The American Le Mans Series headed to Monterey, CA this weekend for the third round of the season following Sebring and Long Beach. The annual race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is normally scheduled as the season finale in October, often leading to nail-biting finishes. More often than not, though, the team and drivers' championships were wrapped up before the last event, meaning that the Laguna Seca was essentially inconsequential. The schedule change to an earlier spot in the year ensures that each and every team fights for points.
With a highly competitive GT field - perhaps more than ever - spectators were almost ensured fantastic racing from the likes of Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, BMW and Aston Martin. We can't wait until the new SRT Viper GTS-R is thrown into the mix as well. BMW and Corvette split the first two races of 2012, although it seems that any team and any car could pull out a win at any time.
It's a different story in the prototype classes, where the Honda HPD ARX-03a run by Muscle Milk Racing looks to be the runaway favorite in the P1 class. The team lost out at Sebring due to fueling problems, but had a dominating performance in Long Beach. Likewise, the Honda HPD ARX-03b of Level 5 Motorsports has swept the first two races of the season and look like the team to beat. However, the big news in Monterey for the prototype classes was the debut of Dempsey Racing's new closed-cockpit Lola B12/87 running in the P2 class. Patrick Dempsey himself would be making his ALMS debut.
Scroll down below to read more about the American Le Mans Series race in Monterey.
Related GalleryALMS Monterey 2012
Barring a crash or mechanical failure, there was never a doubt who was in control of the P1 class in Monterey. The Muscle Milk Racing HPD ARX-03a, driven by Lucas Luhr and Klaus Graf, was quickest in every practice session, set the pole position in qualifying, and set the fastest lap during the race. After getting passed in the opening corner, the Muscle Milk team quickly regained the lead and never looked back. By the second hour of the six hour race, the team had lapped the entire field.
"We had to keep pushing to keep our rhythm," Graf said. "We did competitive laps; that's what we wanted to do. It is the safest way to drive. If you go away from the path it is dangerous. We have to stay predictable in traffic too, so we can't stray too much. You always have close calls, and there is no way to avoid that. Some guys don't see you and that is the way it is. You have to look ahead and pay close attention."
"It was a good race for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing especially now that we have two wins in California in front of our home crowd," Luhr said. "It was very important for the whole team and our motivation. It was very nice. There were so many friends and family of the Picketts here to support us. We can show them two back-to-back victories. I'm very happy Klaus did a very good job in the beginning, and we had a very good lead early. We had to keep our focus, stay out of trouble and bring it home. That's what we did."
In P2 category, Level 5 Motorsports continued its domination by making it 3-for-3 in the 2012 season. Franck Montagny, Scott Tucker and Luis Diaz drove their HPD ARX-03b to a class victory and second overall despite racking up several penalties in the pit lane.
"The team is very prepared to fight for overall wins," Diaz said. "The P1s are a bit quicker in the straights to be fighting with them. Our goal is to develop race by race. The aero of this car is great, you can roll such a great speed in the corners. I think also the mechanical side of the car is great. It's just an awesome car."
Dempsey Racing had a somewhat successful debut in the P2 class with their new Lola B12/87 given that it was Dempsey's first ALMS race and first time in a prototype race car. The team finished far down in the final results - 4th in P2 and 30th overall - but managed to bring home the car in one piece and gain valuable track time.
The exciting racing was done in the GT class, where Corvette, BMW and Porsche battled for the class lead. A total of seven cars were within two seconds of each other in the final hour, but in the end it was a Corvette 1-2 finish with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner taking home the victory.
"It was so tight in our class. You could never let off and think 'I'm alright now," Gavin said. "I had a few close calls in the pitlane, and then Wolf passed me for the lead. He was hard but fair, and he gave me just enough room to get by at the last turn. I managed to sneak by a lot of people today, and we managed to catch all the breaks. It was a great race for me today."
"It was frustrating, but the car really was one of the best race cars I've ever had," Milner said. "I knew it would be tough to make it back to the front there. From first on back to sixth, the cars were so competitive. Passing is pretty difficult and I knew I had to bide my time, and be careful in many situations. I had a few close calls and a little contact, but beyond that we got up to third or fourth, gave it over to Oliver and he took it to the finish."
In the PC category CORE autosport took home the victory, their third straight, while TRG captured the GT Challenge win in their Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
You can see the full results from the ALMS race in Monterey below.
American Le Mans Monterey presented by Patrón
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, Calif.
1. (1) Klaus Graf, Germany; Lucas Luhr, Germany; HPD ARX-03a Honda (1, P1), 242.
