Graf and Luhr win Long Beach ALMS race
Luhr started the race third in class and dropped to mid-pack during a caution-filled middle of the race. But it was all planned. The team made its one driver change during a stop 25 minutes in, and Graf battled back through the field to take the overall lead for good with 47 minutes remaining in the No. 6 Honda Performance Development ARX-03a.
The two lead cars pitted for the final time with an hour to go. Heidfeld replaced Neel Jani in the Rebellion Lola-Toyota, which also took fuel. Meanwhile Graf took just fuel and left the pitlane well before Heidfeld. That proved the difference.
â€śWe've definitely had 100 percent the right strategy,â€ť Graf said. â€śThe way the race unfolded, it was perfect. The guys did an awesome job in the pits - no mistakes. The Michelin street soft tires ran excellent - we ran the entire race on just one set. It was such a great weekend, and I am so proud of everybody.â€ť
The victory moved Luhr into a tie for ALMS career victories (42), a mark he shares with Olivier Beretta.
â€śSometimes, endurance racing is like this,â€ť Luhr said. â€śSometimes you have the busier day, and sometimes you have the easy day. With us two, it doesn't really matter. I can trust Klaus, and I hope he can trust me. You have to do, what you have to do to win. As a team we understand that. Of course I would have loved to drive more, but at that time you put your ego or your selfishness back a bit, and look at the big picture to do what it takes to win the race. If you have a problem with that attitude, you're in the wrong business.â€ť
The No. 12 Rebellion car won the prototype portion of the MICHELINÂ® GREEN XÂ® Challenge for its superior environmental efficiency combined with its strong competitive performance.
â€śIt feels great,â€ť said Sharp, who was a P2 winner at Long Beach in 2008 with Patron Highcroft Racing. â€śWith the strength of Level 5, we thought it would take longer than this. We really did a great job as a team coming together. The team has been flat out for two months. We knew as a team it would take a while to figure this car out and get some testing in. It's great to be back and winning in a prototype car.â€ť
Cosmo took the winning carâ€™s first lead of the race 14 minutes in, getting around Level 5â€™s Scott Tucker. Following the mid-race pit sequence, Sharp got around Johannes van Overbeek and the No. 02 HPD with 47 minutes remaining.
Van Overbeek and Ed Brown were second, followed by Level 5â€™s No. 551 HPD of Tucker and Ryan Briscoe.
It didnâ€™t look too promising early. Martin lost time on the track early when he went into the Turn 1 run-off after going into the corner carrying too much speed. He regained a couple of positions before handing off to Auberlen, who pitted twice to top off the BMWâ€™s fuel tank during the raceâ€™s final caution period with 73 minutes left.
Farnbacher and Marc Goossens placed third for SRT Motorsports and the No. 91 SRT Viper GTS-R.
Corvette Racingâ€™s pairing of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia won the GT portion of the MICHELINÂ® GREEN XÂ® Challenge. It emitted the least amount of emissions of the class and combined that with optimum speed and fuel consumption.
Braun led overall for 10 minutes before Graf got around him.
â€śThis was my first time leading an ALMS race overall. I did it for what felt like forever,â€ť he said. â€śI thought maybe we could have won it. I had a great coaching from the pits to help me conserve the fuel to get it all the way to the end. What a great win.â€ť
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsportsâ€™ Luis Diaz and David Cheng finished second in class, followed by class pole-winner Bruno Junqueira and Duncan Ende for RSR Racing.
COREâ€™s victory came less than three weeks after team member and Bennettâ€™s business partner Ralph Brown passed away following a brain aneurism in September. That made Saturday even more meaningful to Bennett and his team.
â€śI took to racing because of the manufacturing company that I own. I get to go racing because I had a great partner back home keeping the business racing,â€ť Bennett said in tribute. â€śWe definitely had some help from above looking over us. I'm really proud to have a win today.â€ť
He went nearly 80 minutes on the same Yokohama tires and fuel.
â€śI was in fuel-save mode the whole way,â€ť Edwards said. â€śI had an afternoon of short-shifting and trying to manage the gap (back to Pumpelly), and keeping the gaps as even as possible. I wish all races were as easy as this. We had a strong car today and the team did a great job with setup.â€ť
The NGT crew won the race with its only pit stop; the No. 30 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup took 15 seconds less to complete its stop than the No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche.
â€śNeither of [Cisneros or Edwards] had driven here before,â€ť Cisneros said. â€śStraight out of the box we were fast. We had some close calls early and good passing throughout. Sean did a great job keeping it together to the end.â€ť
Nelson Canache Jr., drove with Pumpelly in the runner-up No. 45. The No. 44 Flying Lizard Porsche of Brian Wong and Dion von Moltke placed third.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila PatrÂ˘n is the American Le Mans Monterey from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday, May 11. American Le Mans Series at Long Beach is the second round of the 10-race ALMS championship. ESPN2â€™s coverage begins at 4 p.m. ET on Sunday, May 12 with live coverage is available on ESPN3 starting at 6:15 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 11.
Viewers outside the U.S. can watch races live on ALMS.com. The seriesâ€™ website offers additional content such as live in-car cameras, timing and scoring, and car-to-pit radio for all users around the world.
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