Muscle Milk AMR: Heartbreak at Sebring

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Muscle Milk team saw its 12 consecutive podium streak in the American Le Mans Series come to an unfortunate end Saturday afternoon in Sebring when it was forced to retire from the 12 Hour event, after being hit by a GT car.

The hit itself wasn't race ending but it resulted in damage to the cooling system, which caused the gearbox to overheat. The team worked feverishly to make the necessary repairs all while fighting the clock, knowing it had to complete 70% of the race distance to collect championship points.

Seeing the amount of work left to do, combined with the time left in the race as well as the number of laps down they were, Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing sadly had to call it a day.

The team was faced with all kinds of adversity this week, starting with a car fire on Thursday and then issues during Saturday's race.

Earlier in the day, they had found themselves nine laps down due to a faulty battery that wouldn't allow the car to start up after a pit stop. The team remedied the problem and everything was once again running smoothly, much like it had at the start of the race.

Team owner Greg Pickett started the event aboard the Aston Martin LMP1 and battled with his ALMS championship rival Chris Dyson before handing off to Klaus Graf while sitting in eighth place.

Having fallen to 39th during his stint, following the battery issues, Graf went on to make his way back up the field to 23rd by the time the race hit the three hour and 50 minute mark.

Lucas Luhr then took over from Graf, and much like his fellow German, he started fighting his way through the traffic while putting in lap times that matched and even bettered the times of the lead cars.

Things were finally looking up for the Pickett-led team after five hours and 30 minutes of racing with Luhr having made his way to 11th. But it was a few laps later that the four-time ALMS champion was hit from behind by a GT car.

While he was initially able to continue and give Pickett another turn at the wheel, the team had to retire to the garage area shortly there after before putting an end to their day.

The Muscle Milk team, who took the honors in the LMP2 class at last year's race, comes out of Sebring with knew knowledge of its Aston Martin and a positive outlook for its future races.

Although the team is disappointed with the final result, it knows it has the speed to fight with the best of them.

Shortly after retiring his car from the 12 Hours of Sebring, Greg Pickett announced he was going to sit out the next race at Long Beach (April 15 -16) in order to put Lucas Luhr in the car with Graf. Pickett who will still be on site in his team owner role thought it best for the team in order to give themselves the best chance to make up some ground in the championship standings.


Greg Pickett, owner/driver #06 Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing LMP1
"We're not use to this at Pickett Racing. We've had that streak going because we pay attention to detail and we have a great group of guys. We had a little bit of adversity with the fire on Thursday and then we got ran into today but those things will happen in racing. We've finished on the podium in every race since our return to the ALMS in 2009 so maybe we were due for something like this to happen.
"The positive things to take from this is that we had pretty good pace when Lucas and Klaus were in the car in particular and I also felt that I had a good couple of stints. We were looking pretty good and running very competitive times that matched the big factory teams, so that bodes well for our competitiveness in the future. Our partners at Aston are not dismayed at all; they see that we're a good, solid partner.
"We're now going to head back to the shop and get ready for our next race. We already have a test scheduled for the beginning of April before Long Beach to prepare for that race.
"Also, I can officially announce that I've asked Lucas to join Klaus in the car for Long Beach where I will just take on the owner's role. I was thinking about it before and in particular now, we need to really make up for some lost ground and give us the best chance to do really well this season and that really gives us the best opportunity to do that. I'm happy he'll be back with us and I'm looking forward to it."

Klaus Graf, qualifying driver Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing
"It's very heartbreaking but it's racing, it's Sebring. It was certainly not for lack of trying. At the end of the day, it is what it is, these things can happen in racing, this is a 12 hour race. We knew going in that with the traffic it could be problematic. It's unfortunate that the hit caused problems to the car. The guys tried everything to make it happen, to get it back out to make the 70% but there was no way it was going to work, not with the rules in place of not being allowed to change the complete rear end of the car.
"I think we had a very competitive package, Lucas and I were putting down some fast laps overall and that is very pleasing for the team and for the guys and everybody. You have to take the positive and go from there. Long Beach is just around the corner. We'll regroup from this and be back strong in a few weeks.
"It's great to have Lucas on board for Long Beach. I always enjoy racing with Greg but I also respect the decisions he takes, if that's what he wants to do and thinks that's what is best for the team, that's what we'll do. The goal for us will be to maximize our performance."

Lucas Luhr, driver #06 Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing LMP1
"It's never fun to not finish a race but that's racing. We all have been involved in racing long enough to know these things happen. Overall, I enjoyed the week a lot, working with the guys. I really like the team, the mechanics, Greg, Penny, Klaus, everyone, it's just great. I feel like I've been here many, many years already. It feels like home.
"As for the race, we had a good pace, Greg did an awesome first two stints and we were right there. Unfortunately we first had a problem with the battery and then at the end I was hit by a GT car, which caused some damage. It's sad for the boys because after the fire they worked so hard and the car was really good. I was really hoping that I could give them something back. Unfortunately, we didn't do it this time, maybe next time.
"(About returning with the team in Long Beach) I'm really excited about racing with the team in Long Beach. I think it's one of the best street circuits in the United States. I'm sure it will be a fun weekend."
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