Muscle Milk Pickett Racing ended its day at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida in bittersweet disappointment.
The team's P1 entry, led by drivers Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud, was on its way to a class victory and a possible second place finish overall when a fueling issue forced them to settle with a second place finish in the P1 class.
Pickett Racing's HPD ARX-03a entry ran strong all day and showed great pace. The Muscle Milk drivers kept their sights on the trio of Audi cars, constantly remained in contention of an overall podium finish and even led laps early on in the 12-hour event.
The privateer team's performance was impressive, especially considering the fact that it received its new car only two months ago. The team was entering the final hour of the race, sitting in third place only one lap away from the Audis.
Unfortunately, the team had a fueling problem on what was suppose to be their last scheduled pit stop, with about 43 minutes to go in the race. The time ticked away as the crew worked on resolving the issue and their position on the time sheets fell with nearly every lap.
By the time the team had sorted the problem and put fuel in the car, they had lost their third place overall and a class victory with championship rivals Dyson Racing taking over first place in the P1 class.
However, on the bright side, the team picked up precious points towards the Championship. The team sits four points behind first place heading into the second race of the season next month.
PC trio places fifth in class
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing's PC team of Mike Guasch, Memo Gidley and Roger Wills also had a strong showing in their debut with the team, by placing fifth in class, despite having to make repairs to their car following a spin by Wills.
Prior to the incident, the trio was running very well. Guasch who had started the race in sixth place, spent most of his triple stint on track in third before passing the car off to Memo Gidley.
The American had a good, clean run and things were looking up for the team. However, Wills, who is joining the team for the major endurance races this year, unfortunately, lost control of the car about half way through the race and went backwards into the wall, causing extensive damage to the rear of the Oreca FLM09.
The crew did an amazing job of getting the car back on track but had lost 29 laps to the class leader in the process. The team continued to run strong and went on to take the checkered flag fifth in class and pick up important championship points.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing will be back in action April 13 and 14 at the Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Muscle Milk Quotes
Klaus Graf, #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a "It came so close. It's heartbreaking on the one hand, but on the other, we got points in the ALMS Championship. Obviously it was a long day. When you push very hard and give it all you have, it's tough not to be able to finish.
"The team made great pit stops and all the drivers did fantastic runs in the Muscle Milk car. We came so close to finishing this race second overall, that you feel empty because you didn't.
"I think we have a good package for the season. Our goal is to win the championship and we're going away with good points so in the end, that's more important, maybe, than the finish. We just need to look at the big picture."
Lucas Luhr, #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a "I have to say, I'm really proud of everyone on the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team. What the boys achieved in the last few weeks, it's amazing. Even if everybody is down and disappointed right now with today's result, they can be very proud of themselves, truly from the bottom of my heart, I'm really thankful to be with this team.
"We showed today that as a small team we can put pressure on the factory efforts because we have a lot of good guys who all have the will to compete.
"Simon and Klaus did a fantastic job and it was fun up until the last pit stop. It's sad, but it's racing, there's not much you can do about it. We know what the problem is and the guys will fix it and it won't happen again.
"We come out of Sebring better than we did last year, only four points behind in the Championship and in the end that's what counts."
Simon Pagenaud, #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a "It was actually a very similar weekend to the one I had last year here at Sebring, except for the finish. There were three Audis out there and they are always hard to beat. When we saw their drivers after the race, they told us that we gave them a pretty good run for their money and I think that made Klaus, Lucas, myself and the team all very proud.
"The car ran really well, the engine was reliable and we were running some very decent lap times. At the end of the day, when you look at the big picture, we had a good week and a good day even if we didn't finish because of the fuel issue. But it's racing and Sebring, just like Le Mans, is such a difficult race to finish.
"Since 2009, I've only finished twice, once without any problems, so it's probably one of the toughest races in the world with Le Mans but the topography of the track is probably even harder than Le Mans on the cars.
"The day I'm going to win this race, I will be very happy because it's hard. I hope to be back with Muscle Milk in the future to try and win it."
Mike Guasch, #5 Muscle Milk/Molecule Oreca FLM09 "I started the race and had a very good stint in which I ran in third for quite a while.
"Unfortunately, we did have a few issues today, but overall it was still a satisfying day. Roger's incident was unlucky and the car got pretty banged up so kudos to the team for getting us back on track. Thanks to them we were able to get back out there and score some points towards the PC Championship."
Memo Gidley, #5 Muscle Milk/Molecule Oreca FLM09 "We had a good run today. It's important at this race, because it's such a big points paying race where so much can go wrong, that you finish and collect those points. It's one of those races that could have been better, but it could also have been worse.
"I was coming in here with the expectation of if we could get on the podium that it would be awesome, but we were just a little short of that.
"We're going to hit our stride and it's probably going to be soon, so for the time being, picking up fifth place points is great for the Muscle Milk / Molecule car."
Roger Wills, #5 Muscle Milk/Molecule Oreca FLM09 "I'm disappointed. I don't know what happened. It felt like the left rear locked up. The car just snapped around and went backwards into the wall. Luckily it went in parallel and hit it but it did do a fair bit of damage to the left rear. I hadn' t made a mistake all week so I was upset with myself, but that's motor racing.
"The guys did an amazing job to fix the car and get back out, and they did it much quicker than what I thought it would be. It's good for the whole team to get the car home and pick up points so I'm happy for the guys who worked so hard all week to get us ready for today.
"I look forward to returning with the team later this season."