Pickett returns to victory lane at Sebring 23 years later


They say good things come to those who wait, and it was true for Muscle Milk Team CytoSport on Saturday as the team went on to take the LMP2 class victory in the prestigious Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
While the Muscle Milk squad may not have had long to wait to score its first American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón victory, winning in its first race of the season, it was thanks to their patient approach at the 12 Hours of Sebring that they came out as the LMP2 class winners.
The victory is a special one for the entire Muscle Milk Team CytoSport, not only because it’s the team’s first but because it was scored in its first race of its first full season of American Le Mans Series competition and, it was achieved at one of the most difficult races known to man and machine.
Additionally, if scoring its first win wasn’t enough, the victory also made them the first privateer team to win a race in the US in the fan-favorite Porsche RS Spyder. And the firsts don’t end there. The win was Klaus Graf’s first Sebring victory and Sascha Maassen’s first in the Porsche RS Spyder at Sebring.
It was also Maassen’s fifth victory at the 12-hour race and his 30th career win in the ALMS. As for Greg Pickett, it was a return to the winner’s circle as the Trans-Am legend, who won the GTO class at Sebring in 1987.
The race started out with the same approach the team had all week, with patience and cautiousness. Starting second, the Porsche RS Spyder, driven by Pickett, fell to third in the opening laps but quickly returned to its second place in class when the Dyson Racing Mazda encountered difficulties and entered pit lane.
Pickett who was putting in consistent lap times completed his double stint handing the driving duties to Klaus Graf about two hours in to the 12-hour event. Already one lap behind the LMP2 class leaders, Graf was quickly catching up to the Highcroft Acura but had to make a pit stop for fuel only, thanks to the superb performance of the Michelin tires.
While coming in to the pits, Graf went over the pit lane speed limit and had to serve a stop and go penalty, costing him some precious time on the leader.
With Graf completing his double stint he handed the reins to Porsche ace Sascha Maassen. Once again, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport settled into the race with no issues whatsoever arising.
By the halfway point, the team was sitting second in class, and fifth overall but was two laps down to the LMP2 leaders.
With about three hours and 30 minutes to go in the race, the team had fallen five laps to the leaders, but remained patient knowing that there was still a lot of racing to be done.
As it is in racing, reversal of fortunes happen quickly. Within about 10 minutes the team had made up their laps on the leaders and then some after the Highcroft Acura remained in pit lane with electrical problems.
Muscle Milk Team CytoSport took the LMP2 class lead with about three hours and 20 minutes to go in the race and never looked back. At one point the Muscle Milk squad had built a six-lap lead on the second place Highcroft car.
With its first ALMS win now in the books, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport return to their home base in Benicia, California as they prepare for round two of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, the 36th annual Long Beach Grand Prix, which takes place April 17, 2010.
What they had to say:
Greg Pickett, Owner/Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
Following First stint:
“I’m real happy. We’re in a good position. What we wanted to do was keep the Highcroft car in sight in my first stint and we certainly were able to do that which I was very pleased about. We even led for about half a lap right before I pitted. It was kind of fun for me. The car is very consistent. We double stinted the tires and Michelin I can’t say enough about them. The tires didn’t deteriorate almost at all. I was just as fast at the end of two hours as at the beginning. My compliments are with the drivers, they are watching their mirrors and everybody is being pretty cool. It’s fun.”
End of race:
“This is a very, very special win. Sebring is even more difficult than most longer races. I’ve run the 24 Hours of Daytona many times and this race is more difficult than that. It’s tougher on the cars, the surface is just unbelievable, it’s hard to pass here, you have to be careful. Bringing your team together and growing it together it’s almost like a family, everybody here gets along so well and they’re doing it for the right reason. You can’t pay guys really enough money to do this with the kind of energy that they do it, they have to love it and they have to bring a lot of passion and that is something that we work hard at trying to create in our business at Muscle Milk. It’s the same philosophy that we put in place here and it’s been pretty good for our fifth time out in this car. We’ve only had podiums before but to now win this contest against the competition that we had is very special indeed. No question about it.”

Klaus Graf, Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
Following first stint
“I think all in all it’s pretty good. Right now we’re trying to catch the Highcroft car.  We got close at one point but then with the traffic it was tough to get by him to get back on the lead lap and eventually he went into the pits. I think it was a good two stints. The Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder was very solid and the Michelin tires were great. So far things are good. (About pit lane speed penalty) I was certain I had turned on the pit lane speed limiter but by the time I realized it wasn’t, it was too late.”
End of race:
“I don’t know whether I feel what I should feel at the moment because it’s still so hard to believe. It’s a very special day for Muscle Milk Team CytoSport. It was a great team effort, and I think that really stands out. Thank you to Porsche and Michelin. You need reliable equipment to win these kinds of races. 12 hours is long and this is one of the hardest races in the world. To win it is very special and honestly, let’s face it, we’re going in to our first full season of competition and coming out with a win at Sebring doesn’t get much better than that! Thanks to the whole team and thanks to Greg for making this possible. I can’t wait to get to Long Beach.”

Sascha Maassen, Driver #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
Following first stint
“I had a feeling, in the first hour of my double stint, that I was constantly having to lap people. It felt like there were about 30 of the GTC cars in the field because they were everywhere! I was not really happy because I wasn’t doing good lap times because I was overtaking all the time. But the car was running great and so I had to learn to be patient. Then in the second stint somehow it all went well and I had some clear laps and I enjoyed it a lot. The car is running great and I am looking forward to some more laps in the car later on.”
End of race:
“The Porsche RS Spyder is the car that I developed so I feel like this is my little baby. I’m really happy that it’s still running well and I’m really happy to be part of this victory because when you develop a car you see it start walking and then running and now it’s running really well, for quite a while now. What makes this special as well is that this car had never won in America in the hands of a privateer team until today and I think that is a great achievement. I have to thank the team and my teammates, Klaus and Greg. I’m just very happy, especially to have won it with such a great team like Muscle Milk Team CytoSport.”

Geoffrey Carter, Team Manager #6 Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder
“What a great win for the whole Muscle Milk Team CytoSport, for me personally, this is the biggest race I’ve ever won. We stuck to our plan all week long, all race long. We thought that if any of the other guys in our class had any trouble at all that we’d be there to take advantage of it and we were. There wasn’t one mark on the Porsche RS Spyder, there wasn’t one mechanical problem. The guys in the pits, Mike Seymour and the crew did a wonderful job with the tire changes, the driver changes, filling the car full of fuel. We just went out and basically ran around all day and in a 12-hour race that’s what you have to do. I couldn’t be more proud. It doesn’t exactly seem real at the moment.”

Courtesy ALMS © RIF