ATLANTA (October 19, 2013) – A race-leading run at Petit Le Mans ended Saturday before the 1,000-mile race at Road Atlanta was even two hours old when the No. 48 Chopard/TOTAL Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Bryce Miller, Marco Holzer and Emmanuel Collard abruptly retired with a terminal transmission issue.
After starting driver Miller moved up to and raced in sixth place for the majority of his race-opening shift, Holzer took over and promptly drove the No. 48 Chopard/TOTAL Porsche to the front of the GT field in light rain conditions.
Holzer led several laps, and the team’s recent run of bad luck appeared to be changing as he pitted from the lead for the first time this season for a routine stop late in the race’s second hour.
“After the unlucky season that we have had we did a great job today at the beginning of the race,” Holzer said. “We were leading, and also we were on the right strategy with the right tires because it started to rain again. Just after a pit stop I drove down the pit lane and something in the rear end broke.”
Within the span of just a few minutes, the Chopard/TOTAL Porsche went from leading the race to out of it, ending a frustrating American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season for the Paul Miller Racing team.
“I think we had a pretty good race car, we didn’t have the fastest race car today, but we really felt we could contend at the end,” Team Owner Paul Miller said. “We were just trying to drive a good, smooth race and stay out of trouble and gradually worked our way up. I think we made a couple of pretty good strategy calls to get up to the front, but we just had a very fluky drive flange in the gearbox break. We could have fixed it but we would be so many laps down there was no way for us to gain any track position from that far back.”
The early Petit retirement was the fourth-straight disappointing race that the No. 48 team endured in the stretch-run to end the season. Bryce Miller and Holzer were uninjured in spectacular accidents at Baltimore and Virginia International Raceway, respectively, while an obscure left-rear suspension issue knocked the team from contention at the Circuit of The Americas race in Texas.
“It has been a real difficult season of ups and downs like this,” Bryce Miller said. “All year we have showed preparation, good pace in our pit stops and good pace in the car, but none of it ever seemed to all string together for us at the same time. It’s just awfully frustrating but a very character building experience.”
Emmanuel Collard, who debuted with the Paul Miller Racing team in the 2011 Petit, returned for this year’s race, but the fast Frenchman never had a chance to drive on Saturday.
“It has been a really unlucky season but we all of the time did our best,” Holzer said. “Thanks to the guys for fixing the car after Baltimore and VIR, it was very hard for them many times.”
Ironically, the No. 48 Chopard/TOTAL Porsche team’s best result of the year came just before the frustrating four-race stretch that closed out the year. Bryce Miller and Holzer drove to a fourth-place finish at Road America in August and it looked like a similarly strong result was possible on Saturday.
“I was on my feet, eating lunch, standing in front of the television watching our car lead the race,” Bryce Miller said. “The commentators mentioned all of the bad luck we have had this year, and how this was a really great moment of redemption for us, and literally moments later it was taken away.
“I just have enormous respect for the team and all of the hard work they have given us, especially in the latter half of this season. They had to rebuild the car twice over again and kept us running in the championship and accumulating points. Every one put their best foot forward, nobody gave up, and we really tried our very best to make it happen. It just wasn’t the right time for us this year I suppose.”
A three-hour Petit Le Mans highlight presentation will air tomorrow, Sunday, October 20, on FOX Sports 1 at 4 p.m. EDT/1 p.m. PDT.