ALMS GT3 - Miller Racing Teammates Score Seventh
ELKHART LAKE, August 20, 2011: A lot can happen in four hours of racing, and a lot did happen for No. 48 Chopard/Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR co-drivers Bryce Miller and Sascha Maassen for Paul Miller Racing on Saturday at Road America.
At the end of the day, literally, Miller and Maassen earned the satisfaction of another solid performance in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón with a seventh-place result in the GT class in the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase. The result was the fourth straight top-10 result for the driving duo and was just one position shy of the team's best ALMS run of the season, which was a sixth-place outing at Lime Rock Park last month.
An eventful afternoon got started even before the green flag dropped on the race, as a pole fell on Bryce Miller's leg, leaving the 29-year-old American racer with a badly bruised and swollen right knee. Fortunately for Miller, Maassen took the opening driving stint behind the wheel of the No. 48 Porsche and managed to work his way from 13th on the starting grid into the top 10 within the first hour of the race. Maassen made up the positions in spite of a drive-through penalty he incurred for speeding on pit lane during his first pit stop before even 30 minutes had elapsed.
The German stayed in the cockpit through the halfway point in the race and benefited from a few well-timed full-course caution periods to get all the way to sixth in the running order. He turned the car over to Miller with roughly 90 minutes remaining.
"We decided to pit early, because we had a good experience with that in the past races, and it was a good move again," Maassen said. "We were really lucky because the yellows always came out when we were really low on fuel, so it was perfect timing. We couldn't have planned it better for the yellows. It was so good that on the last yellow before I gave the car to Bryce, we were lying sixth. That was really good."
However, a balky clutch pedal - which had begun to deteriorate during Maassen's stint - greeted Miller as soon as he sat down in the cockpit, and it would eventually stop working altogether. Nevertheless, he rejoined the fight well within the top 10 and settled into ninth place for the majority of the final hour-and-a-half of the race.
As night began to fell on the 4.048-mile circuit, however, the team determined that it would not be satisfied with a ninth-place result. The Ferrari of Scott Sharp and the Porsche of Marco Holzer were both within Miller's sights and he managed to chase down and pass both of them over the final two laps, slotting the No. 48 Chopard/Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC machine in the seventh position at the checkered flag.
"We were closing down on Scott Sharp over a number of laps and my team gave the call to me that we were within range to attack, so I started to work and chip away at the gap and we were able to close it down," Miller said. "The guys did a great job to give us a reliable car that went the distance for our fourth top 10 in a row. There's no damage on the car and everybody can just continue working forward. This is really good for our team and another good feather in our caps. We're just really proud of everyone.
"Sascha did a great job. We're keeping it tight and keeping it away from damage. We're working really well together. If we can keep our driving like this and the team can keep the strategy the way it's been, really superior strategy, we should be able to pull down some respectable results. We've got some key ingredients there to give us a chance."
Among those key ingredients are the team's Yokohama tires, which have improved significantly throughout the 2011 season. Team owner Paul Miller noted the performance of the tires after the race and echoed his son's sentiments on the total team effort at Road America.
"We were really happy with the step forward that we took today with our Yokohamas," he said. "The pace was excellent. We were really pleased we were able to stay on the lead lap for the whole race and finish the race on the lead lap. We really made a nice step forward. A lot of teamwork went into the effort today. We're very excited about our position in seventh place. The Chopard RSR really performed well today. We were really in a different zone than we've been in to this point. Our development efforts are really paying off."