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Local Sports

LMP1 title still up for grabs

Highlands Today Special to Highlands Today
Published:   |   Updated: March 11, 2013 at 08:11 PM

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing had another trying experience at the American Le Mans Series Baltimore Grand Prix on Saturday, with the team coming home with a disappointing third-place finish in the LMP1 class.

"It was not the result we were going for," said driver Lucas Luhr. "It's really a shame. Lately we always seem to have issues and it's not acceptable. It's endurance racing so the car must have endurance reliability. We need to work on that; it's very simple."

The team seemed to be off to an easy Saturday afternoon drive when Luhr disappeared ahead of the competition after taking the green flag from pole position.

The German had a lead of more than 30 seconds on the second-place Conquest Endurance machine and had built a gap of one minute and 20 seconds on his closest P1 rival, Chris Dyson in the No. 16 Lola B12/60, 25 laps into the race.

However, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing once again encountered a problem, this time a shifting issue, that sent Luhr to pit lane and down the timing sheets.

"It's disappointing for everyone on the team," Luhr said. "We are all a little bit down at the moment, which is normal, but we need to roll up our sleeves and make sure we can have trouble-free races from here on out."

With the car in pit lane, Klaus Graf got aboard the P1 car and once the issue was repaired, returned to the track eight laps down to the leaders.

Graf once again pushed as hard as he could to make up as much time as possible but in a two-hour event that was marred by a lengthy caution period, it was to no avail. The German did however register the fastest race lap, a new race lap record, with a time of 1:24.982.

"This would have been a Saturday afternoon drive, an easy one to win," Graf said. "Lucas did awesome on the start and everything was under control but then we had the shifting issue. It's a two-hour race; we shouldn't have any difficulty doing two hours in endurance racing when these cars are built for 12- and 24-hour races.

"We've had too many races this season with issues that have set us back and it can ruin the championship. Fortunately we make it back out every time and we make the 70 percent to score points but that's not what this is about."

Fortunately for the Pickett Racing crew, their championship rivals also faced issues, which allowed Graf to close in to two laps of the No. 16 Dyson car and finish only one spot behind them.

"We need to pull together as a team and see what the issues are," Graf said. "It certainly wasn't a perfect day for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. On the bright side, we got points for third place and the No. 16 Dyson car only finished second, so we didn't lose too much in the point standings. Everything is still OK from that side but we need to get back to victory circle."  

Dyson's No.16 car contended with handling issues all day, but closed the point gap and now only eight points separate the two teams.

"We did not have the pace to contend for an outright win today, but we put ourselves in a position to capitalize on our competitor's misfortunes," Dyson said. "We were able to add to the points tally and close up the championship gap and I view that as a real positive. I think it is great for Dyson Racing, Dunlop and Mazda to come out of here with a 1-2 and we are in real contention to win this championship."

The teams will now gear up for the next round at Virginia International Raceway, which takes place Sept. 14 and 15.