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Graf tops Thursday practice session
Klaus Graf
Two weeks following its first overall victory in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport and Klaus Graf set the fastest lap time in testing Thursday for the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge. His lap of 1:12.841 (111.596 mph) led a very close LMP field around Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Whether Graf and Greg Pickett will have a chance to go for their second straight win is in doubt, however. Pickett was involved in a heavy crash near the end of the session when the car finished upside down in the Turn 4 tire barriers. Pickett was transported to MedCentral/Mansfield Hospital where he was observed and released. The car was being evaluated as of Thursday evening.

Graf was 0.212 seconds ahead of Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s Simon Pagenaud in the HPD ARX-01c that he is sharing with LMP championship co-leader David Brabham. The Frenchman’s best time was a 1:13.053 (111.273 mph). Next up was Guy Smith in Dyson Racing’s Mazda-powered Lola coupe at 1:13.140 (111.140 mph). He is driving with Guy Smith.

In all, the top five cars were within 0.586 seconds of one another.

Luis Diaz made himself feel right at home in LMP Challenge. Last year’s LMP2 race-winner with Adrian Fernandez turned a lap of 1:17.741 (104.563 mph) in the ORECA FLM09 that he will drive with Ricardo Gonzalez. The pairing drove the first three races of the season in GT Challenge and will make its LMPC debut this weekend with PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports.

Diaz was 0.675 seconds clear of Elton Julian in the Green Earth Team Gunnar entry that he will drive with Gunnar Jeannette. The pairing won last time out at Lime Rock in class. Level 5 Motorsports’ Christophe Bouchut was just 0.015 seconds behind Jeannette in the entry he will drive with Scott Tucker.

A year after helping debut Corvette Racing’s GT2 entry, Oliver Gavin went quickest in GT with a lap of 1:20.868 (100.519 mph) in the Corvette C6.R that he will drive with Olivier Beretta. Gavin went just 0.641 seconds quicker than BMW Rahal Letterman Racing’s Joey Hand in one of the team’s two BMW M3 GTs; he will drive with Bill Auberlen.

The second Corvette of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen was third-fastest in class thanks to Magnussen’s time of 1:21.590 (99.630 mph).

Jeroen Bleekemolen was the fastest driver in GT Challenge with a time of 1:25.638 (94.920 mph) in Black Swan Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry. The Dutch driver and teammate/team owner Tim Pappas were winners at Monterey and Utah before placing second in class at Lime Rock.

Bleekemolen was 0.39 seconds quicker than ORBIT Racing’s Bryce Miller, driving with Luke Hines. Next up with Velox Racing’s Shane Lewis with a 1:26.744 (93.710 mph) lap in the Porsche he will drive with Jerry Vento.

The first official practice session is set for 10:09 a.m. ET Friday.

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