HEADLINES

Brabham Leads New Acura ARX-02a Cars in Opening ALMS Practice at Long Beach Thursday
Lowe's Fernandez, de Ferran Teams Also Quick In Street Action

The annual "Rite of Spring" on the streets of Long Beach got underway Thursday afternoon when the American Le Mans Series machines hit close to 200 miles per hour on the picturesque Shore-line Drive.

The 35th running of the Long Beach Grand Prix kicked off a huge party in the harbor town south of Los Angeles, as the variety of racing sports cars began practice on the tight, 1.96-mile, 11-turn street circuit. The popular double feature - including the Tequila Patrón ALMS event on Saturday and the IndyCar Series race on Sunday - brings tens of thousands of racing enthusiasts and interested onlookers to the street scene around the Long Beach Arena and Convention Center.

Thursday proved to be an all-Acura affair, with two LMP1 Acuras leading the way, followed by an LMP2 Acura rounding out the Top Three in practice clockings. Coming off the impressive 1-2 finish two weeks ago at St.Petersburg, the Acura contingent immediately showed its strength, with St. Petersburg winner David Brabham posting the top time of one minute, 14.226 seconds No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a prototype machine.

The opening sessions saw Mexican star Luis Diaz, fresh off consecutive LMP2 wins at Sebring and St.Petersburg, just behind Brabham at 1:15.450 in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b. French star Simon Pagenaud was the quickest driver during the opening one-hour practice in the No. 66 de Ferran XM Radio Acura ARX-02a, with a time of 1:15.801. Pagenaud was third overall during the day's practice runs.

With the ALMS cars being the first vehicles on the street course this weekend, track conditions were extremely dirty and slippery in the early runs for the sports cars.

Brabham and Scott Sharp, current point leaders in the LMP1 division, were second best in the opening hour before recording the top overall time on Thursday.

Pagenaud, teaming with former Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran, returns to Long Beach for the first time since 2007 when he drove a Champ Car, while de Ferran comes back following an eight-year layoff. The Tequila Patrón ALMS race begins Saturday at 4:10 p.m. [PDT], with qualifying set for Friday at 3:55
p.m. [PDT].

ACURA QUOTES:

DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "The track was very slippery in the early stages of practice today. But we found a good direction with the Acura's setup in the second round. This place is always [a] tough [place] to pass. But we found the spots to get by last year and we'll find them again in Saturday's race."

SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "I was pleased with my car in the first round of practice. The car handles so well on the street circuits. The biggest things to watch for are the marbles just off the groove. We get pickup on the tires and [then] the steering wheel is tough to turn. The car wants to slide a lot."

LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We had a little electrical glitch in the first practice today, but the car is really handling well. I was pleased with the team's setup of the Lowe's car. Adrian was fast in the second practice, too. So I think we have a great shot at another win. Winning here at Long Beach would be a great accomplishment for the Lowe's team."

TEQUILA PATRÓN ALMS RACE PRACTICE
1. Patrón Highcroft Acura
[David Brabham]
1:14.226
2. Lowe's Fernandez Acura
[Luis Diaz]
1:15.450
3. de Ferran XM Radio Acura
[Simon Pagenaud]
1:15.801
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