LMP – CytoSport Wins Lime Rock Thrill Ride

July 24, 2010

LMP – CytoSport Wins Lime Rock Thrill Ride

July 24, 2010

Muscle Milk Team CytoSport's Porsche RS Spyder led the field early and often to win in Lime Rock. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Heat, humidity and traffic made Saturday’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park a thrilling affair that ended with a first-time overall winner.

Muscle Milk Team CytoSport captured the LMP and overall victory at Lime Rock with Klaus Graf and team owner Greg Pickett behind the wheel. Though the pairing won in the LMP2 class at the 12 Hours of Sebring (the LMP classes were split at Sebring into LMP1 and P2), it was fourth overall.

The day was a double success as CytoSport also took the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge victory in prototypes. Running on E10, this is the second MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge win this season for CytoSport (Long Beach) and the first repeat winner in prototypes in 2010. It is also the first overall ALMS win for a customer team running the Porsche RS Spyder in the car’s five-year history.

Graf pitted later than Patron Highcroft HPD’s David Brabham on the final round of stops and had an entry and exit time seven seconds quicker (55 seconds to 62). Graf built the gap after emerging ahead of Brabham to more than 20 seconds at one point, before Brabham charged back. Brabham didn’t have to deal with the incredibly sweltering conditions as long as Graf, as the German ran nearly two hours in his stint compared with Brabham’s hour and 15 minutes.

“It was almost 2 hours,” Graf said. “There wasn’t any yellows for me, so it was tough to keep my breath. We didn’t have a lot of time to evaluate the tire choice (since it rained all weekend) but the Michelin tires performed excellent and were great all weekend.”

As the leaders cycled through traffic on a regular basis, Brabham cut the gap to less than a second. With 12 minutes remaining, the race’s climax happened. Passing three slower GT cars, Graf moved to the middle of the track, which forced Brabham onto the grass. Both cars met their fate for the move mere moments later.

Stewards penalized Graf with a stop-and-go penalty, which looked to derail the day. At the same moment Brabham’s right rear bodywork had damage, which affected his right rear tire and forced him into the pits to replace it and the later punctured tire. That decided the contest, and ended any hopes of Highcroft’s fourth straight win this season.

“We came out of the chicane and into the bumps a little late,” Graf said. “I had to go a little wide cause the GT2 cars got a little wide. I wasn’t expecting David to be there. I got a stop and go for it. I didn’t have too much to do about it. But it worked out in the end. I’ve known David a very long time, he is a great competitor. I pushed very, very hard.”

The Intersport Lola AER team took its first podium of the season in third while both the Drayson and Dyson Lolas led early but ran aground of mechanical problems. Neither completed more than 70 percent of the winner’s distance to score points.

The end of the LMP-Challenge race was just as intense. Green Earth Team Gunnar’s Gunnar Jeannette last pitted on lap 83 and was in prime position to take a vital win with co-driver Elton Julian, back after missing the race at Utah.

Everything went according to plan except for the final lap when Jeannette ran out of fuel — but as he had completed 162 laps and the checkered flag before the second-placed car, Jeannette and Julian took their second win of the season. The second-placed PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports with drivers Alex Figge and Tom Papadopoulos finished desperately close to their first class and series win.

After running the entire race at Utah in hot but not nearly as humid conditions on a single set of MICHELIN® tires, on Saturday, the winning Team Gunnar car changed only the right front tire on its single pit stop, because the tire was flat-spotted.

This also makes an imprint on the LMPC class championship as the points leaders Level 5 Motorsports’ No. 55 car did not start at Lime Rock Park. Christophe Bouchut’s off in the morning warmup damaged the team’s tub. He and Scott Tucker did not have the chance to win their fourth race in five starts. It wasn’t all bad for Tucker who gained points from finishing third in class with Andy Wallace in the team’s second car, the No. 95.

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