By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
LONG BEACH, California– Dirk Mueller had it all, except for maybe a pint or two of fuel.
The BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach was coming to a close and the German driver was second in the GT Le Mans class in the third round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
The No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT came out of Turn 8 on the final lap trying to catch eventual GTLM class winner Earl Bamber’s No. 912 Porsche but with no more fuel, the car sputtered coming onto Seaside Way. As that happened, Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R got into the back of Mueller’s car, sending the Ford into the outside wall.
“It was definitely fuel and that caught me by surprise because I got no real warning,” said Mueller. “I knew we were tight but I thought we were good. By the time I went around Turn 8 and went back on the gas there was nothing, the engine died and I got really punched hard from behind and that’s it.”
“It happened right in front of me and I had no way of avoiding him,” said Magnussen. “I was afraid I was going to get caught behind him so once I was into him I went back on the throttle and got him out of the way and kept going. I just barely held onto second.
“The reason why I got into him was because I was trying to get a run on him, it was the last shot so I gave it everything I could through the corner to get a good exit and he stops in front of me because he runs out of fuel. I had no way of avoiding him. I’ll go over there and talk to him, I hope he knows it wasn’t on purpose,” added Magnussen.
Mueller took over the No. 66 from starting driver Sebastien Bourdais at the Ford’s only pit stop of the race. The Ford pitted eight minutes sooner in the 100 minute race than the rest of the GTLM field that stopped during the race’s final full course yellow. That stop before the yellow allowed Mueller to take the class lead.
“The team did an awesome job with the strategy,” said Mueller. We came from fourth to first and I was first or second all the time and we got that bump at the end but that’s racing. There were lots of cars that were out of fuel at the end so that’s why we finished fourth.”
Magnussen ended up finishing second in the GTLM class and Mueller finished fourth. Both drivers met afterward to discuss the incident and understood what happened. When asked if he felt bad for Mueller before going over to see him, the Danish driver had a simple reply.
“Yes. It sucks.”