Quick Pit Work Leads Luhr, Graf To ALMS Win At VIR

Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr powered Muscle Milk Racing to its eighth straight ALMS victory at Virginia International Raceway Saturday afternoon.  Photo by Dan R. Boyd/ALMS

Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr powered Muscle Milk Racing to its eighth straight ALMS victory at Virginia International Raceway Saturday afternoon. Photo by Dan R. Boyd/ALMS

After battling Dyson Racing throughout the opening two hours, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing dominated the final 45 minutes to score its eighth consecutive American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón victory, with Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf winning Saturday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway.

Quick work in the pits gave Luhr the lead under an extended caution. He pulled away on the restart in the No. 6 HPD ARX-03c and beat Dyson Racing’s Guy Smith to the checkered flag by 22.846 seconds to score his 49th career ALMS victory.

Meanwhile, the championships in both the P2 and Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire will be decided at the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 19. HPD and Chevrolet won the P1 manufacturer championship on Saturday, while Level 5 Motorsports wrapped up the P2 team title.

“It’s nice to have 49 wins now and, of course, the aim is to make it 50 at Petit,” Luhr said. “Today we had some really strong competition from the Dysons. Today the victory came from the strategies of the pit stops.”

Smith won the pole in the Dyson Racing No. 16 Mazda/Thetford/Norcold Lola B12/60. Johnny Mowlem started the car and battled Graf throughout the opening hour, with the lead changing hands five times during the event. A two-car incident involving Porsche drivers Marco Holzer and Eduardo Cisneros approaching the second hour led to an extended caution. Luhr regained the lead during final pit stops during that yellow flag period, and led the final 39 minutes following the restart.

“It was a good battle with them,” Graf said. “Today, I think the win came from strategy. We had amazing pit stops today, mistake free and everyone knowing what they are doing. This was a team win, for sure. This was certainly a tough battle.”

In the P2 class, Ryan Briscoe beat Scott Sharp to the checkered flag by 15.317 seconds for his fourth victory of the season, joining seven-time winner Scott Tucker in the No. 551 Level 5 Motorsports Siemens/Alpina Watches/Ohiya Casino Resort HPD ARX-03b. Sharp finished second with Anthony Lazzaro in the No. 01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b, followed by Level 5’s Stefan Johansson, Marino Franchitti and Guy Cosmo in the team’s No. 552 entry.

Entering the finale, Franchitti unofficially leads Cosmo by four points (154-150), followed by Tucker with 149 points and Sharp with 143.

“We had a lot on the line today and we had a real good strategy coming in,” Tucker said. “The car was great for me on my stint and Ryan did a great job. No mistakes, everything went as planned. We’re still gunning for some championships and we’ll still need to put on our best game at Petit.”

A first-time winner at the most recent race in Austin, Texas, Kyle Marcelli and Chris Cumming scored their second consecutive Prototype Challenge presented by Continental Tire victory. Driving the No. 8 BAR1 Motorsports Evident Capital/MBRP Performance Exhaust Merchant Services ORECA FLM09, Marcelli took the checkered flag by 11.590 seconds over championship contender Jon Bennett and Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 05 CORE autosport Composite Resources ORECA.

PC championship leader Mike Guasch was clipped from behind by a P2 car on lap 5, leading to the first of three caution flags. Guasch was running third at the time of the incident but lost 10 laps for repairs to the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Molecule ORECA. Guasch and Dane Cameron returned to finish fifth. Entering the finale, Guasch leads Cumming by 11 points (128-117), with Bennett one point back with 116, followed by Colin Braun, 112, and fourth-place finisher Tristan Nunez, 110.

“We’re at a level of competition that’s so good, we really have to be on our game,” Marcelli said. “Now we move to Road Atlanta. I’ve had a pole there and we really want to finish the season strong and bring home another win.”

Third in PC went to the winners’ BAR1 Motorsports teammates Rusty Mitchell and James French in the No. 7 Petro Comm/Merchant Services ORECA FLM09.

Neither of the Porsche drivers were injured in the Turn 10 incident that caused the third and final caution at the two-hour mark, which came following a restart for a brief caution due to a grass fire. Cisneros flipped after contact with Holzer and came to a stop atop a tire barrier, but quickly climbed from the crashed vehicle.

With a tooth-and-nail fight for the 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón GT championship happening behind him, Matteo Malucelli pulled away over the closing laps to give Risi Competizione its first ALMS victory since Road America in 2011.

It was Malucelli’s first career victory in ALMS competition, while co-driver Olivier Beretta picked up his 43rd career victory in the series. The moment of truth came with just under 30 minutes remaining in the two-hour and 45-minute race when Malucelli powered the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia past Patrick Long in the No. 06 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR heading down the long back straightaway of VIR’s 3.27-mile layout.

From that point on, Malucelli set sail to score an easy victory in what has been a tough season for the Risi team, which returned to full-time ALMS competition this season after a one-year absence.

“It is always nice to be back and we had a really good race today,” Beretta said. “We have been unlucky since Sebring, and at Long Beach, and Laguna we had pole. The luck has not been on our side. I’m really happy for Risi and Matteo, it is his first win. I hope to go to Petit (Le Mans, Oct. 19) and get another win for this team. The 458 is a great car, but coming out this season we struggled a bit. To get the win now is great for the team, and to get a win for Ferrari. Now we’ll go to Petit and do our best.”

