Brabham, Sharp Score Patrón Highcroft Acura's Third Win in a Wild American Le Mans Series Finish at Road America
David Brabham and Scott Sharp recorded their third LMP2 class victory Saturday in the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car with another stellar drive by Brabham in the Generac 500 at Road America, the seventh round of the 11-race American Le Mans Series.
Brabham, the only ALMS driver to win in all four classes during his career, used outstanding team strategy to position himself with a chance to capture another division victory. Led by team owner Duncan Dayton and team manager Rob Hill's fuel planning, Brabham made a late-race "splash and go" pit stop during a caution period that prepared the personable Australian driver for a last dash to the checkered flag in the four-hour race set for Sunday telecast on SPEED-TV at 2 p.m. EDT.
It was Patrón Highcroft Racing's third victory in the team's last five starts.
The win moved Brabham and Sharp closer to the lead in the LMP2 point standings. Timo Bernhard and Romian Dumas, the second-place finishers Saturday, are the point leaders in LMP2.
Two other Acura teams were in position to battle Brabham and Sharp with 30 minutes remaining Saturday but tough luck took Franck Montagny and Adrian Fernandez out of the race.
Montagny, teaming with James Rossiter in the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Acura ARX-01b sports car, drove a sensational race to pass Brabham for the class lead with 15 minutes to go. However, the French driver's mount was struck by a GT car in "Canada Corner" and forced into the sand trap outside the turn. Montagny won his first ALMS pole on Friday and drove to the front of the field on several occasions in an attempt to give Andretti Green Racing its first win since Sebring last year. It was Rossiter's first race in the XM Acura.
Fernandez, a 12-time starter at Road America, ran second overall to Brabham when the rear suspension of his No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura failed. The failure forced the popular Mexican star's machine into the gravel trap in Turn Three and ended a spectacular run. Fernandez' partner, Luis Diaz, was a strong contender in the early segments of the race
Former Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran looked to be a contender too. But a couple of on-track incidents kept the Brazilian in the pits on several occasions and eight laps behind the leaders. De Ferran's No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b did come back to finish the event with young French driver Simon Pagenaud matching the leaders' lap times throughout the second half of the race.
Generac 500, Road America (LMP2 Class)
1. PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-01b No. 9
2. Penske Porsche No. 7
3. Dyson Porsche No. 20
7. ANDRETTI GREEN XM ACURA ARX-01b No. 26
8. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01b No. 15
9. DE FERRAN PANASONIC ACURA ARX-01b No. 66
UPCOMING ALMS RACE:
Event: Grand Prix of Mosport
Track: Mosport Int'l Raceway, Bowmanville, Ont. CA, (2.459 miles, 10 turns)
Date: Sunday, August 24, 2008, 3 p.m. (EDT)
Distance: 2 hours. 45 minutes
TV: SPEED-TV, Aug. 24, 3 p.m. EDT
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Our Patrón Highcroft Acura team did a great job with the strategy. All of the Acuras were fast today and we raced hard with them, the Porsches and the Audis. We made the call to pit late on a yellow flag period and then everyone else pitted for fuel. But our strategy kept us out and we took over the lead. I had to drive flat out to the end. I caught up with a GT car on the front straight and an Audi and Franck [Montagny] got run on me to get by in Turn One. I was only a few car lengths back when Franck got together with the GT car. They slid off the track and we powered by for the LMP2 lead. It is exciting to be a part of this team. It has grown into an excellent organization after being a new team in 2007."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "It is a great day for Patrón Highcroft Racing. I got stuck in some pretty tough traffic in the early portion of my stint, but I was fast later on in my run. I was able to get close to Franck and Adrian before handing the car back to David. Rob Hill [team manager] and Duncan Dayton [team owner] made some amazing strategy calls that worked perfectly for us. They had David pit for fuel under the yellow and gave us the lead when others fueled up. Winning three races this year is a tremendous feat for this young team. I think we have a chance to win another one before the end of the year."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It's a sad day for us. We had a great weekend until the last 30 minutes. The car was fantastic for me on my first two stints. Adrian did a great job qualifying yesterday and was driving the car very well in the race. Unfortunately, the suspension gave up when we were looking pretty good for our first win. It is really disappointing for all the team."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It was a tough day because we were looking good. When I jumped in the car, I think something may have been starting to happen. Turning right, the car was quite loose through the Carousel and the Kink. Turning left, the car was actually quite good. We had a great pit stop strategy and I think we had a faster car than [David] Brabham but then the left rear suspension broke and that was it. It's a shame for everybody. Luis did a fantastic job. It is just one of those days. I think it could have been a good day."
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b): "I really don't know what to say. We should have won today. The XM Acura was very fast and we were leading with about ten minutes to go. I just can't believe the luck we have had with this team. It is a good team and we should be winning races. It is very frustrating."
JAMES ROSSITER (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b): "We had some highs and lows this weekend. We won the pole with Franck and we were in position to win the races. Andretti Green Racing had an amazing strategy and we were in the lead. Unfortunately, we were taken out by another car. We had a very good weekend and we did everything just right. We just didn't get the victory today."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "It was unfortunate for our team today. We had a car to run with the other Acuras. Gil had some tough luck early and the team had to change a lot of bodywork. But, actually, our Acura was pretty good. I think we ran laps with the leaders' times. We just need a little luck. We have shown the speed to race for the win. We need to put everything together during the races."
GIL De FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "We had a myriad of problems with our Panasonic Acura today. I got hit by a slower car in Turn Three and we got stuck in the sand. We had to change both the front and rear wings. Then the front wing didn't fit properly, so we had to pit a couple of more times. We ended up having several penalties for certain things. I don't know the reason for many of them. We'll have to discuss it with the ALMS officials. Once we got everything straightened out, we were able to run similar as the leaders. It was a shame we had the early problems."
ERIK BERKMAN (President, Honda Performance Development, HPD): "I think we are showing that any one of our Acura teams can win the pole and the race. Our plan has been to have any one of our teams contend for the pole, the lead in the race and the victory. The program feels like it is coming together after a year and a half of learning and developing the engine and the chassis. I'm pleased with the progress our Acura program has taken. We'll look for more the rest of the year."