Brabham, Johansson Survive Wild Detroit Belle Isle ALMS Race With Third-Place Finish For Highcroft Acura ARX-01a
The veteran driving pair of David Brabham and Stefan Johansson dodged fire, flying parts and bumping cars in the No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a prototype Saturday through the streets of Belle Isle to place third in the LMP2 class in the inaugural Detroit Sports Car Challenge through the streets of Belle Isle. It marked the fourth podium appearance of the year for Highcroft Racing and kept Brabham and Johansson third in the American Le Mans Series division point standings.
Highcroft's third place Saturday gave Acura its ninth podium finish in this automaker's debut American Le Mans Series season.
However, the start of the two-hour, 45-minute slugfest did not look promising for Highcroft squad when Brabham was hit twice during the first hour of Saturday's feature race, contested on the tight 2.096-mile, 24-turn street course near downtown Detroit. Brabham also avoided a blazing GT-2 Porsche during the race, as well as some flying bodywork from other cars' crashes on course.
But solid pit work and excellent fuel strategy brought Brabham and Johansson, former Formula One drivers, back into contention. When Johansson passed fellow Acura driver Adrian Fernandez for third in the last 30 minutes, the Swede, who placed third in 1992 at Belle Isle in the CART series, was able to put his car owner Duncan Dayton back on the podium for the first time since Lime Rock. Dayton was absent from two races due to a neck injury last month.
The Penske Porsche of Timo Bernhard and Romian Dumas won its fourth consecutive race of the 2007 ALMS campaign, with the Dyson Porsche of Butch Leitzinger and Andy Wallace second.
The No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola of drivers Luiz Diaz and Fernandez finished fourth in the LMP2 division after racing as high as second overall in the 27-car field. Fernandez, making his ninth start in races at Belle Isle, drove back through the field to battle Johansson for third. But a slippery track blunted Adrian's charge.
The toughest break of the day occurred with the potent No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a and drivers Marino Franchitti and Bryan Herta. Herta, a Detroit native, qualified his car third on Friday and the Andretti Green duo was expected to contend for the overall win at Belle Isle.
However, Franchitti, driving in the third position overall, had to pit after the first hour with a mechanical problem that cost the team 14 laps in the pits. Herta, who finished on the podium at last week's ALMS race in Canada, stormed from the pits to produce stunning lap times but the XM Acura had to settle for eighth in the LMP2 category.
The American Le Mans Series now moves to one of the classic events of the campaign with the 10th annual Petit Le Mans sports car race at Road Atlanta on Oct. 6. The season finale is set for Oct. 20 at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif.
|Detroit Sports Car Challenge|
|American Le Mans Series LMP2 Class|
|1. Penske Porsche No. 7|
|2. Dyson Porsche No. 20|
|3. HIGHCROFT RACING ACURA ARX-01a No. 9|
|4. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA LOLA B06/40 No. 15|
|8. ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA ARX-01a No. 26|
|ALMS Point Standings (LMP2)|
|1. Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard 190|
|2. Ryan Briscoe, Saasha Maassen 153|
|3. DAVID BRABHAM, STEFAN JOHANSSON 106|
|4. Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger 102|
|5. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith 91|
|6. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, LUIS DIAZ 88|
|7. BRYAN HERTA 85|
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "I was waiting to make my move on Adrian [Fernandez] for third. You have to be patient and make your move at the right time. I can't believe we made the bloody podium. I think we were in last place in the first hour of the race. David [Brabham] got hit a couple of times and the front and rear of the car was messed up. It was very hard to turn the car with the dive planes [wings] off. I thought the Penske Porsche No. 6 [Saasha Maassen] had a problem because he was going so slow. I dove to the inside figuring he was slow and he turned into the corner. I had to spin to avoid him. Then I just drove as hard as I could to move back up the field. It was nice to have Duncan [Dayton, team owner] here today after his injury last month. [Dayton had neck surgery earlier this week]."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "It was pretty intense out there. I got hit twice in my stint and those contacts took the aerodynamic parts off the front of our Highcroft Acura. We were struggling for grip in the corners. We had a major push in the car because we lost the dive planes off the front of the car. It really is just getting to the finish in this one. Anything can happen out there. People are starting to make mistakes and you can take advantage of it. It is very difficult to get a rhythm going here. You can't hit the apex just right. It got to the point where I would wait for a chance to pass and get a clean run. You couldn't really force the issue or you would get hit or into the wall. The circuit is very slippery right now. So we need to hang around and get to the finish."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola B06/40): "We had a great strategy for the race which looked like it would have played out in our favor for awhile until we lost some time coming in for our pit stop. We were going for a win today and I think we had the strategy to get us to the front. In all, I think we had a good race. Luis drove a very good stint. He was very strong and I was very proud of him. On my stint, it was like the front tires never came up temperature-wise. There is a lot of concrete and the front tires felt like they were numb - no grip - so it was hard for me to battle with anyone. I was good in the fast corners but not in the slow corners. Stefan [Johansson] passed me during a good opportunity with traffic. I just couldn't play it too aggressive at that point. If our strategy had played out, I think we could have finished second."
LUIS DIAZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola B06/40): "It was a tough race as we expected but we were again close to the podium. I had a pretty good stint and I was able to hold the No. 7 Porsche back. Unfortunately, I had a problem on my lap coming into the pits and I lost quite a bit there. I think that cost us some in this race and if that wouldn't have happened, I would feel good. But it did happen and I don't feel 10) per cent satisfied today. I know the next two races will be great tracks for us, and we are looking to pick up more points and end the year strong."
MARINO FRANCHITTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "The XM Acura ARX-01a was fantastic. I don't know if we put too many laps on the tires in qualifying because the car wasn't really good at the start. After the first pit stop, we got new tires and the car was awesome. I was able to pass several cars at the green and I was closing on the Porsches. The ties change really transformed the car. Then it started to miss a couple of downshifts and, a lap later, I couldn't downshift at all. We tried all of the emergency systems we have and we had a mechanical problem It is unfortunate because the XM car really felt strong today. It's just a disappointment for the Andretti Green Racing team."
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "My XM Acura was awesome. We had a car that could win the race. It's a shame that we had a shift problem with Marino [Franchitti] and we had to sit in the pits for a long time to fix it. The car was great after the team fixed the problem. We just lost too much ground on the pit stop. We have to have everything ready for Petit Le Mans now."
|Upcoming:||Petit Le Mans|
|Date:||October 4-6, 2007|
|Location:||Road Atlanta Braselton, Georgia|
|Race:||Round 11 of 12 races, 11:45 a.m. American Le Mans Series|
|Track Type:||2.54-mile, 12-turn road circuit|
|Distance:||1,000 miles or 10 hours|