STRONG ACURA DRIVER LINEUP READY FOR LAGUNA SECA; FORMER WINNERS HERTA, BRABHAM LEAD CHARGE IN 4-HOUR RACE
Acura Prototypes Seek Second Win In Their First Season of ALMS Competition
MONTEREY, Calif. -- The American Le Mans Series season finale at Laguna Seca Raceway this weekend, Oct. 19-20, brings a sensational driver field to the legendary 2.238-mile, 11-turn road circuit. But few auto manufacturers boast the track experience and lineup of the three Acura LMP2 teams.
The Acura sports car teams, led by 12 Hours of Sebring winners Andretti Green Racing, come to the famed track in the four-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships with spectacular Laguna Seca resumes.
AGR, Lowe's Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing have debuted their new LMP2 prototype sports cars in 2007 and, in the season opener at Sebring, drivers Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti drove the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a to the LMP2 class victory and second overall in the grueling 12-hour event.
Now, in the final event on the 12-race series, the Acura contingent seeks to repeat the Sebring win with a stellar group of drivers who have combined to complete in over 40 Laguna Seca events.
For the Andretti Green team, veteran drivers Herta and Kanaan pose as serious threats for a race win after their impressive past Laguna Seca runs.
Herta, a three-time pole winner at Laguna Seca in eight CART starts, won back-to-back open-wheel races in 1998 and 1999 at the legendary track. Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series titlist, has enjoyed a superb 2007 racing campaign with the Sebring victory, five IndyCar race wins and finished third in the IndyCar points. The popular Brazilian driver has five CART starts at Laguna Seca including a third place in 1998, his first Laguna Seca race.
Adrian Fernandez, co-owner and driver of the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola, is an eleven-time CART starter at Laguna Seca with five top ten finishes. The popular Mexican debuted in ALMS this year with a third overall at Sebring and a podium finish at Mid-Ohio with Luis Diaz, also is an open-wheel veteran at Laguna Seca.
Highcroft Racing drivers David Brabham and Stefan Johansson, former Formula One standouts, bring their mount, the No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a, with four podium finishes already in 2007. Brabham, the 2003 Laguna GTS winner, won the overall pole in the streets of Houston and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Johansson won the pole in last year's Laguna Seca ALMS event and raced five times in the CART races at the Monterey track.
Acura's debut season has been a learning process in 2007 and competing against the potent Penske Porsches has made Acura's first year even more difficult.
"We came into the 2007 season wanting to learn about sports car racing," said Robert Clarke, president, Honda Performance Development. "Of course, winning at Sebring was a huge surprise and delight. But we knew it would be more difficult during the season and Porsche has been very strong. We need to get our 2008 program ready now to beat the Porsche."
An Acura win this week would be a good lead to 2008.
TONY KANAAN (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "I have been driving an Indy Car one day and then jumping into the XM Acura the next day. It is completely different driving each race car. Every time I jump into the Acura I have a blast. This is a big reality check for me with the Acura prototype. It is so much bigger than an Indy Car. The downforce is much greater also. It is much more physical driving the Acura than my Indy Car. It really wakes you up the first couple of laps with the Acura car. It was great winning at Sebring and racing with my friends. I really have a lot of fun driving this car. I hope we can repeat our Sebring performance at Laguna Seca with another win. I am so excited about coming back to Laguna Seca."
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite AGR Acura ARX-01a): "Needless to day, Laguna Seca is very special to me. I won there twice in CART and won three straight poles. It will feel great to come back to the track. I'm excited to race with Tony at that legendary track. The Acura has been very reliable all season. We have a good driver lineup and a very good crew. We have had our ups and downs this year as it has been a learning year for the Acura and AGR in sports car racing. Porsche has been racing in this form for decades. This is the debut year for Acura, HPD and AGR. We think we have a good car for Laguna Seca."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "I love going to the Monterey area and Laguna Seca. I have won there before (2003 in GTS). I have been pleased with the performance of our Acura car. Winning the overall pole on the last lap of qualifying at Houston was exciting and gratifying. This Highcroft team is young as is the Acura sports car program. But this young team has really come together. I would love to win again with the Highcroft Acura. Stefan [Johansson] won the pole last year so we should be fast."
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX- 01a): "I have loved coming to Laguna Seca. I have driven open-wheel cars and sports cars there. It is a classic track and I won the pole and set the track record last year for Zytec. Now, I definitely like to win the race for Acura and Highcroft."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): "This is another one of my favorite tracks. Although I have been racing here since the early 90s, I just can't seem to get to that next rung on the ladder in terms of results here. My best finish has been fifth, and this is hopefully the year that changes. This track can definitely bite you and requires your full attention all the way around. There are no opportunities to rest. It is challenging and unique with all the elevation changes, and can be a real handful in setting the car up. It helps to come here with some experience. Monterey is one of the nicest places to stay and go out during the race weekend."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): ""This is a great way to finish the season - a very nice place to visit and an enjoyable track to drive. I did my first race in the United States at Laguna Seca. I have a lot of good memories from there."
-credit: acura motorsports