SEBRING, Fla,—Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr pushed the team’s brand new HPD ARX03c-Honda to the fastest time of the two-day American Le Mans Series Sebring Winter Test, surpassing their 2012 Sebring 12 Hours qualifying time with ease
In GTE Risi Ferrari team came back in style, topping the GTE roster.
BAR1 (which was the Merchant Services team last season and Intersport before that,) was quickest in PC, and in GTC, Flying Lizard turned in the quickest time of the event.
It is no surprise that Muscle Milk topped the time sheets—theirs was the only P1 car. What was surprising is that the team beats its 2012 Sebring 12-Hour qualifying time by more than a second, in an unfamiliar car that was turning its first hot laps.
Klaus Graf set fast lap in the Friday morning’s session, barely beating team mate Lucas Luhr’s best effort in the final session, 1:46.368 at 126.579 mph to 1:46.855 at 126.003 mph.
Klaus Graf said the ARX 03c with the wider front tires was “certainly an improvement from last year’s car” and the lap times bore that out. “We are still fine-tuning the package, it’s still relatively new,” he said. “I think we will get a lot faster.”
Graf emphasized that a good test did not equate to a guaranteed repeat of the team’s 2012 championship success. “I am sure Dyson didn’t sleep over the winter; nor did Rebellion and we know what Audi’s doing to improve their package so we will see how it all comes together when we come back here for the race.”
Lucas Luhr was asked about the reliability issues which plagued Muscle Milk Pickett racing for the first three quarters of the 2012 season.
“We made some small adjustments last year and suddenly there were no issues,” Luhr responded.
“It was always a very small issue, like a penny part, which would cause the car to shut off or the electronics to fail so during the season we said, ‘We cannot continue like this,’ so changes were made” to improve communication and oversight between the mechanics. “Everybody is kind of looking over everybody’s shoulder,” he explained.
Klaus Graf elaborated. “We changed a lot in the way we operate within the team, especially quality control.
“We implemented some of the standards we have at the Cytosport factory where where we have a highly sophisticated quality control for our products which people actually drink and eat, so that’s quite important. So that’s what we did last season and over the winter, and it shows. It improved the performance.
“The team is getting more and more professional. Sometimes [owner Greg Pickett] says to me, ‘I have to think less with my heart and more with my business head.’ But we still have a lot of fun.”
BAR1’s Kyle Marcelli set the quickest PC time in the final session, 1:54.803 at 117.279 mph. BAR1 and Performance Tech’s teenage prodigy Tristan Nunez fought over fast lap throughout the two-day test. Nunez scored best time in the third session, 1.54.981 at 117.098 and packed and left, while BAR1 stayed around for the final four hours and finally did a better time, 1:54.803 at 1:17.279.
“This is going to be the second year for BAR 1 Motorsports,” Marcelli told ALMS.com. “The team looks good, we’ve got good people, we’ve got a good driver lineup and I think our only focus is to go after a championship.”
GTE was a battle of the Ferraris. Extreme Speed Motorsports brought two cars, but Johannes Van Overbeek stuffed on early Friday morning. Despite that ESM scored fastest times in both morning sessions—and Risi Competizione beat those times in both afternoon sessions.
The #62 Risi 458 set fastest GTE time of the meet with a lap of 1:59.862 at 112.329 mph in the final Friday session—the only GTE car to break two minutes. All in all an excellent return for the team, which sat out 2102.
Flying Lizards, old Porsche hands but new to the GTC class, figured out how to make its Cup car go fast. While Alex Job Racing set the fastest lap in the first session and TRG took the middle two, at the end of the day the quickest GTC car was the #44 Lizard at 2:06.061/106.805 mph, fastest in the class by .08 seconds.Spencer Pumpelly, pilot for the test’s quickest GTC lap, told ALMS.com,” I’m proud of the lap time, but I think what was more important was the work we did to learn more about this car and get it ready for the race and try some things that will be helpful throughout the season.
“These guys are new to this car, but they’ve got a ton of experience. I can’t be happier to be a part of this team and this organization. It was a really good test for us and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
The start of the American Le Mans Series 2013 season comes March 16 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. This will be the last internationally significant Sebring 12 Hours until 2016 at least—Audi is sending a pair of R18 e-trons, and various European teams are coming over to contest this historic race.
Tickets are available through the Sebring International Raceway website.
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