Acura drivers Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud made it three-in-a-row Saturday at Lime Rock Park in a dramatic duel with their Acura rivals, Patrón Highcroft Racing, during the Northeast Grand Prix, the fifth American Le Mans Series race of the year.
De Ferran and Pagenaud, starting on the pole for the fourth time this year, drove their No. 66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a prototype sports car to victory on the famed, tight 1.53-mile circuit in northwest Connecticut after a fierce battle. Racing nose-to-tail throughout the two-hour, 45-minute feature event, the de Ferran and the Patrón Highcroft machines kept the large crowd on its feet in some of the most exciting wheel-to-wheel action this season.
At the checkered flag, Pagenaud held a 43-second margin over David Brabham, but the story of the race was told 30 minutes earlier. Pagenaud held an eight-second lead when Brabham made his final pit stop. The Patrón Highcroft team made a quick stop for a two-tire change and Brabham exited the pits with the lead. The reigning 24 Hours of Le Mans champion then built a five-second advantage and looked to be in position to win his second straight Lime Rock ALMS event.
However, a left-rear tire puncture forced Brabham, who earned Acura's first ALMS overall win last year here, back to the pits for a new tire, and cost the popular Aussie his second win of the season.
Early in the contest, de Ferran held a 10-second lead over Scott Sharp in the Patrón Acura ARX-02a. But Sharp, the Connecticut native, fought back to close the gap to under a second when the drivers handed their mounts over to their co-drivers. Pagenaud and Brabham continued the battle to the finish before late misfortune befell the Patrón Highcroft driver.
In the LMP2 class, the Lowe's Fernandez Acura team was seeking its fifth consecutive division win in 2009 with drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz at the controls. Diaz led early Saturday, but a shifting problem kept the team from a fifth
straight victory. Diaz had to pit for early repairs and Fernandez took over to finish second in the LMP2 class.
The next ALMS race is set for August 8 at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course.
|Northeast Grand Prix Acura Overall Results|
|1.|| XM RADIO de FERRAN ACURA ARX-02a No. 66
Drivers: Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud [1st LMP1]
|2.|| PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-02a No. 9
Drivers: David Brabham, Scott Sharp
|7.|| LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01b No. 15
Drivers: Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz [2nd LMP2]
|UPCOMING ALMS RACE:|
|Event:||Acura Sports Car Challenge|
|Track:||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
(2.25 Miles , 13 Turns)
|Date:||Saturday, August 8, 2009
3 p.m. (EDT)
|Distance:||2 hours, 45 minutes|
|TV:||NBC-TV, Aug. 9 Delayed|
|Acura Contacts:||Tom Blattler, 317-525-5692
T.E. McHale, 310-783-3169
GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "This win is very good for our team. Coming back from a two-month lay-off, we wanted to have a solid race. I give the Patrón Highcroft team a lot of credit for their effort today. They made a tremendous call on the last stop but they had some tough luck. Our XM Acura was strong throughout my stint. I made a mistake and hit the pit speed limiter and got hit by one of the Mazdas. It hurt the car's handling a little, but we had a good pit stop to hold the lead in the middle of the race. It haven't had three wins in a row since 1992 in Formula Three, so this is a great feeling right now. And we are going to Mid-Ohio, which I really like as a racing circuit. We will be ready again."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "It is very exciting to win our third in a row. But it definitely wasn't easy today. The Patrón Highcroft team was right with us. On my final pit stop, we took on four tires because the track surface had a lot of dirt and loose bits on it. It was easy to slide around. But I don't know if I could have caught David [Brabham] in the end before he had his problem. I was afraid of the same thing happening to me with the stuff on the track. Overall, the XM Acura was very fast and it is great to keep our winning streak going."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "We had talked about making a late stop just for two tires and it was going to work to perfection. Unfortunately, I felt a vibration in the rear and then the whole car just dropped down to the ground in the last turn. I was going flat-out. That could have been scary. But I pitted quickly for a new tire. I think we had a good pace today to race against Gil's team. We just didn't get the luck we needed. I feel good about our team for Mid-Ohio. ."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "Traffic played such a key role in the race today. Early on in my stint, I was getting really held up by the slower cars. Gil was able to pull away from me. But as the race went on, our Acura was getting better and I was able to close in on Gil. I think I might have been faster late in the run, but the team wanted me to play it safely. So, I waited and pitted pretty close to the de Ferran car. It was tough luck today, because the Patrón Highcroft team made a superb call with strategy. We just didn't get a break when we needed it."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "This was our first mechanical problem of the year. We have been very strong all year. Even with the problem, we finished strong and never gave up and I think that speaks well about the team. When you are a few laps down, you try not to take chances and just stay away from trouble. My congratulations to the Dyson team. It is nice for them to win at their home track. We picked some points today towards the championship. We didn't win but we still proved that we are a strong team and that we never give up."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It was a tough race for us. We didn't have as consistent of a car in the race as we would have liked, but at least we finished. I was struggling with traffic more than the Dyson guys so we need to keep working. At least we were being smart and trying to get some points and that's a good thing. I was struggling quite a bit at the start. We were hoping that we would have a better car with older tires but that didn't happen. On the gearbox issue, it got stuck in sixth gear. We did all the procedures that we could to try to fix that on the race track but, unfortunately, it was not an electrical issue. It was a mechanical issue."