David Brabham's last-lap heroics continued Friday during American Le Mans Series qualifying on the newly-paved Lime Rock Park with the Aussie star winning the pole position for Saturday's Northeast Grand Prix sports-car event .
Brabham, who won a class championship in the 24 Hours of Le Mans last month, drove the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car to a time of 46.696 seconds (115.642 m.p.h.) on his final circuit of 1.53-mile, eight-turn road course. The 42-year-old sports car veteran, who'll co-drive with Danbury, Conn., native Scott Sharp, posted Acura's third overall pole in the manufacturer's two-year stint on the American Le Mans Series. Dario Franchitti and Brabham won Acura's poles last year, at Long Beach and Houston, respectively.
Brabham's impressive run knocked another Acura driver, Simon Pagenaud, to second in the 27-car field after the young Frenchman had driven the No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b machine to a time of 47.082 seconds (114.694 m.p.h.) for de Ferran Motorsports. Pagenaud, teaming with former Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran in Saturday's two-hour, 45-minute feature, will make his second ALMS start Saturday.
Friday's qualifying will mark the first time that two Acura prototypes will comprise the front row for the Northeast Grand Prix, set for 2:05 p.m. EDT Saturday.
Adrian Fernandez looked to be solid for a potential pole run in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b Friday, as the popular Mexican driver clocked a 47.264-second lap early in the 20-minute qualifying session. But he had to settle for the fifth qualifying spot. Fernandez, winner in Indy Cars, Indy Lights and sports cars during his stellar career, will team with fellow Mexican racer Luis Diaz in Saturday's main event.
Former Formula One driver and Le Mans star Franck Montagny made his driving debut in the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b for Andretti Green Racing and took his mount to seventh on the starting grid, with a time of 47.372 (113.991 m.p.h.). Montagny will co-drive with IndyCar Series competitor Marco Andretti, the third-generation star who'll drive at Lime Rock Saturday afternoon and in the IRL event at Nashville in the evening.
ACURA QUOTES: DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Finding a clear spot on the track is not easy. And the surface was dusting up a bit. It was easy to go off. I did it early on in qualifying. I just had to dig so deep to find that lap. I hadn't put together a real good lap early in the session. But the last two laps, the Michelin tires were coming in just right and I got a clear lap. I was pushing as hard as I could. I knew there was a fast time. I just needed to find it. And the track came to our Patrón Acura today. For the race, it is much better to start on the front row here. This is a tight track. So the racing will be cramped, to say the least. I'm excited, because this is our second overall pole and it came in Patrón Highcroft's backyard."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound Acura ARX-01b): "I am quite happy with our qualifying run today. We didn't know the track before today and we had no testing here. In fact, neither Gil [de Ferran] or I had seen the track before yesterday. So a front- row spot is great for our Panasonic ELS Acura team. Lime Rock is a fun track to drive and very busy. On the next to last lap, I was able to get the top position. And I caught one of the Audis and lost a better lap. But David's [Brabham] time was very fast. It will be good to have two Acuras on the front row for the first time."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "This is a beautiful spot and great for the fans. The new surface is very nice, too. But the track is still pretty tight for your prototype cars. We had a good run early in qualifying, but we didn't have a lap for the top two Acura cars. Congratulations to Acura for the front row today."
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "This is a very good team and I think Marco and I will be fast in the race. But in qualifying, we didn't perform as well as we thought we would. This track is very tight and I think the race will be pretty wild."