Brabham Crowned American Le Mans Series Champion
Henley-on-Thames, Oxon, UK -- Sunday 11 October, 2009; David Brabham was crowned American Le Mans Series Champion 2009 in the final round at Laguna Seca, California, underlining the British-born Australian's reputation as one of the best sportscar racers on the planet. The 44 year-old signed off a sensational season with yet another podium finish to take third and add the ALMS title spoils to his Le Mans 24 Hours victory.
The only driver to boast pole positions and wins in all ALMS classes, Brabham can now add the title to his illustrious CV after racing in the premier championship since its inception in 1999.
Ten years on and an impressive race log of three pole positions, a hat-trick of wins, four second places, not to mention a recovering charge to sixth at Petit Le Mans, ensured Brabham secured the ALMS laurels.
The Patron Highcroft crew have been strong season long but their phenomenal effort to build a brand new car and make the penultimate Petit Le Mans round two weeks ago cemented their championship chances. Thanks to their heroic work, Brabham and team mate Scott Sharp entered the final round needing to complete just 70% of the race distance.
The four-hour Laguna Seca race was not without incident for Brabham and the team who managed to escape a major incident with minor bodywork damage and overcome an electrical glitch to take the podium for the final time in 2009.
"The Patron Highcroft team has worked so hard for so long and it's absolutely fantastic to finally take the ALMS championship title," said Brabham. "We've been up against some terrific competition all year - de Ferran is a quality team with excellent drivers so it really means something to beat them.
"I can't say enough about the Patron Highcroft crew. These guys are amazing -- you just have to look at what they have achieved and bounced back from over the years to prove how good they really are.
"This has been an unbelievable year for me. Winning the Le Mans 24 Hours was fantastic but it also means a lot to take the ALMS title. I've raced in the Series since 1999 and I've come close to winning the title before, so it's amazing to finally do it. The ALMS means a lot to me, it's like one big community and the racing is unrivalled.
"I celebrated the 50th anniversary of my father, Sir Jack's first Formula One World Championship title in 1959 at the opening Sebring round. I'm delighted to win both Le Mans and now the ALMS title during what is a special time for the entire family and something else to be proud of."
After qualifying less than one hundredth of a second off pole sitter Gil de Ferran, Brabham got a solid start to his final round assault and retained position before the first full course caution on lap three. When racing resumed on lap nine, a progressing Jon Field dropped Brabham to third until the Patron Highcroft Acura reclaimed the place on lap 21.
With a second safety car period within the first 50 minutes, Brabham took the opportunity to pit for fuel and tyres on lap 34. The restart on lap 40 went far from smoothly but Brabham's lightening reactions saved the Patron Highcroft car from serious harm, escaping with a tap from Oliver Gavin's Corvette that caused only minor damage to the rear.
A quick visit to the pits under the resulting third full course caution to remove the loose bumper bodywork and Brabham was back in the fray sixth overall and fourth in LMP1. Back to green flag racing on lap 44, Brabham had recovered up to fifth and third in class when he was forced to make an unscheduled stop to fix a failed gear sensor with just over two hours and 30 minutes remaining, losing two laps on the leaders.
Rejoining in seventh with the electrical glitch resolved Brabham was able to push to climb back up to fifth and third in LMP1 by the fourth safety car period on lap 71. While the leading cars took the chance to take their scheduled stops, the splash of fuel during his last pit visit helped Brabham gain a lap back on the leaders.
With racing under way again just over the halfway mark on lap 78, Brabham clocked up some of the fastest laps of the field to claw back lost time. Charging up to third overall and second in class, his final stint of the 2009 ALMS season came to a close after nearly two hours and forty minutes at the wheel.
Sharp took over the Acura ARX-02a to drive the Patron Highcroft team past the 70% race distance and clinch the championship in an impressive stint in cooling conditions to finish third.
Brabham commented: "We struggled with tyres for some reason, we aren't sure why. I just had a lot of pick-up I couldn't clear and didn't have much grip. We weren't in a position to fight so we just had to keep safe but I nearly got caught up in a massive accident in turn two at one of the restarts. Luckily I only got clipped at the rear and we just had some minor damage we were able to sort in the pits.
"The conditions were quite changeable, which affected the tyres, but we knew what we had to do and just got on with the job of winning the championship. I couldn't be happier for Patron Highcroft Racing today. This team is like family to me and to win the title with Scott means so much. It's certainly been a year to savour."