American Le Mans Series

German Duo Fight Back For Lime Rock Win

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Luhr and Graf fought back from five laps down to win (Photo Credit: Dan Boyd)

Sporting a stars and stripes livery just a few days after Independence Day Muscle Milk Racing drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr fought back from as far as five laps down to take cross the line first to win the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park.

The German pairing – driving the Muscle Milk Racing HDP – led early on, but a gear shift problem brought them into the pits after 45 minutes. By the time the fault was tracked down to a problem in the car's ECU cost the a handful of laps on the 1.5 mile Connecticut track while their P1 rivals Dyson Racing pulled away into a lead.

Christophe Bouchut in the Level 5 Motorsport P2 class HPD also led during the race, The car he shared with team boss Scott Tucker led twice for a total of 46 laps, Tucker leading until Klaus Graf took the lead following a caution for a crash involving Butch Leitzinger and Scott Sharp.

Two cautions inside the final hour – a yellow for fluid reported on track began the final hour – shaped the race in a majority of the classes.

In LMPC CORE Autosport driver Colin Braun made the most of a brief opening on the inside of Leitzinger in the final corner to take the class lead only a few laps before Leitzinger was taken out of contention while lapping Sharp's GT class Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari.

The top four overall – Tucker, Conquest Endurance's Martin Plowman, Guy Smith for pole sitters Dyson and Graf – were split by less than twenty seconds when the field took the green flag with 30 minutes to go. After having made up five laps on the leaders in less than 90 minutes of racing Graf had blasted by Smith and Plowman within laps of the restart, and, using the clear advantage he had against the P2 car dragged past Tucker to take the overall lead on the pit straight.  

Smith – sharing the #16 Lola-Mazda with Chris Dyson – followed Graf past the two P2 cars to take second, Tucker keeping the lead in P2 to complete the overall podium.

Sharp's late crash in the #01 Ferrari 458 knocked him out of second in class, but was only half the disappointment for the team by the end of the race.

Guy Cosmo in the other Tequila Patron sponsored Ferrari inherited fourth place after Sharp’s accident and was the final part of a four way battle for the class lead in the closing stint. Jorg Bergmeister and Jan Magnussen – both men making their hundredth ALMS starts – held first and second in class with the second Corvette Racing entry in third and Cosmo behind, all four split my mere seconds.

The top three remained in lock step, Magnussen unable to make a pass on Bergmeister for the lead, but it was Cosmo who ended the race in the tyre wall after contact with another LMPC car.

With Cosmo's car in the wall the race neutralised for the final eight minutes of two hour, 45 minute duration Bergmeister was saved the final dozen or so laps of pressure from the pair of chasing Corvettes for he and Flying Lizard Motorsports teammate Patrick Long to lay claim to the first class win for Porsche in the ALMS this season.

The BMWs that ended qualifying first and third struggled on race day, managing only fifth and sixth behind Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek's Ferrari. Bill Auberlen had to start the #55 not from the class pole as he earned in qualifying but from the pitlane, reportedly after the M3 was found to be leaking fuel. The sister #56 lost time with a flat tyre, going off at turn one.

Braun and Jon Bennett won LMPC, leading a CORE Autosport 1-2 ahead of teammates Tom KimberSmith and Alex Popow. Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil won in GTC.

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James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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