BRABHAM CONTINUES ACURA HOT STREAK WITH OVERALL POLE FRIDAY IN ALMS QUALIFYING IN BELLE ISLE STREETS Acura Announces 2009 ALMS Program With Two LMP1 Cars DETROIT -- If there is voting for the American Le Mans Series "Driver of the...
BRABHAM CONTINUES ACURA HOT STREAK WITH OVERALL POLE FRIDAY IN ALMS QUALIFYING IN BELLE ISLE STREETS
Acura Announces 2009 ALMS Program With Two LMP1 Cars
DETROIT -- If there is voting for the American Le Mans Series "Driver of the Year" in 2008, David Brabham has to be one of the leaders in the balloting.
Friday afternoon, on the tight streets of Belle Isle, Brabham pulled off another magnificent qualifying performance at the wheel of his No. 9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b prototype in preparation for Saturday's Detroit Sports Car Challenge, the ninth round of the 11-race ALMS campaign.
Brabham, a four-time 2008 race winner with driving partner Scott Sharp, recorded Acura's fifth overall pole position in a shootout with rival Acura driver Simon Pagenaud, the young Frenchman who wheeled the No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports Panasonic ELS Acura ARX-01b sports car to second on the starting grid.
Brabham, enjoying a stellar season with ALMS class wins at legendary circuits like Long Beach, Road America, Mosport and Lime Rock, clocked the 2.09-mile circuit north of downtown Detroit in one minute, 13.483 seconds for an average speed of 102.68 miles per hour. The late-afternoon qualifying session Friday was the first time the ALMS sports cars had seen a dry track. Rain showers hampered runs during the morning and afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Acura Motorsports announced its 2009 ALMS sports car program by stating that the Patron Highcroft Racing team and de Ferran Motorsports will move from the LMP2 class to the premier division in LMP1. In addition, Acura also will continue to field the Lowe's Fernandez team in LMP2 in 2009 (see photo below).
Following Brabham's pole speed of 101.68 m.p.h. was Pagenaud, who'll co-drive with former Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran in Saturday's two-hour, 45-minute contest, with a speed of 102.44 m.p.h. Pagenaud qualified ahead of Guy Smith in the Dyson Porsche at 101.68, Adrian Fernandez in the No. 15 Lowe's Acura ARX-01b at 101.45 and Franck Montagny in the No. 26 Andretti Green XM Acura ARX-01b at 101.36.
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "It is an exciting day for the Patron Highcroft team today. First, the announcement that Acura is going to the P1 class with our team. Now, in qualifying, taking the overall pole for Acura here in Detroit is a big deal. At first, I needed to tidy up a few corners and I didn't feel good with my driving at the start. I was able to make a few more corners and I caught my breath. The car was very good by then. I threw in a fast lap and we were just ahead of Simon [Pagenaud]. I came in and made a couple of quick adjustments. But I got caught speeding in the pits. So I had to do a drive-through penalty. Finally, on my last lap, I was able to improve my earlier time. We are in a fight for the LMP2 championship. So this pole was important today."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "It is a fun track. It is one of the best street circuits I have ever seen. The corners are really well designed. I don't know if they planned it that way. But the track has a hairpin, slow corners and fast corners. The car slides a lot and it is a good show for the fans. I only had five laps total in the rain before qualifying today. But our Acura seemed very quick from the start. This is like Lime Rock, where David [Brabham] and I battled back and forth for the pole. There are not many passing zones here for the race. But the traffic will create passing for us."
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): " Saturday will obviously be better for the XM Acura team. It's a little bit difficult to go into qualifying without having any testing on the track. This is the first time I've been here. I don't know the track or the tricks you need here. I think we will be in much better position for the race Saturday."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "I think it was a good qualifying effort. We didn't practice in the dry, and I think we were one of the fastest cars in the rain. Our first practice in the dry was qualifying. I thought we were going to have a good car because the car was quite good in the rain. But we had a little too much push and you don't really have time to change things on the car in qualifying. We're fourth and, in the end, I think it is a good starting point for tomorrow. The race will be about keeping the car consistent with the tires and everything. I think we will surprise people Saturday."