- Last Updated on 01:17 PM 09/17/12
- BY Doug Ford
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing moved one step closer to the P1 class title in Saturday’s American LeMans Series 240 at Alton’s Virginia International Raceway, and it did so in dominating fashion.
Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr drove the Muscle Milk Honda Performance Development ARX-03a to a three-lap win over the Dyson Racing Mazda-powered Lola B11/66 piloted by Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Johnny Mowlem in the four-hour race.
Luhr recorded the fastest lap of the race, touring the 3.27-mile course in one minute and 36.453 seconds. Graf had set the all-time VIR track record in qualifying on Friday with a lap of 1:35.434 and 123.434 mph, besting the previous record of 1:36.3 set by a Benetton ex-Formula One racer in 2004.
Luhr and Graff ran an almost perfect race to extend its championship points lead over Dyson Racing, with one race remaining, the Petit LeMans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta.
Negotiating the tight VIR course proved difficult for a number of drivers who were competing at the challenging course for the first time, with a great deal of close-quarters racing resulting in nine penalties and two full-course cautions at the halfway mark.
Graf had built a sizable lead by that point before handing it off to Luhr, and Luhr continued to pull away the second half of the race.
The win was especially gratifying as the team had not won in the two previous races despite being the fastest car.
“The last two races we were as quick as we were today, but we had small technical issues which had a big influence in the race,” Luhr pointed out.
“The boys did an amazing job in the pits. At some point, we were running a little hot, so they (the crew) cleaned the radiators all the time, which weren’t so easy to reach.
“They did an amazing job in the pits, and Klaus did a brilliant opening stint,” Luhr added.
“We were already one lap ahead, so for me it was easy.”
Graf noted the on-track congestion created by five classes of cars was every bit as difficult to navigate as the drivers thought it would be.
He and a number of drivers had to avoid a pileup in the first turn on the opening lap of the race, which collected several cars.
“From a traffic standpoint you just could not get around some cars, and also it depended on which class you were overtaking,” said Graf.
“I think overall we saw some incidents, and I was a little conservative with the moves I made in traffic, but some of these places the other cars were fighting as well.
“It was a trouble-free race, and we were looking and hoping for that, no mistakes and no problems with the car,” he added.
“We couldn’t clinch the championship here, so we still have to go at least 70 percent at Petit LeMans,” Luhr pointed out.
“It’s a 10-hour race, so obviously we’ll put all our effort into it.”