2. (4) Luis Diaz, Mexico; Scott Tucker; Franck Montagny, Brignoles France; HPD ARX-03b Honda (2, P2), 239.
3. (10) Colin Braun, Ovalo, TX; Jon Bennett; Oreca FLM09 (3, PC), 236.
4. (6) Roberto Gonzalez; Tomy Drissi, Hollywood, CA; Bruno Junqueira; Oreca FLM09 (4, PC), 236.
5. (7) Tom Kimber-Smith, England; Alex Papow; Oreca FLM09 (5, PC), 236.
6. (8) Michael Guasch, Palo Alto, CA; Memo Gidley, San Rafael, CA; Archie Hamilton, Hampshire, UK; Oreca FLM09 (6, PC), 236.
7. (12) Lucas Downs, North Mankoto, MN; Kyle Marcelli; Dean Stirling, England; Oreca FLM09 (7, PC), 234.
8. (9) Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Ken Dobson, Carmel Valley, CA; Oreca FLM09 (8, PC), 232.
9. (17) Oliver Gavin; Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Corvette C6-ZR1 (1, GT), 232.
10. (20) Jan Magnussen; Antonio Garcia; Corvette C6-ZR1 (2, GT), 232.
11. (18) Jorg Muller, Germany; Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; BMW E92 M3 (3, GT), 232.
12. (22) Dirk Mueller; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; BMW E92 M3 (4, GT), 232.
13. (21) Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Ferrari F458 Italia (5, GT), 232.
14. (19) Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Jorg Bergmeister; Richard Lietz, Ybbsitz; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (6, GT), 232.
15. (24) Bryan Sellers, Centerville, OH; Wolf Henzler; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (7, GT), 232.
16. (11) Ryan Lewis, UK; Duncan Ende, Los Angeles; Henri Richard; Oreca FLM09 (8, PC), 231.
17. (16) Stefan Mucke, Germany; Darren Turner; Adrian Fernandez; Aston Martin Vantage (9, GT), 230.
18. (27) Marco Holzer; Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (10, GT), 230.
19. (25) Sascha Maassen; Bryce Miller, Hoboken, NJ; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (11, GT), 229.
20. (35) David Heinemeier Hansson; Martin Plowman, Indianapolis, IN; Antonio Pizzonia, Manaus BR; Morgan/Nissan (12, P2), 227.
21. (13) Anthony Nicolosi, Brooklyn, NY; Ricardo Vera; Oreca FLM09 (13, PC), 225.
22. (23) Guy Cosmo, Long Island, NY; Ed Brown, Las Vegas, NV; Ferrari F458 Italia (14, GT), 224.
23. (2) Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Johnny Mowlem, England; Guy Smith, Beverley, UK; Lola B12/60 Mazda (15, P1), 222.
24. (30) Emilio Di Guida; Joeren Bleekemolen, Netherlands; Brett Curtis, Valencia, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (1, GTC), 219.
25. (34) James Sofronas, Newport Beach, CA; Rene Villeneuve, Woodland Hills, CA; Alex Welch; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (2, GTC), 219.
26. (32) Michael Aventatti; Bob Faieta, Tujunga, CA; Cort Wagner, Pacific Palisades, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (3, GTC), 219.
27. (33) Anthony Lazzaro, Acworth, GA; Cooper MacNeil; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (4, GTC), 216.
28. (28) Damien Faulkner; Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, Haarlem, NL; Peter Lesaffre, Rye, NH; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (5, GTC), 211.
29. (3) Scott Tucker; Christophe Bouchut, France; Franck Montagny, Brignoles France; HPD ARX-03b Honda (6, P2), 207.
30. (5) Joe Foster, Lawrenceville, GA; Jonny Cocker, UK; Patrick Dempsey; Lola B12/87-Judd BMW V8 (7, P2), 202.
31. (14) Andrew Prendeville, Chatham, NJ; Rusty Mitchell, Midland, TX; Duarte Felix de Costa, Cascias PT; Radical SR10/Rousch Yates (8, P2), 185.
32. (29) Nick Tandy; Mike Hedlund, Woodside, CA; Tracy Krohn, Houston, TX; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (9, GTC), 178.
33. (31) Martin Ragginger, Austria; Chris Cumming, Vancouver, BC; Matthew Marsh, Welwyn, UK; Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (10, GTC), 119.
34. (15) Tony Burgess, Canada; Antonio Downs, Minneapolis, MN; Chapman Ducote, Miami, FL; Oreca FLM09 (11, PC), 100.
35. (26) Townsend Bell, Santa Monica, CA; Bill Sweedler, Westport, CT; Lotus Evora/Cosworth (16, GT), 67.