Muscle Beach: Graf, Luhr Pairing Win At Long Beach


A n early driver change from Luhr to Graf paced the way to victory (Photo Credit: Ryan Smith)

Smart strategy gave Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr the victory in the second round of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) on the streets of Long Beach.

The decisive moment came just before half way in the two hour race when both Graf in the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing entry and Neel Jani in Rebellion Racing’s Lola-Toyota pitted under a full course caution thrown to enable clear-up on fluid left by on the GTC class Porsches. The difference between the two P1 pacesetters was that while Jani was pitting to take fuel and hand over to Nick Heidfield Graf was pitting for only fuel, having taken the #6 from Luhr under the opening caution of the race.

The additional time need to put Heidfeld in the car allowed Graf out ahead of the two P1 cars and with the race’s second hour running caution free Graf was able to hold to give Greg Pickett’s team its third consecutive race win at Long Beach.

The differing strategies between the different classes meant that around the half way mark both the GT and PC class leaders were ahead overall.

Dominic Farnbacher led to the restart in the #91 SRT Viper that had started from the GT class pole, but was quickly pushed back into second by PC leader Colin Braun. Inevitably, however, as the race continued under green Braun was shuffled back down the order by both Graf and Heidfeld to finish third overall, a lap in arrears to the P1 pair but still winning PC in the CORE Autosport car started by Jon Bennett.

Missing from the top three – where it naturally should have been – was the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda. Though he fell back from second to third in the opening laps Chris Dyson began to gain again before being promoted up to second when Luhr pitted to hand over to Graf. However, shortly after the green flag flew after the first caution – called for debris, namely the front bodywork from Chris Cumming’s BAR1 Motorsports PC car – Dyson clouted the wall at turn nine, limping round to outside of the hairpin at turn 11 before stopping to bring out the day’s second full course caution.

Braun lead a tight 1-2-3 in PC with Luis Diaz and Bruno Junqueira second and third for Performance Tech Motorsports and RSR Racing ahead of the best of the P2 entries – Scott Sharp and Guy Cosmo’s Extreme Speed Motorsports #01.

Sharp’s two car team finished first and second Sharp himself passing Johannes van Overbeek in the other ESM car shortly after the final restart. Cosmo had earlier taken the lead from Scott Tucker who started the class pole sitting #551 Level 5 Motorsports car but the day ended badly for both Level 5 cars both having been stick in the pits for lengthy repairs, the best of them, Tucker and Ryan Briscoe in the #551 finishing 14 laps behind the overall leaders.

BMW Team RLL took their own 1-2 in GT, claiming the first win for the new Z4 GTE in only its second race. The result came together late as both BMWs got past Farnbacher in the final fifteen minutes. Bill Auberlen was the first to get past to take the class lead, taking advantage when Farnbacher outbraked himself into turn one.

Though he escaped incident the minor detour presented Auberlen with a gilt-edged chance to take the lead. The pass completed a comeback for Auberlen in the #55 BMW at the corner where his co-driver Maxime Martin had spun in the early laps of the race. Dirk Muller completed the 1-2 in the final minute of the race, getting past Farnbacher on the back straight.

Farnbacher held onto third with a comfortable margin over the #4 and #3 Corvettes in fourth and fifth in class respectively.

Henrique Cisneros and Sean Edwards won GTC for NGT Motorsport, Edwards leading the final hour and 15 minutes in the MOMO sponsored car after taking the lead from the #68 TRG entry.