Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf were able to repeat their 2011 win at the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach in part because of some creative pit strategy, and in part due to outright speed. The combination propelled the pair into a tie for the lead in the ALMS P1 division.
After finishing second at Sebring after dominating all race only to fall victim to a broken fuel filler with thirty minutes to go, at Long Beach the same problem almost arose but this time everything went right.
Lucas Luhr took the lead with some heads-up driving through the dense traffic, then handed off to Graf during the race’s only full course caution period just before the halfway point. The crew made sure to pack every possible ounce of fuel into the tank of the #06 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03a.
Fueling took longer than planned as the team couldn’t tell if the tank was full. The car needed every drop of fuel it could hold to ensure that the cart could finish without another stop.
The second-placed #16 Dyson Lola Mazda retook the lead by making a quicker pit stop, but the Muscle Milk crew was not concerned. They brought the Muscle Milk car back in for more fuel just before the green flag waved, willingly giving up even more track position. Their strategy called for finishing the race without pitting, and without needing to conserve fuel.
“It was not the plan for the extra fuel,” Graf told alms.com after the race. “I’m not sure why it took so long, it took a bit longer than expected and lost the lead. We weren’t sure if we got a full fill, with one yellow we knew it would be very tight. We just had to be sure we were safe on fuel until the end.
“I had to push: I got my qualifying in today. I did a number of qualifying laps just to catch up to Chris. Once I was close to him we were side by side going down the front straightaway. I got just ahead of him and keep ahead, and maintained the lead.”
Lucas Luhr had to push hard in the first half of the race to get the lead. “”It was a close fight between me and Guy Smith [co-driver of the 316 Dyson car],” Luhr explained.” He had a little coming-together with a GT car, the BMW, and it was just before the back straight and right hander. So a couple of laps later we were catching traffic there and I just had the opportunity to make the move.
“I used the GT traffic because their car was quick down the straight. I had a hard time following him in the slip stream. The opportunity came to make the pass and I took it. I had to defend my line and he had no chance to get back to me.”
That strategy paid off. Late in the race Chris Dyson, at the wheel of the #16 Dyson Racing car, couldn’t push; he needed to stretch his fuel and hope for a second yellow, which never came. His team’s second car, the #20 Lola-Mazda driven by Michael Marsal and Eric Lux, was forced to pit for fuel; Dyson was able to stretch his fuel to the finish line, but he didn’t have enough to make a fight of it.
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