One of the most successful driver pairing in American Le Mans Series history have been reunited, as Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr return to the wheel of the same car for Sunday’s Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup season opener at Monza.
The German duo, who combined for 18 overall ALMS wins and two LMP1 titles with Muscle Milk Pickett Racing between 2011-2013, have teamed up in a likely one-off run together with GT ace Stef Dusseldorp in ROWE Racing’s No. 98 BMW M6 GT3.
Graf and Luhr’s last appearance together as co-drivers came more than two years ago at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, in what was Pickett Racing’s final race in top-level sports car racing.
“It’s always a sad thing when such a successful era as ours comes to an end, obviously not by our choice. And then, which is normal in life, [our] ways split a little bit,” Luhr told Sportscar365.
“Now to be back together, in a completely different car, with a different team and different series… Klaus knows the team because he drove for them with a previous manufacturer.
“Since I’m with BMW, I think it was clear one day our paths would cross each other again. I’m happy and looking forward to the weekend.”
While having driven fire-breathing prototypes such as the V12-powered Lola-Aston Martin and HPD ARX-03a, the pairing have not shared the wheel of a GT car before, in what adds a unique dynamic to the weekend.
“If you drive so many years together, you have a lot of trust and respect with each other’s abilities, so there’s not a lot of unknowns anymore,” Graf told Sportscar365.
“It didn’t work out that we’ll drive together in the Nurburgring 24, as [BMW] put Lucas with another team. But I’m happy that we’ll drive together in Monza.
“I think it’s good for BMW and ROWE Racing to get two drivers back together which have had such success in the past.”
Graf drove with the German squad and Dusseldorp in selected Blancpain GT races last year, but in a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG GT3 prior to ROWE’s switch to BMW’s new GT3 challenger, a car which Luhr helped develop.
Luhr also boasts experience with the M6 GTLM variant, as his primary program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with BMW Team RLL.
“They are very similar but very different,” Luhr said of the BMW M6 GT3 vs. M6 GTLM. “For sure, some parts you can live from your experiences but some other parts are not.
“I’m not new to the [GT3] car; I was involved from Day 1 in the development process of the car.
“But when we started testing with the GTLM, I moved over, so I haven’t driven a GT3 for quite some time. I did a couple of laps a few weeks ago on the Nordschleife but it’s so track specific that it’s different.”
While not yet having hit the track in the full GT3-spec model, Graf has been impressed with the team’s off-season transition and is optimistic about their chances this weekend.
“There’s obviously a lot of new equipment and a lot of new things to learn,” he said. “The car is still relatively new.
“I think the BMW M6 has a lot of potential. It shows a new direction in concept for BMW with the turbo engine and a bigger platform.
“Obviously it’s highly competitive in this series. We’ll see how we look after the first few sessions.”
ROWE has gotten off to a strong start in its new chapter with BMW, with podium finishes in both the Blancpain Sprint Cup season-opener at Misano and last weekend’s Nurburgring 24 Qualifying Race.
Could a maiden win for the M6 GT3 be around the corner, potentially even this weekend with one of the sport’s most successful driving duos back together?
“That’s the aim,” Luhr said. “That’s what we’re here for. We’re not here to fill the starting grid. We want to be successful.
“But there’s some circumstances in racing that you can’t always influence. We have to see what kind of role this plays here.
“Until we see a first judgment of free practice, it’s impossible to judge where you’re at, especially as Monza is a very different track to Misano. We’ll see.”