| The Daytona Beach News-Journal
A decade ago, Bernhard Muehlner decided he wanted to be closer to Daytona International Speedway.
He relocated Muehlner Motorsports America’s headquarters more than 200 miles northeast — from Cape Coral to DeLand, settling into an office building near the city’s municipal airport.
“Since we’re at the airport, we can work through the night,” said Muehlner, 58, born in Aachen, Germany. “The weather is always nice in this area, much better than in South Florida. Those aspects brought us here.”
Muehlner considers the Rolex 24 the team’s “home race” on this side of the pond.
Those long shifts through the wee hours of the morning might finally pay off this weekend as his team expects to build on a dominant first weekend of racing.
Muehlner Motorsports America’s No. 21 Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3) led every lap of Saturday’s 1-hour, 45-minute Scouts of America 145 IMSA Prototype Challenge. The German driving duo of Moritz Kranz and Laurents Hoerr secured pole position in the LMP3 class, a first for the DeLand-based team in its sixth entry into the Rolex.
“I was just trying to find a rhythm and eliminate mistakes,” Kranz said following Saturday’s race. “The race distance wasn’t an issue. It’s awesome racing at Daytona.”
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This is not exactly a Cinderella story, however.
Muehlner Motorsports was founded more than 40 years ago. Its European headquarters are in Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, with a subsidiary located at the famed Nuerburgring in Germany, the 150,000-capacity motorsports complex in Nurburg.
As of last November, the team claimed victory in 160 races and achieved 349 podium finishes in its history, winning 17 outright championships.
Kranz and Hoerr bested the field by 19.8 seconds Saturday. Only six cars crossed the finish line on the lead lap.
“Both Moritz and me already know (the car) from the 2020 season in Europe, so we are used to it,” Hoerr said. “We know the car, it’s a very good car, it’s reliable. We just enjoyed the car.”
That didn’t stop Muehlner and his mechanics from bringing the car right back to the shop. They completed a total rebuild and maintenance service for the car for Sunday, replacing wheel bearings, drive shafts, brake disks and other commonly worn parts.
The team’s No. 6 Duqueine D08 will be prepared to survive the full distance and challenge for a championship, Muehlner believes.
Trusting his drivers to navigate through the two slower classifications (GT Le Mans and GT Daytona) while avoiding confrontation with the two faster car types (Daytona Prototype International and LMP2), Muehlner expects to battle for a priceless 24-hour title at the World Center of Racing.
“For our American team, this would be the biggest success we would have so far,” he said. “It would mean a lot to us, and we’ll do everything to make it happen.”