PATRÃ“N HIGHCROFT TAKE LAST TO FIRST VICTORY AT LAGUNA SECA MONTEREY, CA, Saturday, 23 May, 2010: PatrÃ³n Highcroft Racing took its second victory in a row with a brilliant "last to first" win for David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino ...
PATRÓN HIGHCROFT TAKE LAST TO FIRST VICTORY AT LAGUNA SECA
MONTEREY, CA, Saturday, 23 May, 2010: Patrón Highcroft Racing took its second victory in a row with a brilliant "last to first" win for David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti at the six hour event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca today.
After being put to the rear of the grid by race officials for a minimum driver time infringement in practice yesterday, Simon Pagenaud made a barnstorming start aboard the Honda Performance Development factory-backed HPD ARX-01c - charging through the field to be 20th after one lap, 13th after two, seventh after three and through to fourth and on the tail of the leading LMP class pack in four laps.
He recorded his fastest lap of the race on lap five and was right back in contention at the first safety car period on lap nine.
Pagenaud moved to third on lap 34, inherited second on lap 39 after Clint Field blew an engine and then lightning pit work by the Highcroft squad cycled him through into the lead at the first stop on lap 54.
On lap 95, the Frenchman pitted to hand over David Brabham who continued the team's dominant form at the front. He lost the lead to the Dyson Mazda of Andy Meyrick after his mid-stint round of stops, but regained it after a yellow flag restart when the young Brit spun on the green flag.
With two hours to go, Brabham handed the car over to Marino Franchitti for the run to the flag.
However, 13 laps into his stint, the Mazda with Guy Smith at the wheel used its straight line speed advantage to pass Franchitti on the front straight and steal the lead.
Patrón Highcroft's "Scottish Terrier" was not about to give up without a fight - Franchitti hounded Smith for 17 laps before the Mazda made its final pit stop, giving Highcroft back the lead
Five laps later, Franchitti made his final visit to the pits - the team electing to double-stint its Michelin tires. The fuel-only stop enabled Franchitti to retain the lead and with 41 minutes remaining, the reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions enjoying a 37 second advantage.
Franchitti's performance on his original tires remained strong and after 16 minutes, Smith was still trailing by 26 seconds.
However, with 24 minutes of the race remaining, Patrón Highcroft Racing's ninth American Le Mans Series presented by Patrón class victory and sixth overall win was virtually confirmed after their rivals at Mazda suffered a mechanical issue ending their race.
Franchitti was then able to cruise to the finish to take an incredible victory by an enormous seven lap margin.
The is the second in a row for the team after a thrilling final-lap win on the streets of Long Beach. For Simon Pagenaud, it also represents his third sportscar win in a row after he also took victory for Peugeot in the recent Le Mans Series event at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.
Today's victory was Brabham's 21st American Le Mans Series victory and his sixth overall victory for Patrón Highcroft Racing. Pagenaud scored his second victory in Patron Highcroft colors and his seventh ALMS win. Today's win was also the first overall Series victory for Marino Franchitti in the American Le Mans Series and his second consecutive podium finish for the team in just two starts.
Patrón Highcroft Racing also won the LMP portion of the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge, based on overall performance and environmental efficiency.
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca continues to be a happy hunting ground for the team with today's win adding to last season's championship-clinching success at the famous Californian track.
Patrón Highcroft Racing has now taken a four point lead in the championship after finishing second in the LMP2 class at Sebring and completing back-to-back wins.
The team now faces another battle - a busy week-long race to prepare the team's HPD ARX-01c for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team's transporters will leave for its Danbury, CT-base tonight with the car leaving for France by the end of the week.
With Pagenaud competing in the LMP1 class for Peugeot, Brabham and Franchitti will be joined by three-time Le Mans winner Marco Werner for the French endurance classic.
"I really think today was one of the best ever victories for Patrón Highcroft Racing.
"Everybody on the team performed flawlessly. The car ran perfectly, the strategy was great and Simon really kicked things off really well with a great charge through the field from the back of the pack.
"Marino did a brilliant job at the finish as well and really maintained the pressure on the Dyson team.
"You really couldn't ask for a better send off for Le Mans. It is a fantastic boost for the entire team.
"The car is in one piece and ready to head back to base in Danbury and be prepared for the biggest race in the world. This is the way to head off to Le Mans with momentum."
"It was pretty amazing at the start. I had a lot of cars to pass and it wasn't easy on cold tires.
"The team did a fantastic job in preparing the car. The handling on the HPD ARX-01c was really amazing - it was really fun to drive out there.
"We got lucky with the opening yellow flag which enabled me to be right there with the leaders and I was then able to just concentrate on my race at the front before handing over to David.
"I'm really enjoying my time with the Highcroft team - we're having a lot of success and it is great to be leading the championship.
"Today caps off an amazing couple of weeks for me. Two wins in the ALMS and a win for Peugeot in Europe. Things are certainly going well."
"That was just a crazy race. Simon from the start taking us from all the way in the back to the race lead was really incredible.
"David just built on that before I got into the car and then he had a brilliant battle with the Dyson Mazda guys.
"Every part the race was really executed perfectly by the drivers and all the team - we really didn't put a foot wrong all day.
"When the Mazda got past me towards the finish I wasn't going to give up without a fight and just kept pushing as hard as I could. The team made a great call on the strategy at the end to double-stint the Michelins and I think that was going to put us in victory lane regardless of whether the Dyson guys finished or not.
"I'm really delighted to get this win heading into Le Mans."