Honda Racing–HPD Teams Dominate in Canada

Honda Performance Development chassis and Honda engines swept the top five finishing positions Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, as Muscle Milk Pickett Racing continued to reign supreme in the 2013 American Le Mans Series; while Level 5 Motorsports edged fellow HPD-equipped team Extreme Speed Motorsports for LMP2 honors in the two-hour, 45-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix. 

The overall win for Muscle Milk Pickett was the fourth consecutive LMP1 victory for the team in five races this year, a streak that began at the Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.  It also was the fourth consecutive win at the track formerly known as Mosport for the HPD ARX-03c Honda team, at an event which once again fell on the respective birthdays of winning drivers Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr.

The pole qualifying Muscle Milk HPD dominated the 32-car field, with starting driver Graf quickly establishing his superiority and building an advantage before handing off to co-driver Luhr at the second and final pit stop.  By then, Muscle Milk had a three-lap lead over the field, and a massive five-lap lead over its nearest LMP1 challenger.  Luhr continued to extend that advantage to score his record-extending 45th career American Le Mans Series victory, and the 18th for co-driver Graf.

In the companion LMP2 category, it was another close-fought battle between the two-car teams of Level 5 Motorsports and Extreme Speed Motorsports, both utilizing turbocharged V6-powered HPD ARX-03b Hondas.  A strategic decision by the Level 5 team, bringing in third-running Marino Franchitti for a fresh set of Michelin tires during a final-hour caution period, proved to be the difference.

The additional stop cost Franchitti track position, but equipped with the newer tires, he was turning the fastest LMP2 lap times of the race, and quickly closed on Scott Sharp’s Extreme Speed HPD for second place, making an outside pass in the fast right-hand Turn 8 to take the position with just over 20 minutes remaining in the contest.  Almost immediately afterward, Franchitti passed teammate Scott Tucker for the lead coming on to the start/finish straight.

Sharp also was soon past Tucker, and battled with Franchitti throughout the closing laps, as both worked their way through GT traffic.  With just one lap remaining, the pair ran nose-to-tail in search of the class victory, but Franchitti sliced through lapped traffic while also staying just ahead of overall leader Luhr to take his third LMP2 victory of the season and extend his lead in the drivers’ championship.