Patron Highcroft Racing Endures a Challenging Final Round at Laguna Seca
Patron Highcroft Racing experienced a challenging final round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series at the Monterey Sports Car Championships presented by Patron, where the team suffered its only technical failure of the year. Despite leading the opening laps in a race filled with full course cautions, the Patron Highcroft Acura battled back from 25th overall to finish ninth in class at Laguna Seca.
With second place secured in both the team and driver LMP2 championship standings, hopes were high for Patron Highcroft Racing to conclude its 2008 campaign at the top of the class before moving to LMP1 with Acura next year. Starting from the overall pole position, drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham threatened to challenge for their fifth race win of the year.
A great start saw Brabham take the early race lead but the first of 12 full course cautions came with just six laps of racing complete, eliminating his advantage. A pattern soon emerged with three cautions in the first 35 minutes and at each restart Brabham lost ground due to low tire pressures. Scott Sharp took over from the Australian 50 minutes into the race, joining the field in 19th position overall and ninth in class.
Sharp delivered an impressive stint on a circuit where he has rarely raced and endured six full course cautions in his two hour drive. Halfway through his stint he began to suffer from steering problems and by lap 68 was forced to pit under green flag conditions after working his way up to 11th overall. The Patron Highcroft crew worked quickly to replace an electronic connector to the power steering, but five laps were lost in the process, putting any chance of victory out of reach.
Scott Sharp commented: "I jumped in the car after David ran so well, but I soon realized that something was wrong. The power steering just went away and it felt like I was driving a truck. It was really hard to drive. I brought the car in to the pits several times and the team saw that the electronic connection for the power steering box had come loose. It was too bad because I think our car was fast enough to run with the other Acuras and the Porsches. We wanted to help Acura win the Manufacturers' championship, so it was a real shame."
Brabham took over from Sharp as the final 45 minutes approached, joining in 20th place and ninth in class. Despite another veteran charge, Brabham's progress was hampered by two further full course cautions, but he battled on to finish 15th overall. "The Patron Highcroft Acura felt really good at the start," said Brabs. "Gil [de Ferran] made a good move in turn two, but I was able to hold him off. The tire pressures were a little too low and we were sliding around quite a bit so Gil was able to get by me going up the hill in turn six. Our car just didn't feel good with the low tire pressures and I think some of the other cars had a similar problem in the early part of the race. We had a tough day with the steering problem for Scott. At the end of the race, our Acura was very fast. Overall, it was a good season for us and we will all be celebrating at the Awards Banquet tomorrow night."