Cocker goes 4th to 1st to win at Road America
Cocker was 6.295 seconds quicker than Graf, who drove with Timo Bernhard, on the final lap. The young Brit passed the Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder when leading prototype balked while low on fuel during the final lap.
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud placed third in LMP, only 4.915 seconds behind the winning Lola-Judd. They still retained their championship lead in the class with two events remaining – 50 points are available the rest of the season.
“On that last lap I could see Klaus hadn’t had a splash and suspected he was in fuel-saving mode,” Cocker said. “I was expecting to catch him, but not that amount. I think a big portion was he got caught behind a Porsche in Turn 9 and another GT car in 10. But I knew we had the pace to get on the rear of his car, and to get there in Turn 12 and make it in 13. I knew it would be the only opportunity; if I was behind him on the straight I knew he'd be able to block me. It was a bold move for sure, but I wasn't going to throw away second place. Well done to our team.”
Drayson, who drove the opening 1:19 in the cellulosic E85-powered prototype, was cheering the whole way, pleading “Go Jonny, go.”
And of course Jonny went.
“Dale (White, team manager) and I thought he could do it. It looked like an impossible task, but he has such a big heart and amazing talent,” Drayson said. “But we were hungry for that win. First for him to come out and just attack, really it was inspiring. We were just willing him on, right there with him mentally in the car. The way he made up a place every lap was just so thrilling to watch. We’ve been driving together since 2006 and he is an amazing talent.”
It was an incredible weekend for Drayson. Cocker was on pole position for the second straight race and set the fastest race lap, and the team won the LMP category in the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge, a competition within the race that awards teams for overall performance and environmental efficiency. Drayson is one of the leading figures in the Series’ platform of advancing automotive technologies and advancements through racing for passenger cars of the future.
“I’m here racing with this team in the ALMS because of the way the Series is making racing relevant across the world,” Drayson said. “It is about winning with new technologies and not making excuses. So we’re improving efficiencies and speeding the technologies through racing. This shows that technologies are paying off and giving you what you need to win.”
In LMP Challenge, Gunnar Jeannette and Elton Julian won for the third time this year in G-Oil’s Green Earth Team Gunnar ORECA FLM09. Jeannette finished the race 21 seconds ahead of class pole-winner Luis Diaz in the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry he drove with Ricardo Gonzalez.
Scott Tucker and Andy Wallace finished third in class for Level 5 Motorsports. Tucker and Level 5 retained the class championship lead by 4 points over Jeannette and GETG.
“This goes to the team and the strategy. It was really a team effort,” said Julian, who drove the opening stint. “To win one today was a great feeling. Such a great endurance win. We still have the same engine that bolted into the chassis at the beginning of the year. Some of the other teams seem like they have gone through about 90.”
Jeannette drove the final 86 minutes and led the last 17 laps. The critical moment came on his final pit stop with 23 minutes remaining but kept the lead.
“Hats off to our engineers. They did the best with what we had this weekend,” Jeannette said. “I think it was the first off the pace we've been all year but we kept pushing and kept on it all weekend and all race. We knew we had to just click off as many good lap times all weekend as possible. We watched the PR1/Mathiasen car pit in front of us, so I just had to keep pushing and keep pushing. Then we got our splash of fuel and we could just go on to the end. We were hoping for a yellow, instead we had to pit under green. But it gave us a cushion for going very hard at the end. You have to come in to these multi-class races being able to think quickly on your feet.”
BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team won in GT for the second straight year with Joey Hand and Dirk Müller taking a 2.617-second victory in their BMW M3 GT. Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister finished second for Flying Lizard Motorsports in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, just ahead of Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta in their Corvette C6.R.
The victory moved Hand and Müller into a tie for second in the class drivers championship with Risi Competizione’s Jaime Melo and Gimmi Bruni, who finished sixth. Long and Bergmeister lead by 18 points entering the final two races.
“Joey did a great job at the beginning of the race, going from third to second, and then leading,” Müller said. “We lost the lead during the full course caution and the pit stop but it was great team strategy. We had so many chances this year and we never got the luck. We have been pushing hard all year and you have the championship on your mind. This isn't my first victory for sure (he now has 13), and you want to win but you have to focus on the championship as well.”
BMW took the lead in the manufacturer championship by six points over Porsche, and BMW Rahal Letterman Racing leads the Lizards by the same amount in the team standings. This was the first victory for BMW since it went 1-2 in class last year at Road America; Hand drove with Bill Auberlen in last year’s win.
“I love this place. It’s one of the greatest race tracks I’ve ever seen,” Hand said. “I come here with a different attitude, a lot of motivation and ready to win. Ever since my Formula Atlantic career I’ve had wins here. This RLR team, BMW, Dunlop… everything seemed to hook up here. We carry a lot of speed in the straights but it’s a lot about the corners and we have really good grip here. The car also did great on the brakes; it made it really easy to pass people. I drove it like it was a go-kart. I could just drive it anyway I wanted.”
The top nine cars in class finished on the lead lap. Team Falken Tire’s Porsche of Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler won the GT portion of the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge.
Black Swan Racing’s Tim Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen won in GT Challenge for the fourth time in five races. Bleekemolen crossed the finish line in his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car a lap ahead of Galen Bieker in the WERKS II Racing Porsche he drove with Robert Rodriguez. Velox Motorsports’ pairing of Vic Rice and Shane Lewis placed third after leading early.
The Black Swan car led the last 24 laps, and the Pappas/Bleekemolen pairing increased its lead in the driver standings and moved into first place in the class’ team standings.
“The Black Swan guys have done such a great job,” Pappas said. “I’d like to say it’s really easy and don’t know why it’s happening, but we've been working so hard. If you look at how our guys are working in the pits, they nail the setup and let Jeroen go out and set the pace. It’s pretty amazing to watch the race and pick up positions in the pits and beating our competitors by eight or nine seconds on tire stops. When you can do that in the pits it makes our jobs as drivers easier. Even though we have the points lead at this point, we're not going the conservative route.”
Bleekemolen led 27 of the final 33 laps. He passed Rice for the lead at the 1:30 mark then pitted 10 minutes later. He was back in the lead 14 minutes and six laps later.
“I came out in fourth and had to fight back to get the lead,” the class pole-winner said. “I still had lots of overtaking to do today. For me, this is the best track in North America that I have been to so far. I’m really liking this track a lot.”
There is little time to rest. The next round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n is the Mobil 1 presents Grand Prix of Mosport. The eighth round of the 2010 season is set for 3:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 29 from Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario Canada. SPEED will air the race starting at 4 p.m. ET with live radio coverage available on American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche.
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