was washed out, and the first time the field saw a dry track came in the race.
The Muscle Milk car lost the lead on its first pit stop when the team suspected the car hadn’t been fueled sufficiently, an issue that harkened back to the team’s disastrous closing moments at Sebring when it lost the race due to fueling rig problems. Saturday’s curse turned out to be a blessing though as the quick splash just before the restart ensured the car could get to the end without fueling again. Muscle Milk Pickett Racing proved that clean, fast and efficient can coexist by also claiming the Michelin Green X Challenge prototype victory. This was the team’s second consecutive MGXC victory at Long Beach and ninth since the conception of the challenge.
Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin gave Corvette Racing its first victory at Long Beach since 2009 and its first in ALMS since Mosport in July with an 8s victory over BMW Team RLL‘s Joey Hand and Dirk Müller. Milner won for the first time in ALMS and was part of a dynamic opening fight between Corvette and BMW.
Following the restart, it didn’t take Gavin long to track down Müller in the leading BMW M3 GT. The Englishman felt he had the superior car and with 46 minutes left, finally got the break he needed on the late part of a lap to get around Müller and drive away. After Hand and Mueller, Extreme Speed Motorsports’ Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek placed third in their Ferrari 458 Italia.
Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut took the P2 lead with six minutes left as race-leader Martin Plowman had to pit late. Bouchut and Scott Tucker won in class at Long Beach for the second straight year, this time in a HPD ARX-03b. The duo recovered from an early-race spin after Tucker was hit from behind, and the HPD completed the race on a single stop. Bouchut ran the majority of his stint in second behind Plowman’s Morgan-Nissan. As was the case with the Muscle Milk entry, the earlier spin may have been a positive situation in the end. Level 5‘s engineers told Bouchut to change the on-board fuel mapping to conserve fuel in hopes that the Frenchman would not need to pit again. Level 5′s second entry – driven by Tucker and Luis Diaz – placed third in class.
CORE autosport won its second race of the season and consecutively at Long Beach with Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel victorious in Prototype Challenge. The CORE ORECA FLM09 was 19s quicker on its lone pit stop than runner-up Muscle Milk, and that proved key to the outcome. Dalziel and Memo Gidley dueled in the early part of their stint before the CORE entry pulled away late and won by a lap.
Popow led in a rough-and-tumble opening stint that saw some of his closest challengers fall by the wayside via spins or penalties. He had a close call himself with a slower car that allowed Michael Guasch in the Muscle Milk car to take the lead just before the caution. CORE scored two podiums in class for the second straight race. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett placed third in the sister entry.
In GT Challenge, Green Hornet Racing’s Damien Faulkner drove a strong second stint in a hard-fought battle with Alex Job Racing’s Leh Keen as the Irishman and Peter LeSaffre won in class over Keen and Cooper MacNeil. Faulkner broke away and finished just over 3s ahead of Keen following a tense series of laps following the race restart. Both drivers took turns posting the fastest race lap for the class in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries until Faulkner gained the upper hand with less than 20 minutes to go.
Like Tucker in P2, LeSaffre had a few dramatic moments in the opening part of the race. He was part of a multi-car pileup on the opening laps that damaged the Porsche’s splitter but had no other damage. The victory was his first in ALMS as well as the first for Green Hornet. Saturday’s win was Faulkner’s second in ALMS but first on a street course. The Irishman said his hands felt like they had large blisters after his fight with Keen. He had still more work to do after a relatively long stop under yellow to fix the Porsche’s headlights that were damaged in LeSaffre’s incident. JDX Racing’s Michael Valiante and Chris Cumming finished third in class, the team’s best finish in ALMS competition.
Shots courtesy of Camden Thrasher
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Source – American Le Mans Series