Muscle Milk Pickett Racing is hoping to make history this weekend on the streets of Long Beach, as it looks to bounce back from what was a bittersweet season opening race last month at Sebring.
The team's HPD ARX-03a P1 car did end up second in class at the 12-hour event, but had it not been for an issue with the fuel-receiving valve on their final pit stop - that consequently forced them to retire with minutes to go after an impressive run - the Muscle Milk squad could have taken home an overall podium finish and class win.
Instead, the P1 team with drivers Klaus Graf - who registered the fastest P1 race lap at Sebring - and Lucas Luhr now find themselves trailing in the championship by four points, which, on the bright side, is a much better position than the 30-point deficit they found themselves in last year heading into the second round of the season.
The team is carrying a lot of momentum into the event and has plenty to build on thanks to its remarkable performance at Sebring and its past success at the Southern California street circuit.
Graf and Luhr dominated in Long Beach in 2011, leading from lap 1 to the checkered and with a repeat performance this season, the pair of Germans could become the first to post overall victories in consecutive years at Long Beach.
Additionally, the team will have a little extra motivation to do well in front of the event's Grand Marshall, who is none other than California native, Green Bay Packers linebacker and Muscle Milk athlete Clay Matthews.
Also hoping for a better result, after a strong, yet disappointing fifth, place performance at the 12 Hours of Sebring are Muscle Milk / Molecule PC drivers, Mike Guasch and Memo Gidley.
After running as high as third at the season-opener, the team lost about an hour in the garage area making repairs to the car following a spin and contact with the wall that caused damage to the left rear.
Despite the incident, the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing PC team had a great showing in their debut and now, with the first round behind them, Guasch and Gidley are focused on an even better performance on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course in Long Beach.
The American duo, who will be making their first appearance in the ALMS PC class at Long Beach, currently sit fifth in the PC standings and are aiming at closing the 12 point gap to the championship leading team at what is, with a two-hour race duration, the shortest race of the season.
The American Le Mans Series at Long Beach race goes green on Saturday, April 14th at 4:30 pm PT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2.
Muscle Milk Quotes
Klaus Graf, #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a"Coming to Long Beach every year is very special. The atmosphere with the street circuit, the city, the waterfront and beaches so close together is unique in the United States and make it a special event.
"Being on the west coast, it's also a home race for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and we always welcome a lot of family and friends of the team.
"Lucas and I won the race last year and we certainly want to repeat that again. We had a very strong showing in Sebring and we want to keep the momentum with our brand new HPD ARX-03a.
"Because track time is so limited and our new car has never been on track there, it will be crucial to start strong Friday morning and find a good set up right away. I'm confident our tire partner Michelin will bring the right tires for this different track layout with low grip and relatively slow corner speeds. With such a long front straight away, Long Beach is different to most street circuits and therefore quite challenging. As always you can't make any mistakes on street circuits as there is virtually no run off area, but both Lucas and I have a lot of experience on this type of track and we usually do very well there."
Lucas Luhr, #6 Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a "I absolutely love Long Beach because of its history and the track itself. It's always a very special event with a good crowd.
"Driving on a street circuit is never easy because you have to find the limit without going over it, otherwise you find yourself in the wall and they are not very far away at Long Beach! It is important to keep your focus very high at all times.
"I think Muscle Milk Pickett Racing can do well there. We had a good race last year and we want nothing more than to repeat again this weekend and give the new HPD ARX-03a its first victory of 2012."
Mike Guasch, #5 Muscle Milk/Molecule Oreca FLM09 "This will be my first race at Long Beach, and I'm looking forward to it. I'm excited! I enjoyed the couple of street races that I did in Star Mazda at Houston and Trois-Rivières in the past. I like that type of slow technical track and I performed well on them.
"(How do you prepare for a track you've never been to?) I've been preparing by learning the track on my simulator. There isn't a lot of practice time at Long Beach, so preparation becomes that much more important going into the race weekend. Of course, nothing really prepares for the actual feel of the track like being on track, but the more I can learn ahead of time, the better. Fortunately, Memo has been to Long Beach and he knows it very well, so that will definitely help.
"We had a successful test last week in preparation for this weekend's race, and I'm confident we will roll out our Muscle Milk / Molecule car with a good setup. It will certainly be an interesting race and compared to Sebring this will be a real sprint race!"
Memo Gidley, #5 Muscle Milk/Molecule Oreca FLM09 "I expect the Muscle Milk/Molecule #5 PC car to be very competitive at Long Beach. We just came off a good Sebring race and as a new group of people with our car, made a lot of progress. We have not completely hit our stride yet and Long Beach could be the race. I'm excited!"Preparing for Long Beach is such a difference from Sebring where it is really about letting the race come to you and then race hard the last couple of hours. At Long Beach, a couple of hours is all we have in total! So, going into the weekend, it's really important to have an aggressively patient mindset. You have to be aggressive to make it happen in two hours but patient enough to realize that one mistake can put you in the wall and cost you everything.
"The Long Beach Grand Prix is one of my favorite events and I have had a lot of success on that track. I won there in Atlantic cars while climbing the racing ladder and also led my first laps ever there in a CART Champ Car while driving for the Players Forsythe Team.
"The crowd is also a big part of what makes this event so fun. Lots of new race fans come to Long Beach to see their first race, along with the long time fans that have seen cars run there as far back as the F1 cars. The excitement is contagious!"
American Le Mans Series Long Beach
Streets of Long Beach, 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course, Long Beach, CA
April 13 - 14, 2012
American Le Mans Series: Round #2 of 10
Race Duration: 2 hours
ALMS Live TV Broadcast:
Race: ESPN2 Saturday, April 14 at 7:30pm - 10:00 pm ET
ALMS live online coverage:
United States: ESPN3.com
Qualifying - April 13, 2012: 8:00 pm - 9:25 pm ET
Race - April 14, 2012: 7:15 pm - 10:00 pm ET
Live International Broadcast:
MotorsTV - Live on Saturday, April 14
Fox Sports Middle East - Live on Saturday, April 14
Fox Latin American Networks - Live on Saturday, April 14
Schedule (All times Pacific/local):
Friday, April 13, 2012:
ALMS Practice: 7:15 am - 9:15 am (All classes)
ALMS Qualifying: 5:05 pm - 5:20 pm (GTC)
ALMS Qualifying: 5:20 pm - 5:35 pm (GT)
ALMS Qualifying: 5:50 pm - 6:05 pm (PC)
ALMS Qualifying: 6:05 pm - 6:20 pm (P1/P2)
Saturday, April 14, 2012:
ALMS Autograph Session: 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm
ALMS Race: 4:30 pm (2 hours)