PATRÃ“N HIGHCROFT STREET FIGHTERS READY FOR LONG BEACH BATTLE Simon Pagenaud DANBURY, CT, Monday, 12th April, 2010: PatrÃ³n Highcroft Racing heads to California this week to a happy hunting ground for the Danbury, CT-based team - the ...
PATRÓN HIGHCROFT STREET FIGHTERS READY FOR LONG BEACH BATTLE
Simon Pagenaud DANBURY, CT, Monday, 12th April, 2010: Patrón Highcroft Racing heads to California this week to a happy hunting ground for the Danbury, CT-based team - the longest-running street race in North America - the Long Beach Grand Prix.
The Long Beach event is the shortest race on the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, but is certainly not short on action.
The seaside venue was the setting for Patrón Highcroft Racing's first ever ALMS class victory.
David Brabham and Scott Sharp were victorious in 2008 with Brabham chasing down the Penske Porsche Spyder pack and pulling off a stunning pass for the lead through traffic with only minutes remaining.
Brabham looked set for another victory last year after setting pole position and charging away with a handy race lead. A controversial pit-lane penalty spoiled the party for Highcroft but the team's new 2010 star Simon Pagenaud savored the moment as he took his first Series victory for de Ferran Motorsports.
Last year's pole setter and race winner are now combined for the 2010 championship assault. After the opening race of the season at Sebring where the Brabham/Pagenaud duo combined with Marino Franchitti to grab second in the LMP2 class, the team now sits in joint second place in the overall combined Le Mans Prototype championship.
Starting from next weekend at Long Beach, the next seven races will combine the LMP1 and LMP2 championship classes into a single prototype battle. An interesting on-track fight looms as the faster, yet heavier LMP1 cars do battle with the slower, yet lighter and more nimble LMP2 machines.
The team's Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c chassis set the pace in every test, practice and qualifying session at Sebring, only to suffer a delay in the race due to a small electrical fire while enjoying a five lap lead.
Highcroft Racing Patrón Highcroft Racing is now targeting strong performances at Long Beach and the next Californian event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May to push the reigning LMP1 championship team back to the head of the points table before heading to France for its debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
Teams get an early start to proceedings at Long Beach on Friday, April 16 - hitting the track for a two-hour practice session at 7:15am!
The American Le Mans Series will "book end" the day's action with a further 30-minute session at 5:00pm followed by prototype qualifying at 6:10pm. Saturday's 100-minute Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach event will greet the green flag at 4:40pm.
"It will be interesting to see how the traffic plays out at Long Beach because we have some new classes who will be running there for the first time.
"It is certainly tight around there but that is what makes American Le Mans Series racing so good. I try not to think too much about the traffic issues because the slower cars are always going to be there having their own race and it is our job to get past them.
"A couple of years ago when we had our first win for Highcroft Racing the traffic was a huge help - it can certainly give you opportunities.
"Now the LMP1 and LMP2 categories are combined, we won't really know how that balance will work out until the green flag drops.
"We didn't get a real idea at Sebring because it was run to full ACO regs but I know our Patrón Highcroft car will be very good at Long Beach.
"Our car is strong on street circuits and extremely fast in the corners. What we gain through the turns, we might lose down the straight but we won't know exactly until we get out there.
"All of us are really looking forward to the race - especially me because I have some great memories there."
"I am really looking forward to Long Beach weekend. This is one of my favorite venues in the world, and I really like street circuits.
"The intensity while driving is incredible, and it is such an adrenaline rush to drive flat out close to the wall.
"It is a game of boldness, precision, smartness which I really enjoy.
"Long Beach is always difficult with traffic, corners are tight and the GT cars are very fast there, and it will make it challenging for us to get by.
"We have a similar speed down the straight, so it will come down to diving under braking at each corner. This will be a mind game, and a combination of smartness and awareness will be key. However, it is easier said than done.
"Long Beach is so special to me. This is where I raced for the first time in the US in 2006 with Walker Racing in Atlantic. I claimed pole position on debut. Then in 2007 I took third place in only my second Champ Car start and then last year I took my first ALMS victory with Gil de Ferran."
DRIVER'S EYE - LONG BEACH
Q. Long Beach. What is your favorite corner and why?
DAVID BRABHAM: There are a lot of great corners there. I think the one that I find the most challenging is Turn 1 because it's a real knife edge between braking a little bit too late and not getting turned in. Of course the wall is right there on the exit.
It's quite a quick entry. And to get it right you've got to be absolutely spot on. It's a real challenge.
SIMON PAGENAUD: The fountain corner is very exciting. You go into the corner, you just come from the front straight, which is absolutely flat out, and then you enter a very tight section of corners.
The fountain is very interesting because you've got a wall in front of you and you need to brake late and jump the curb on the inside and get out of the corner very quickly. It's very intense. Your movements, they have to be very, very quick and responsive.
Q. What's the most challenging aspect of the Long Beach race?
DAVID BRABHAM: Like any street circuit, the challenging aspect about Long Beach is the walls. The track is narrow in places, wide in others, and bumpy. Through the fountain area, it's very, very narrow as well. To be on the limit through there and make sure you don't clip anything is a real challenge.
SIMON PAGENAUD: You have to be very focused. It's a street circuit and its difficult to remain focused every lap and do a perfect lap every time because you're very close to the walls.
I really love that track and it's a crowd pleaser every year, so it's a very nice race.
Q. What's the secret to a good lap at Long Beach?
DAVID BRABHAM: I've been fortunate enough to go quite well there in the past. The secret is to be absolutely precise. You have to be so careful with every braking, every steering input, every throttle, lateral load in the tire, just getting out close to the walls. Everything you do has to be so precise at Long Beach.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's very important to brake at the right points. It's bumpy on the braking line, and sometimes you need to brake after the bumps or before the bumps, and you need to adjust your braking while you're braking in the braking zone.
It's very important to have the right modulation on the brakes.
Q. How do you expect the Patrón Highcroft car to go against the opposition at Long Beach?
DAVID BRABHAM: Looking at our past results, I think the Patrón Highcroft Racing car will actually be pretty tough to beat there, to be honest.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think Long Beach should be a good track for our car. The ARX-01c is very easy to maneuver in the street tracks, and Long Beach is one of those.
Q. If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?
DAVID BRABHAM: No change at all. Great circuit. Love it.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Maybe I would put in a faster corner to make it more challenging.
Q. What's your favorite Long Beach memory?
DAVID BRABHAM: Well, I think the best memory at Long Beach for sure was the first win for Patrón Highcroft Racing in 2008. It was a titanic battle. We came from behind and we beat the Penske Porches, and it was a fantastic result for a new team and it really set the tone for a fantastic period after that in terms of wins and championships.
SIMON PAGENAUD: My first race in America was in 2006 with Walker Racing in Champ Car Atlantic. I was on pole and finished 4th in the race. It was my first race in America, so it is a good memory for me.