Muscle Milk AMR: Fiery times for Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing

Friday, March 18, 2011

Everything had been going well for the Muscle Milk team in the first official American Le Mans Series practice of the season at Sebring International Raceway.

Lucas Luhr had set a fast lap of 1:50.647 good enough to place the team fourth overall and the car was running great when team owner and co-driver Greg Pickett hopped aboard for the final minutes of the session.

But then, right after the checkered flag fell on the one-hour practice, what had started out as a great day turned into a near nightmare when Pickett started smelling smoke in the cockpit of his Aston Martin.

A check valve - an always reliable, never problematic inexpensive part - in the fuel injection system had stayed stuck open and caused the high-pressure system to overflow, consequently causing gas to leak, which started the fire.

Fortunately, Pickett was quick to react and pull the car off track to a location with corner workers. He also immediately activated the in-car fire extinguisher, which quickly put out the flames and saved the Aston Martin from suffering further damage.

While the damage could had been much worse had it not been for Pickett's quick thinking, the assessment of it didn't give the team a very positive outlook for the remainder of the day, which consisted of a second practice in the afternoon and a night practice from 7:50 p.m. to 9:35 p.m. ET. Initial reports suggested the team wouldn't be returning to the track that day.

However, the challenge to get back on track and have all three drivers complete the mandatory three laps of the night practice was enough to motivate the Muscle Milk team who proved they were up for the insurmountable challenge.

With everyone pitching in, the crew did a phenomenal job to get the Aston Martin back together and ready to run. It was with about 50 minutes left in the session that Klaus Graf entered pit lane aboard the LMP1 car.

Although the team was mainly aiming at getting all three drivers their minimum night practice requirements done, it took advantage of the remaining track time to register what was, especially under the circumstances, an impressive lap of 1:51.135 that placed them sixth overall right behind the Peugeot and Audi contingent, giving them an extra something to smile about.

The 12 Hours of Sebring will be broadcast live in the US, in its entirety on Saturday, March 19 starting at 10:15 a.m. ET. Television coverage will be presented on ABC from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20.

Greg Pickett, driver and owner Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
(On his team making it out for night practice)
"This today, what our crew did, getting us back out tonight is nothing short of heroic."
(On what was the cause of the fire)
"Even though it gave the boys quite a busy day, the damage to the car was not as bad as it first appeared, it was mostly burnt electrical wires. The source of the fire was a check valve, just one of those pieces that never ever fails, in the fuel injection system that stuck open and resulted in the high-pressure system overflowing, which caused the gas to leak and catch fire.
"I want to give my compliments to Aston Martin's fire extinguisher system which stopped the flames as soon as I activated it, it definitely saved us from extensive damage. I also want to thank the corner workers and safety team, they were quick to assist me and made sure the flames were out on our car.

Klaus Graf, driver Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
"This is hard to describe in words. We looked at the car after this morning's practice, even just a few hours ago and now, it's unbelievable. We never thought we'd be back out today. This shows what this group of people is made of and how the spirit is on the team. It's how you go about when you have something like that happen. It's a very special day for the team. This is racing, it's so emotional, there are ups and downs and the hero and zero are so close together, I don't think there's any other sport where it's like that.
"This was a big day and it finished on a high. Lucas did a great job at the end. We just put the car back together and put it on the track so to come out and set a competitive time like that is great. It also shows what Lucas is about too. It's obviously a great ending to the day.

Lucas Luhr, driver Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
"This morning when we went out I was totally surprised how good our Muscle Milk Aston Martin was. I was really excited and looking forward to the second practice and then unfortunately we had the fire which ruined everything at that moment. Luckily, Greg did a fantastic job stopping immediately because otherwise we would have no car right now.
"And then the crew, I have to say hats off to them. They did an amazing job. I've never seen anything like that. Seeing the guys in the car, under the car working on it, putting it back together and then a couple of hours later we are here with a great car that we didn't really set-up. It just shows how good a group of guys we have and it's amazing.
"I have to say a hundred million times thank you to them and hopefully we can give something back to them during the weekend."

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