Long and co-driver Colin Braun finished second ahead of GT points co-leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 for Corvette Racing. Magnussen and Garcia extended their lead in the championship to 16 points, 125-109, over Dirk Muller, who finished fourth at VIR in the No. 56 BMW North America/Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE alongside co-driver Joey Hand.

While the driver championship is still up for grabs with 24 points available to the race winner in the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, the third-place run by Magnussen and Garcia was enough to clinch the ALMS GT team championship for Corvette Racing and the manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet.

In the GT Challenge (GTC) category, No. 66 Port Lavaca Group/Viper Exchange/Adobe Road Winery Porsche 911 GT3 Cup co-drivers Damien Faulkner and Ben Keating parlayed their second consecutive class pole position into their second consecutive victory.

As he also did two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas, Keating started the No. 66 machine from the GTC pole courtesy of Damien Faulkner’s qualifying efforts on Friday. Keating kept the TRG Porsche well in contention throughout his opening stint before giving way to Faulkner to close out the race and secure the victory.

“It was just a dream weekend, to be honest, from start to finish,” Faulkner said. “We could be a lot more aggressive since we’re not in the championship hunt but Ben did a great job at the start. He felt bad giving me the car in second, but imagine being disappointed to be in second. The team did a great job, we didn’t make any mistakes, and they made the car perfect. It ran flawlessly all day. Thanks to the TRG team for doing a great job and hitting our strides today. I said over the radio, knowing everyone could hear it, ‘I’ll fight to the death today’.”

Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil extended their lead in the GTC driver championship with a second-place run at VIR in the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for Alex Job Racing. Heading into the season finale, the duo leads Henrique Cisneros by 13 points, 131-118, with 24 points still available.

Cisneros and co-driver Sean Edwards took third in the No. 30 MOMO Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for NGT Motorsport. Also still alive in the GTC championship chase are No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup co-drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr., with 115 points. Pumpelly and Canache finished seventh on Saturday.

The Oak Tree Grand Prix will be televised on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 6. The 2013 American Le Mans Series season closes with the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 19.

American Le Mans Series
Virginia International Raceway – Alton, VA
Oak Tree Grand Prix – Oct. 5, 2013

1. (2) Klaus Graf/Lucas Luhr (6-P1), HPD ARX-03c, 84 laps
2. (1) Johnny Mowlem/Guy Smith (16-P1), Lola B12-60 Mazda, 84
3. (3) Scott Tucker/Ryan Briscoe (551-P2), HPD ARX-03b, 83
4. (9) Anthony Lazzaro/Scott Sharp (01-P2), HPD ARX-03b, 83
5. (4) Stefan Johansson/Guy Cosmo/Marino Franchitti (552-P2), HPD ARX-03b, 83
6. (8) Chris Cumming/Kyle Marcelli (8-PC), ORECA FLM09, 81
7. (7) Jonathan Bennett/Tom Kimber-Smith (05-PC), ORECA FLM09, 81
8. (12) James French/Rusty Mitchell (7-PC), ORECA FLM09, 81
9. (15) Olivier Beretta/Matteo Malucelli (62-GT), Ferrari F458 Italia, 80
10. (20) Colin Braun/Patrick Long (06-GT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 79
11. (21) Antonio Garcia/Jan Magnussen (3-GT), Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, 79
12. (16) Joey Hand/Dirk Mueller (56-GT), BMW Z4 GTE, 79
13. (14) Bill Auberlen/Maxime Martin (55-GT), BMW Z4 GTE, 79
14. (22) Oliver Gavin/Tommy Milner (4-GT), Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, 79
15. (19) Dominik Farnbacher/Marc Goossens (91-GT), SRT Viper GTS-R Viper V-10, 79
16. (23) Wolf Henzler/Bryan Sellers (17-GT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 79
17. (18) Kuno Wittmer/Jonathan Bomarito (93-GT), SRT Viper GTS-R Viper V-10, 77
18. (25) Ben Keating/Damien Faulkner (66-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
19. (26) Cooper MacNeil/Jeroen Bleekemolen (22-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
20. (28) Henrique Cisneros/Sean Edwards (30-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
21. (30) Mike Hedlund/Jan Heylen (11-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
22. (31) Seth Neiman/Dion von Moltke (44-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
23. (32) Patrick Dempsey/Andy Lally (27-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 75
24. (27) Nelson Canache Jr./Spencer Pumpelly (45-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 73
25. (10) Ryan Booth/Tristan Nunez (18-PC), ORECA FLM09, 73
26. (6) Mike Guasch/Dane Cameron (52-PC), ORECA FLM09, 69
27. (11) Mirco Schultis/Renger van der Zande (81-PC), ORECA FLM09, 67
28. (24) Bill Sweedler/Townsend Bell (23-GT), Ferrari F458 Italia, 67
29. (17) Bryce Miller/Marco Holzer (48-GT), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 50
30. (29) Jakub Giermaziak/Eduardo Cisneros (31-GTC), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 47
31. (13) Andy Meyrick/Katherine Legge (0-P1), DeltaWing LM12 Elan, 40
32. (5) Ed Brown/Johannes van Overbeek (02-P2), HPD ARX-03b, 31