Muscle Milk Team CytoSport proved today at the American Le Mans Series Monterey race that giving up is never an option when it comes to sportscar racing.
Performing in front of the team’s home crowd, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport fought back to score second place after having fallen to 18th place overall, six laps down midway through the race.
The finish was the best overall result in the American Le Mans Series for the Benicia, CA-based team. It was also a seventh consecutive podium for the squad who now stand second in the LMP championship.
Klaus Graf started the race in second place, after the Highcroft team was sent to the back of the field following yesterday’s qualifying session, and immediately entered a heated battle for first place in the opening laps of the six-hour event.
Although Graf had fallen to third at the start when the car of Clint Field passed him, he didn’t let the leaders get away. Keeping within striking distance, the German took advantage of some slower traffic entering Turn 11 on lap 22 and jumped ahead of the #16 Dyson Racing car, taking over second place.
Less than 20 laps later, the Muscle Milk Team CytoSport driver was in a close fight with Field for first place. The battle didn’t last long however, as the Intersport car entered pit lane with a blown engine, giving Graf the lead.
The German led the race up until lap 55 when he headed to pit lane for fuel and tires. Upon returning to the track in second place, Graf kept on pushing hard and battling his way through traffic, finally reaching the first place car of Simon Pagenaud.
By lap 95, Graf had regained the lead with a pass on the Highcroft driver.
With a little over three hours and 30 minutes left in the race, Graf headed back to pit lane for fuel, tires and a driver change, handing the car to Memo Gidley during a full course caution.
Unfortunately Gidley, who was racing the Porsche RS Spyder for the first time, spun on the restart. In order to get back on track, Gidley had to drive through the gravel trap.
That’s when bad luck hit Muscle Milk Team CytoSport. A small piece of gravel had lodged itself behind the shift paddle, causing the car to stay stuck in gear. Once the American was towed back to pit lane, the crew immediately assessed the problem, but had unfortunately fallen seven laps down to the leaders.
The team took advantage of the unexpected pit stop to put German Porsche ace Sascha Maassen in the Spyder, who returned to the track in 18th place overall and fifth in class with just over three hours to go.
That’s when the comeback began. Maassen had one objective in mind, to keep the team’s podium streak alive. With third place in the LMP class in sight, he went on his way and did even more. With a little less than one hour to go, he had made his way not only to third in class, but to third overall.
After bad luck had hit them earlier on in the race, the team had a little bit of good fortune in the dying minutes of the race. The second place car of Dyson Racing encountered some problems and had to retire from the race.
Graf, who had taken over the reins of the Porsche RS Spyder with about 30 minutes to go, took advantage of the situation and made up the laps he had lost to take over second place overall, giving Muscle Milk Team CytoSport its seventh consecutive podium finish.
The team now has a month break with no racing before the next race and will return to the track July 10 – 11, 2010 at Miller Motorsports Park for the Utah Grand Prix.
What they had to say:
Klaus Graf, Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
“What a race. It was pretty exciting, unbelievable. We were right there at the beginning and then we took the lead on the racetrack, not in pit lane, nice and clean. I was pushing really hard. I wasn’t overly aggressive but I wasn’t careful either. I tried to go and hang as well as I could. The car was very good. The guys, Brandon (Fry) my engineer, the crew, the drivers helping with the setup, everybody did an excellent job. We came back to finish second after the small problem we had with the gearbox, and were able to keep our podium streak alive, I think we showed a lot of strength today.
“I’m very happy with my performance and I feel extremely happy for Greg and for Mike Pickett, that we were able to perform like we did at our home race.
“We have a little bit of a break now, it’s good to give the guys some time to catch up, but I already can’t wait to get to Utah.”
Sascha Maassen, Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
“It ‘ain’t’ over until it’s over! That’s what they say. I think these kinds of races are the sweetest, when there is a little bit of a setback and you have to recover. Fun is not a straight line and we were up and down and in the end to finish second is, I think, a great achievement.
“If you would have said at the beginning of the weekend ‘you are going to be second behind Highcroft’, I would have been happy and now after this race, with how it went, I have to say I am really happy, I’m proud of the team, the car and my teammates, they all did a great job.”
Memo Gidley, Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
“Unfortunately I looped it around on the restart, I then let everybody go by and got back going again but had to run through the gravel to get back out on the racetrack. Unfortunately a little piece of gravel got stuck behind the shift paddle which I guess the probabilities of that happening are pretty slim. But it did and the car wouldn’t shift at that point. It was unfortunate but it was nice that the team came through and everybody kept digging and we finished second, so that was a good result overall.”