Things don't always go as planned, and unfortunately, that was the case for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing on Saturday in Sebring as the team failed to see the checkered flag, despite an impressive race leading performance early on.
The outcome at this year's 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring continued the string of bad luck that the team has faced at Sebring International Raceway where they've been unable to make it to the checkered flag three times in the last four seasons.
However, things were looking good for the Greg Pickett-led squad in the opening of stages of the race.
Lucas Luhr had a strong opening stint in the first couple of hours, moving up from as low as tenth to as high as second aboard the #6 Muscle Milk ORECA Nissan.
The start at Sebring Then, thanks to a combination of great driving and excellent pit stops, the team took the lead following a stop for fuel, tires, and a driver change to Klaus Graf.
The German built a 19 second lead before making his first pit stop during what was one of many caution periods that marred the race.
Unfortunately, Graf was caught speeding on pit lane and had to serve a drive through penalty, which relegated him to 12th.
By the time he handed driving duties to Jann Mardenborough, about eight and a half hours into the event, he had made it up to sixth.
While Mardenborough had a good first stint in his Nissan machine, a driveline problem on his pit stop sent the team back to the paddock for repairs. Within 40 minutes the issue was repaired and the GT Academy graduate was back on track. Sadly, the team had lost 13 laps to the leaders in the process.
Pickett Racing's misfortunes didn't end there, however. While the team continued on for about another four hours, it was trouble with their power steering that officially put an end to their day with about one hour to go in the 12-hour race.
The Muscle Milk team didn't get the result they wanted this weekend, but they've made a lot of progress since the opening race in January, closed the gap to the Daytona Prototypes and proved that they are here to battle at the front.
The team will be back in action next month at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 12, 2014.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing Quotes:
Klaus Graf, driver Muscle Milk Pickett Racing
"It wasn't the result we wanted but it is what it is. Thank you to the boys, they worked very hard and they got our Muscle Milk ORECA Nissan back out after our problem with the driveline. They were really quick to get it fixed.
"We did competitive laps and we led the race by 19 seconds at one point. It shows that we had the speed. We also had very good pit stops. It's just that the car is still new, new to Sebring, new to the U.S. and we still have to learn a lot of things together with ORECA.
"The TUDOR Championship is obviously very competitive and we'll come back strong at the next race."
Lucas Luhr, driver Muscle Milk Pickett Racing"To start with the positive, we were very competitive in one part of the race and led some laps.
"On the negative side, we had some issues and that's very disappointing.
"We just have to keep on working and try to make it better. The boys did an awesome job on the pit stops, so big thanks to them. I know they've had some hard weeks and long hours working and even today, they were not ready to give up, they tried to fix it but it was not meant to be today.
"All we can do now is keep on working and try to make it better. We made a big, big step from Daytona to here so we need another big one for Long Beach."
Jann Mardenborough, first time racing at Sebring
"It wasn't the start that I wished to have for my first time racing in America but it's been a great experience driving for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing. The last week and a half I've been out here in Sebring testing and racing with them and I've learned a lot. I've made some great friends within the team and I've had the chance to work with two really professional drivers. I've definitely come out a better driver and a more experienced one. I'll know what to expect next time if I get to come back here at Sebring and have another crack at it.
"The result may not look amazing but there's been many positives to take out of it.
"I love the Sebring track. It's a challenge and a unique circuit. Turn 1 and especially Turn 17, you don't see corners like that, at least from what I've experienced in Europe or New Zealand. It's very, very bumpy so your line is dictated by the bumps. It's pretty difficult, especially when there is this much traffic. It keeps you on your toes."