Highcroft wins Mosport, Fernandez Racing P2 title

To conquer the historic Mosport road course, one has to be on the toes in what is always a race that extends beyond the challenge of the fast yet tricky corners in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. Yet Scott Sharp and David Brabham made it look easy,...

To conquer the historic Mosport road course, one has to be on the toes in what is always a race that extends beyond the challenge of the fast yet tricky corners in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada. Yet Scott Sharp and David Brabham made it look easy, even under the dark clouds and unseasonably cool weather.

"When you go racing your job is to win and we achieved that. Our rivals at de Ferran Motorsports had some issues today which obviously helped us," said Brabham. "But it was a 100 percent faultless performance by the entire Patron Highcroft team and that's what it takes to win championships."

Sharp started the race in the Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a from the overall pole position, courtesy of his teammate Brabham. Light rain was in the area on and off but the track was dry when the green flag waved to start the two hour and 45 minute American Le Mans Series eighth round this season. With only two races remaining and both longer events that will also showcase extra teams coming to play in America, this race was crucial for the teams to garner points.

Adding to the contest today was safety car rule changes implemented by the series sanctioning body, IMSA. New procedures mainly involved wave-bys once the safety car has picked up the leader and pits stops have begun. Per IMSA:

* While on-track work is being cleaned up, Race Control will organize the field as well and start the waveby period the lap after pits have opened...

* Race control will confirm the first class leader in the queue and wave by all cars between that class leader and safety car. Because the first car in line may or may not be the overall leader, there could be traffic in front of overall leader once the race resumes.

For most of the drivers, it was really just a matter of racing hard and pushing to the limits. Sharp got a bit snookered in the opening lap with Gil de Ferran powering by in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a as did Intersport Racing's Jon Field moving the Highcroft Acura to third in the LMP1 class.

Field however placed his Lola AER nose in the wrong place and ended up pitting to replace the nose and then again to repair a headlight.

Marino Franchitti had control of the LMP2 class in one of the two Dyson Racing's Mazda Lolas from the class pole position. For the No. 20 Dyson team it was vital to stay in front of the Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b in order to curtail Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz from taking the P2 championship before the final two races.

Per usual, the action quieted down after the initial first laps. Those with problems before the first hour including the de Ferran Motorsports when it was learned they had a gearbox oil leak which caused them to add oil in order to stay in the race and take points in the P1 class.

The two BMW Rahal Letterman Racing M3s in the LMGT2 class started one, two but ran into early problems opening the door for Risi Competizione who had to sit out qualifying and started last on the grid. Jaime Melo moved up to third but had to contend with the two Corvette Racing C6.Rs in the highly competitive GT2 class. The Ferrari team was definitely in the hunt for the victory and the needed points. They had a bit of luck when the usually strong Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR points leading team was struggling today.

Just past the 40 minute mark, Sharp had control of the lead having gotten his way around Franchitti who took the lead when de Ferran pitted. "All throughout the year our luck has fluctuated and there have been some races that we should have won, but we have maintained our target of just executing everything perfectly each weekend and eventually the results ran our way," Sharp said.

Corvette Racing was moving fast, keeping the Ferrari and Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche behind them as they held one-two in the GT2 class. As the first hour was ending, Chris Dyson caused the first test of the new safety car procedure. Dyson was okay but his off at Turn 1 took the No. 16 Dyson Lola out of the race. That left Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger to take on the challenge of Fernandez Racing.

While Sharp and later Brabham were having a smooth race holding off all P1 challengers, Diaz and Fernandez were in a position to notch the P2 title when Fernandez was caught speeding in pit lane and had to pay the price of a stop and go, allowing Leitzinger to take the class lead.

The battle between the two top P2 teams was one not to miss. Fernandez was pushing hard looking for a way around the Dyson Lola of Leitzinger when a gift was handed to the Fernandez team. Leitzinger had to pull off the course in a safe area due to a mechanical failure. The race officials decided to have just a local yellow which was a good call.

"First, I have to thank Lowe's for giving us the opportunity to compete in the American Le Mans Series, and our great partners in Acura and Michelin," said Fernandez. "It has been a fantastic season. I have to thank the team and my teammate -- everybody did a fantastic job this year. We always focused on what we needed to do and we never gave up. Even with the penalty today, I just focused on what I had to do."

Risi's Pierre Kaffer and Corvette's Jan Magnussen were in an exciting contest for the GT2 victory. For Corvette it would be their first win since moving to the GT2 class form GT1. For Magnussen, it would be a gift to his new son and his teammate Johnny O'Connell started in his 100th ALMS race today. For Kaffer and Risi, it meant points needed to keep the Lizard team of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Long within striking distance of the class championship by the Ferrari team.

The closing laps saw Kaffer try everything to get by the Dane and appeared to catch up to the rear of the Corvette mainly in the final turns, 8 and 9. Magnussen kept his ground and came across with the first victory for Corvette Racing in GT2.

"It's been the best week of my life," said Magnussen. "First a new baby boy, and then the first win with the GT2 Corvette in Johnny's 100th race."

Magnusen and O'Connell shared their first win at Mosport in 1999, with Dr. Don Panoz prototype team. Today was a special day for the two sportscar aces and per usual O'Connell commented on the drive at the end by his friend and teammate. "That was one of the finest drives I've ever seen. It was mistake-free, and knowing what he had to do with that car, today was all Jan. He was a rock star, and the crew had a killer pit stop to get him out in front of the Ferrari."

Brabham and Sharp stretched their points lead over Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud with the P1 victory. De Ferran's team milked their oil problem to take second ahead of Jon Field and Clint Field in the Intersport Racing Lola AER.

"It is great for us to back in victory circle again," smiled Sharp.

Fernandez Racing leaves Mosport with the P2 championship. Even if on the sidelines for the final laps, Leitzinger and Franchitti placed second.

"Today is a great feeling. First of all, I have to thank Adrian. He is a great boss, great teammate and a great friend. He is my idol and to win this championship with him means a lot to me and to a lot of people in Mexico," Diaz said. "I also want to thank Lowe's, Acura and Michelin for their great support. It means so much to represent these great companies. Acura produces a great engine. We have had no problems this year and our Michelin tires have been awesome. This team is very, very strong and we can compete against anybody. I can't say enough about this team."

Fernandez added, "There are two races to go and it is nice to have this championship now. This is the first championship for Fernandez Racing and it is a very special feeling to share this with my great partner Tom Anderson. He has done a tremendous job with this team. This is a team that has a lot of people that have been with us a long time. They show race after race how strong this team is and I couldn't be prouder."

Adding to the Corvette victory was their final podium step with Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta.

The next round will include teams from Europe, including Audi and Peugeot, at the 1,000 miles or 10-hour race, whichever comes first known as the Petit Le Mans on the Road Atlanta circuit in Braselton, Georgia.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Jan Magnussen , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Johnny O'Connell , Jon Field , Luis Diaz , Jaime Melo , Patrick Long , Marino Franchitti , Clint Field , Tom Anderson , Don Panoz , Olivier Beretta , Pierre Kaffer , Simon Pagenaud , Chris Dyson
Teams Corvette Racing , Risi Competizione