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Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing takes top honours at Mosport; Rahal-Letterman Racing sees its run of three straight GT-class victories end

by Dan Heyman

From Left: GTC car #66 drivers Duncan Ende and Spencer Pumpelly; GT car #4 drivers Olivier Gavin and Jan Magnussen; LMP car #6 drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr; LMPC car #06 drivers Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez (all photos by Dan Heyman)

 

Bowmanville, ON – The 2011 Grand Prix of Mosport went off with hardly a hitch for the Muscle Milk Lola-Aston Martin of Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf. The team was fastest all weekend—fastest in practice, fastest in qualifying (they started the race on pole) and fastest by 5:50 p.m. on Sunday, when the checkered flag waved.

The team’s second win in four races this year did not unfurl completely without a hitch, however; they led comfortably until the 33rd lap, after Luhr missed the chance to pit, eventually allowing Chris Dyson to take the lead in his Lola-Mazda. After a lap spent jockeying for position, team Muscle Milk regained the lead on lap 74 and never looked back.

The win was a type of double for Team Muscle Milk; they also added more points on their quest for the Michelin Green-X Challenge. The teams that complete the race while using the fewest tires and fuel earn points—fuel savings came in the form of a switch to E85 fuel for the Muscle Milk car.

The #6 Muscle Milk Lola-Aston Martin led from pole for nearly the entire race. This was the team's second overall win this year

Car #6 drivers Lucas Luhr (left) and Klaus Graf celebrate the victory

GT Class was a little more tightly contested; this year in ALMS, things are tight at the top, with marques like Ferrari, BMW, Corvette and Porsche all jockeying for position atop the standings.

Bad luck befell BMW Team RLL at Mosport, ending their impressive run of three straight GT-Class victories to start the season. Two penalties, both resulting from contact that was deemed “illegal” forced the BMW team to forfeit two separate class leads, giving the #4 Corvette of Dane Jan Magnussen and Brit Oliver Gavin the eventual victory.

Gavin, for one, understands that Mosport, being such a fast track, can be a real challenge for drivers, as it was for Joey Hand and Dirk Müller in the BMWs.

“The slower GT cars and GTC cars together with the LMPC coming by you…the track really does seem to be a really big issue there because any tiny slip you’re off the track and you’re going to go off quick,” Gavin, 38, said after the race. “And you’re hard into the wall here, which is going to be a race-ending moment. So you’ve really got to be completely focused, there’s no moment to rest here.”

Gavin and Magnussen attributed the victory to their team’s strong pit stop strategy and the Corvette’s speed–imperative on a fast track like Mosport.

Corvette Racing finally managed to topple the Rahal-Letterman BMWs from the podium's top spot at Mosport thanks to the effort of the drivers and crew of car #4

Drivers Jan Magnussen (left) and Oliver Gavin celebrate with the Corvette Racing crew

“In the end, I think Jan and I felt that this was the most balanced car we ever had here,” he said. “We weren’t necessarily the fastest car in qualifying (they started 6th on the grid), but we executed very well.

“The team did a phenomenal job…any small problem that was developing we nipped it in the bud. We kept people under pressure, we never let up and we kept ourselves in the right spot.”

In LMPC class, CORE Autosport had a red letter day, with their Oreca FLM09 cars finishing first and second in class and fourth and fifth overall. That’s the team’s 2nd win this year, and first one-two finish.

Gunnar Jeannette and Ricardo Gonzalez piloted the class-winning #06 car, while team founder John Bennett and Frankie Montecalvo joined forces in the #05 car.

“Racing in this series is all about being smart right now,” Jeannette said after the race. “It’s really difficult; there’s so many different classes and closing speeds, especially around a place like this where you come up on (slower cars) so quickly through turn two that sometimes, they won’t see you at all.”

It wasn’t an easy race for the team to watch; Jeannette said that during the race, he actually wanted to turn off the in-car feed, it was so nerve-racking.

The LMPC class victory for car #06 was so tense that driver Jeanette says he has no fingernails left...

..but who needs fingernails when you've got hardware like this?

“Our team finished one-two,” Jeannette, 29, said. “The CORE Autosport guys are a new team, and they’re proving every race that they belong here and we’re a force to be reckoned with now.

“Watch out in the future, because we’re just learning more and more every weekend.”

Jeannette may have been nervous watching teammate Gonzalez take to the track, but any feelings of nervousness turned to happiness he felt were mirrored by frustration to elation for the guys that took turns behind the wheel of the GTC Class-winning TRG Racing #66 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

After surrendering the class lead to Dion von Moltke and Mike Piera two weeks ago on the last lap at Lime Rock Park in Conneticut, drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende found themselves on the winning side of a last-lap battle this week.

Car #66 saw its GTC-class lead disappear after a spin, only to regain it for good 15 minutes later

Drivers Duncan Ende (centre, left) and Spencer Pumpelly (centre, right) celebrate the victory with team owner Kevin Buckler; Buckler has a lot to celebrate, as his TRG cars finished one-two at Mosport, which follows a one-two finish two weeks ago at Lime Rock Park

“I think this in the first race I’ve ever won twice,” Pumpelly, 36, said. “We drove through all those cars; passed the 68, and then the 23 and I’m thinking ‘OK, we got it’ and the next thing you know, I’m backwards. I got to see the GTC pack going by me again and I figured that was it, once again, a really good effort was going to turn into a miss,” he added, referring to being spun by Müller’s BMW with around 30 minutes remaining in the race.

“But the guys on the radio just kept saying ‘come on—we can do this, we can do this’ and these guys gave me such a good car from the get-go. It was just an awesome piece,” he said.

The action picks up again in two weeks’ time (Aug. 5-6)  in Lexington, OH at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

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