Patrón Highcroft Team Makes Amazing Comeback; Building a New Acura and Finishing Sixth in Petit Le Mans
On Friday morning, hundreds of parts were strewn around the Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura garage area. A new Acura ARX-02a prototype tub had just arrived at Road Atlanta by special charter from Southern California.
By Saturday evening, drivers David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Dario Franchitti had driven the newly-built No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a sports car to sixth overall in the rain-shortened Petit Le Mans classic, the ninth stop in the 10-race American Le Mans Series.
A brutal practice crash involving Sharp left the primary Acura completely destroyed and the team's LMP1 class title hopes in jeopardy. But a monumental effort by the 20-person Patrón Highcroft crew built a new Acura in roughly 20 hours in the Road Atlanta paddock area.
The sixth-place finish extended to Patrón Highcroft team's point lead to 21 over the de Ferran Motorsports team entering the season finale set for October 10 at Laguna Seca Raceway.
The Patrón Highcroft contingent, with Brabham starting from the pit lane after missing qualifications, might have had trouble maintaining the LMP1 point lead with a lightning-fast Gil de Ferran battling the factory cars of Audi and Peugeot. De Ferran drove his No. 66 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-02a to the second overall position by Lap 42. But, seven laps later, de Ferran Motorsports hopes went sliding into the mud, as Gil was hit from behind by Clint Field and his Lola. The de Ferran squad repaired the Acura in only 13 minutes, but the delay hurt the team's chances to gain points on the Patrón team.
The Lowe's Fernandez pair of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, seven-time LMP2 class winners this year, did not enjoy another winning effort this time, finishing second to the Mazda of Marino Franchitti, Butch Leitzinger and Ben Devlin. But the podium finish gave the Lowe's Fernandez operation the LMP2 team championship and Acura the LMP2 manufacturers' crown.
Fernandez and Diaz had clinched the LMP2 drivers' title at the Mosport event last month. The Mexican stars will attempt to tie the LMP2 season win record at Laguna Seca. Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas captured eight LMP2 races in 2007 for Penske Racing.
Petit Le Mans Overall Results
1. PEUGEOT 908 No. 08
2. PEUGEOT 908 No. 07
3. AUDI R15 No. 2
4. AUDI R15 No. 1
5. ORECA No. 7
6. PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-02a No.9
David Brabham, Scott Sharp, Dario Franchitti
18. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01a No. 15
Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz
ACURA QUOTES: DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "We obviously didn't get the chance to try many changes in the warm-up, so it took awhile to get comfortable in the car. Once I played with the traction control, I was able to get the car a lot better during the stint. I was able to move through the field and once I was on slicks, the car felt really good."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX- 02a): "I had a good double stint but I was certainly super conservative. We didn't want to take any risks at all. It was great to get back in the car, and I am so grateful to the guys for all their hard work. To build up a new car so quickly is just amazing, and the car has been perfect all day. It is a real credit to the guys."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "The conditions out there were just terrible, probably as bad as I have ever seen. I nearly crashed while following the safety car. You get these rivers running across the track down to the esses. It is unfortunate for the fans. The Patron Highcroft crew is beat up after working all day and night to get the Acura ready. They did a great job."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "You never want to finish a race like this for the fans' sake. Nevertheless, we are happy about clinching the team and manufacturers'. Unfortunately, we didn't show what we could do today due to the problem with the steering. When I jumped in the car, there was something really wrong. So we needed to stop and change the steering unit."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We had been facing some type of electrical problem since Thursday. The team did a good job setting up the car, but we didn't discover the exact problem until the race. We would have loved to have won Petit, but it is great to come away with the team and manufacturers' championships."
GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "This event was very disappointing for our XM Radio Acura de Ferran team. We ran as high as second today and the car felt very good in the early portion of the race. But to get taken out by a car [Clint Field] that was a lap down was ridiculous. That move took us of contention for a podium here, as well as our championship hopes. ALMS gave him a penalty, but it took us completely out of the race. The first incident caused other problems for the car, too. It was very frustrating to have the race play out that way."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "This was a tough race for us today. I really thought the car was going to be able to run with the Audis and Peugeots, especially in the rain. And Gil got the car moving up well. It's a shame that the Field car drove into Gil in the early stages of the race. It basically took us right out of contention. I feel sorry for the fans, too. The rain was really tough on the teams and the fans. They would have seen a tremendous race. Now, we have go to Laguna Seca and win the race."
SCOTT DIXON (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "I feel badly for the team. I made a rookie mistake in the rain. I wasn't able to test with the Acura in the rain. I was just pushing too hard and got the car into the curbing. We had a fast car today but it wasn't in the cards for the de Ferran team today. I really enjoy working with Gil's team and driving the Acura."
|UPCOMING ALMS RACE:|
|Event:||Monterey Sports Car Championships|
|Track:||Laguna Seca Raceway
(2.238 Miles, 11 Turns)
|Date:||Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009
2:45 p.m. (PDT)
|TV:|| SPEED-TV, Oct. 10, 2009
2:30 p.m. (PDT)
|Acura Contacts:||Tom Blattler, 317-525-5692
T.E. McHale, 310-783-3169
|2009 AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POINTS|
|(After nine of 10 Rounds)|
|LMP1 (Manufacturers Chassis/Engine)|
|1. DAVID BRABHAM/SCOTT SHARP
2. GIL de FERRAN/SIMON PAGENAUD
3. John Field/Clint Field
|LMP2 (Manufacturers Chassis/Engine)|
|1. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ/LUIS DIAZ
2. Marino Franchitti/Butch Leitzinger
|** CLINCHED CHAMPIONSHIP|
|(Photo) Simon Pagenaud and his teammates Gil de Ferran
and Scott Dixon were in contention Saturday at Petit
Le Mans when a track incident hurt their bid for the LMP1
class point title at Road Atlanta.