David Brabham recorded his 11th career American Le Mans Series pole position Friday in a spectacular duel with fellow Acura racer Gil de Ferran during Tequila Patrón Grand Prix qualifying on the streets of Long Beach.
Brabham, winner at St. Petersburg two weeks ago with co-driver Scott Sharp, posted a sensational one minute, 11.627 second lap time for an average speed of 98.912 miles per hour in the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a prototype early in the 25-minute qualifying round on the 1.96-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit near the Long Beach harbor. Then, de Ferran, driving the two-time 2009 pole-winning No. 66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX- 02a, closed Brabham's margin with a sensational last-lap charge.
De Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 winner, cut a full second off his best lap time on his final two qualifying laps, with a best of 1:11.699 and 98.813 m.p.h. With just seconds left in the session, the three-time Long Beach CART pole winner made a last-lap dash in a bid for the team's third consecutive pole of the season.
However, de Ferran's bid came up short when he spun his machine into the Turn One tire barrier. De Ferran's car was slightly damaged and will be ready for a front-row starting spot Saturday, when the green flag drops at 4:10 p.m. [PDT] for the Tequila Patrón ALMS Grand Prix.
Rounding out Acura's 1-2-3 qualifying sweep was Adrian Fernandez, who notched the Lowe's Fernandez Racing team's third straight LMP2 pole position in 2009. Fernandez, one of the most experienced Long Beach racers entering his 14th career start here Saturday, timed in with 1:13.134 reading and a speed of 96.874 m.p.h.
The popular Mexican driving star had guided the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b to second overall in the first portion of qualifying before de Ferran's strong finish dropped Fernandez to third overall. Fernandez, who began his CART career at Long Beach in 1993, will team with Luis Diaz as the duo seeks its third consecutive LMP2 victory this year.
Brabham, winner in the LMP2 division last year at Long Beach, will have Sharp as his partner Saturday in the No. 9 Acura, while de Ferran will co-drive with young French sensation Simon Pagenaud, who won the St. Petersburg pole position. The ALMS event will be shown on ABC-TV on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday, April 19.
TEQUILA PATRÓN ALMS RACE QUALIFYING
- Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a [1st LMP1]
David Brabham - 1:11.627, 98.912 m.p.h.
- de Ferran XM Radio Acura ARX-02a
Gil de Ferran - 1:11.699, 98.813 m.p.h.
- Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b [1st LMP2]
Adrian Fernandez - 1:13.134, 96.874 m.p.h.
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "We laid down the fast time really early to see if we could save the tires for the race. Gil was getting closer and closer to our time and really hanging it out. It was fun to watch on TV but I was nervous [that] he was going to beat our time. Gil made a great effort to beat us. It is great to win the pole here at Long Beach. It is a Patrón-sponsored event and this pole is exciting for them, too. Saving our tires for Saturday's race is very important."
GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "We made a few choices with the tires and setup that would not be the best for qualifying. We wanted to be good for the race. The fact that we are so close to pole position time with our race settings makes us very happy now. I was doing my best to win the pole as you could see with that last lap. But we just missed."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We had a good gap on the Mazda guys early in the qualifying session. We wanted to save the tires for the race. But the track improved as qualifying went on, and they actually got too close at the end. Just two-tenths of a seconds behind. We made some changes with Lowe's Acura on the setup, and I was pushing very hard. The car was good, but it can be better."