Battling oppressive heat and humidity – in addition to the strain of constant traffic – Muscle Milk Pickett Racing continues to be the team to beat in the American Le Mans Series, comfortably winning the Northeast Grand Prix Saturday afternoon at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut in the HPD ARX-03a Honda co-driven by Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr.
In the companion LMP2 category, it was another close-fought battle between the two-car teams of Level 5 Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports, both equipped with turbocharged V6-powered HPD ARX-03b Hondas. In the end, the contest was decided by late-race contact between the leading Extreme Speed ARX of Guy Cosmo and the closely trailing similar Level 5 ARX driven by Ryan Briscoe.
At the front of the field, the overall win for Muscle Milk Pickett was the third consecutive LMP1 victory for the team in 2013, a streak begun at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April and continuing through May’s race at Laguna Seca. It also was the second consecutive win at Lime Rock for the HPD-equipped team, and third in the last four years.
In addition to the ever-present traffic around the short, but very fast, 1.474 mile road course, teams also had to contend with extreme heat and humidity, with several drivers and crew members requiring medical attention due to heat exhaustion and dehydration during the 2-hour, 45-minute event.
Losing the lead at the start to the Lola-Mazda of Chris Dyson, Luhr continued to battle the Dyson Racing car throughout the first 45 minutes, exchanging the lead twice before Luhr established an advantage he would not relinquish for the remainder of the race. Luhr and co-driver Graf took advantage of a problematic initial Dyson pit stop, then continued to build a massive lead, taking advantage of the performance of their ARX-03a and smoothly making their way through traffic in the large, 33-car starting field to take the checkers with a massive, six-lap margin over the runner-up Dyson team.
In LMP2, Briscoe took the victory, but only after nose-to-tail contact with Cosmo on the penultimate lap sent the Extreme Speed Motorsports ARX-03b into a quick spin and contact with the barriers. Cosmo recovered and resumed to finish second with co-driver Scott Sharp
As a result of the contact, Briscoe and co-driver Scott Tucker received a post-race penalty that relegated them to third-place championship points, while Sharp and Cosmo are credited with maximum points in their year-long battle for the LMP2 title. The second Level 5 HPD, driven by Tucker and Marino Franchitti, finished third after a late-race unscheduled pit stop.
After a two-week break, the American Le Mans Series makes its annual trek north of the border for the July 21 Mobil-1 Grand Prix of Mosport at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, Canada.
Lucas Luhr (#6 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD ARX-03c Honda) 1st in LMP2 with co-driver Klaus Graf, 2nd consecutive win for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing at Lime Rock Park and 3rd consecutive victory in 2013: \"I had fun fighting with Chris [Dyson]. But it’s very tough to overtake here, especially with our [LMP1] car, but in the end I managed to get around him and got a little bit of a gap, and then they had a problem [during a pit stop]. It was tough today, very hot in the car and obviously the traffic here is a little crazy. You just have to say to yourself ‘calm down, it’s all OK’ because you are stuck in traffic all the time. It’s almost like fighting against a 747, especially against the GTC cars because the speed difference is just amazing. On a short track like Lime Rock, you are overtaking every two seconds! However, we managed the traffic well and the boys did great in the pit stops, even with some of our mechanics suffering from the heat, so I have say a big ‘thanks’ to them. I’m pretty sure they are exhausted and will get some well-deserved rest tonight.”
Ryan Briscoe (#552 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b Honda) 1st in LMP2 with co-driver Scott Tucker, but penalized with third-place championship points due to avoidable contact: “Certainly what happened going up the hill [nose-to-tail contact with the #01 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Guy Cosmo] wasn’t my intention at all. It looked like he got on the curb a little bit and traction control may have come on or something. It looks like my nose just tagged his rear. Certainly not the way we wanted to go, I think it was going to be a good battle [for the class victory].”
Guy Cosmo (#01 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b Honda) 2nd in LMP2 on track with co-driver Scott Sharp, awarded first-place championship points: “We were really cruising there, we had a great car at the end of the day, and Scott [Sharp] did a great job in the beginning. It was going well until the end of the day, [it’s unfortunate that] no decision was made for what was obviously intentional contact [before] the end of the race. So, we’re collecting second-place trophies when we had that race won, [but] we will persevere.”
Steve Eriksen (Vice President and COO, Honda Performance Development) on Saturday’s double victory at Lime Rock Park: “Congratulations to Muscle Milk Pickett Racing for another overall win at Lime Rock and to both of our LMP2 teams, Level 5 and Extreme Speed Motorsports, on their exciting battle for class honors. It’s unfortunate that contact decided the outcome, but we’re certain these two teams will regroup and resume what is shaping up to be an enjoyable season-long contest in LMP2. The heat was definitely a factor for both man and machine this weekend at Lime Rock, and we were very pleased to see how well our teams, our ARX chassis and Honda engines held up under the conditions.”