Challenging Final LMP2 Round for Brabham at Laguna Seca
David Brabham suffered a challenging final American Le Mans round in what was his last LMP2 race with the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for the Monterey Sports Car Championships. The 43 year-old led from overall pole position in the opening laps, but the Acura ARX-01b suffered its only technical failure of the season, affecting the power steering. Despite a characteristic Brabham charge to the finish the sports car ace finished ninth in class.
With second secured in the LMP2 championship driver standings, hopes were high for the British-born Australian to polish off his impressive 2008 class campaign before Patron Highcroft moves to LMP1 with Acura next year. After another outstanding qualifying performance, and his third overall pole position of the season, Brabham was poised to score a fifth race win.
A slick start ensured that Brabham led before the first full course caution was triggered on lap six. A familiar pattern soon emerged with a second safety car before 30 minutes of the race had run and there would be no fewer than 12 cautions during the four-hour Laguna Seca round.
With the tyre pressures set a bit too low, Brabham suffered at each restart and lost valuable ground. At the fourth full course caution he pit from third and second in class to handover to Scott Sharp 50 minutes into the race, who joined the field 19th overall.
Halfway through Sharp's stint he began to suffer steering problems and by lap 68 was forced to pit under green flag racing from 11th overall and ninth in class. Despite swift work from the Patron Highcroft crew to replace an electronic connector to the power steering that had failed, five laps had been lost, putting any chance of victory firmly out of reach.
As the final 45 minutes of the race approached, Brabham joined the fray once again, with the Patron Highcroft Acura 20th and ninth in class. Immediately setting about the task in hand, the veteran charger put in the car's best lap time which was the third fastest lap of the entire field. Although his progress was impeded with two further full course cautions, Brabham charged back through the field to cross the line for the final time this season 15th overall.
"After clinching pole position yesterday, everything was looking good for the race, but we suffered our single technical failure of the season," said Brabs. "It was a real shame that we didn't get the results we deserved today, but having one technical issue in 11 rounds can't be bad. I had a good start but our tyre pressures were set a little too low and I was loosing a lot on the restarts, but we tweaked the pressures all the way through the race and the Michelin tyres just got better and better. We lost everything in the pits but the team did a fantastic job of getting us back out on the track.
"It was really tough out there and the numerous safety car periods were immensely frustrating. The car was in great shape towards the end of the race and I just drove hard and wouldn't give up, but we were just too far behind to do anything. We are still second in the driver and team championships so I am delighted, it was just unfortunate that we couldn't help Acura win the Manufacturers' crown. It has been an amazing season with Patron Highcroft. There's no other place I'd rather be racing and now I am just looking forward to 2009 and LMP1 with the team."