Close GT Victory In Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE
LAKEVILLE, Conn. - Lucas Luhr survived an early torrid battle with Chris Dyson before giving way to co-driver Klaus Graf, who scored the team's third consecutive victory in 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón competition Saturday's American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.
It was the second consecutive Lime Rock victory for the No. 6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Honda Performance Development ARX-03c teammates. It also was their third Northeast Grand Prix victory in their last four attempts.
Dyson, celebrating his team's 30th anniversary of competing in the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola B12/60, jumped to an early lead and traded the lead several times with Luhr on the tight 1.5-mile circuit during the opening hour.
A turning point came at the one-hour mark, when both leaders pitted. Luhr quickly returned following routine service, while Dyson Racing lost a lap and a half while Guy Smith relieved Dyson but had trouble tightening his safety belts.
From there on, Luhr dominated before turning the car over to Graf with 45 minutes remaining. Graf went on to win by six laps over Dyson and Smith. Luhr and Graf also won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge for the prototypes.
"It's nice to have a clean race with nothing happening," said Luhr, extending his record ALMS-leading total to 44 victories. "We've made it difficult for ourselves in the past. Today was relatively easy, but we still had to deal with the heat and traffic. We're happy campers."
The race was run in humid 88-degree weather, with track temperatures well into triple digits. The action was slowed by only two full-course cautions, including one with 15 minutes remaining for an incident involving GT Challenge drivers Henrique Cisneros and Dion von Moltke that set up an action-packed four-minute, 15-second sprint to the checkered flag.
"It was hot, but you don't really have time to think about it, we're so busy out there," Luhr said.
Andy Meyrick and Katherine Legge took third in the P1 class in the No. 0 DeltaWing LM12. They completed 102 laps before losing water pressure.
John Edwards and Dirk Muller teamed to win in BMW Team RLL's No. 56 Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE. Muller held off a late charge by Antonio Garcia to secure the victory by .905 seconds. It was his 18th career triumph and extended his point lead in a bid for a third championship.
It was the first ALMS victory for Edwards, who captured his first pole in the series on Friday. Edwards and Muller also won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge for the GT class.
"Wins like today are the ones that really mean something, when you have to work so hard," Edwards said. "Winning here was pretty incredible, especially on a day like today."
"Racing the Z4 this season came very late," Muller said. "It was a short winter, but to be this good so soon is not surprising racing with BMW. Leading the championship is great, but it's still a long way. I know we have a lot left."
Garcia and Jan Magnussen finished second in the No. 4 Corvette Racing Compuware Corvette C6 ZR1, .905 seconds behind. Patrick Long and Tom Kimber-Smith - racing for the second time in the No. 06 CORE autosport Composite Resources Porsche 911 GT3 RSR - finished third.
Ryan Briscoe bumped his way past Guy Cosmo with 3:30 remaining and held on to win his second race of the season in the No. 551 Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort HPD ARX-03b started from the pole by co-driver Scott Tucker.
After the contact, Cosmo returned to finish second with Scott Sharp in the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrón HPD-ARX-03b. Briscoe and Tucker remain the class winners, but IMSA officials penalized the duo seven points, equal to the points earned for a third-place finish (13), where the car would have finished if it served a stop-plus-60-seconds penalty for avoidable contact.
Sharp and Cosmo earned the maximum 20 points from the race, while the No. 552 team of Tucker and Marino Franchitti - which was scored in third place on track - was awarded 16 points, equivalent to what it would have received for finishing second.
"It's a tough call," Briscoe said. "Guy was doing a great job, but he was certainly using all the road. Certainly what happened going up the hill wasn't my intention. My nose just tagged his rear and spun him around. It's not the way we wanted it to go.
"I had almost gotten past him so if we had stayed green [prior to the Cisneros-von Moltke incident]. I probably could have passed him. The conditions were really tough out there with the heat today, but overall it was just a great win for the team and a fun battle."
Bruno Junqueira prevailed in a four-minute, 15-second dash to the checkered flag to join Duncan Ende in giving RSR Racing its first victory in Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire competition with the No. 9 ORECA FLM09.
Junqueira had a comfortable lead and ran as high as second overall late in the race, but the late caution allowed pole-winner Colin Braun to close up. Nevertheless, Junqueira held on to win by .905 seconds.
The team recovered from a pair of incidents during the race weekend, including one in Saturday's warm-up practice session.
"I screwed up yesterday and crashed, it didn't do us any favors," Ende said. "Then the guys put everything back together and Bruno put it on the front row. Then in the morning we got into the wrong place and we had to put it back together again. The team did a great job giving me a great car - in fact the best car I've ever driven."
Braun and Jon Bennett finished second in the No. 05 CORE autosport Composite Resources ORECA FLM09, and were joined on the podium by Tristan Nunez and Ryan Booth in the No. 18 Performance Tech Motorsports VisitFlorida.com/Ric Man/Signature MSAP Oreca FLM09.
"Nelson had a brilliant opening stint - turning the car over to me in the lead," Pumpelly said. "All I had to do was drive it home. Flying Lizard Motorsports identified a few areas we needed to work on, and it showed today. One of them was qualifying - and we won the pole yesterday. Now that we have that monkey off our back we can focus on the rest of the season, keep pushing and keep going faster."
Next up for the ALMS will be the Mobil 1 presented the Grand Prix of Mosport at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Bowmanville, Ontario on Sunday, July 21.