IMPRESSIVE ACURA DRIVER LINEUP READY FOR PETIT LE MANS; SEBRING WINNERS ANDRETTI GREEN RACING LEAD THE CHARGE Acura Prototypes Seek Second Win In Their First Season of Competition BRASLETON, GA -- The all-new Acura sports car teams, led by...
IMPRESSIVE ACURA DRIVER LINEUP READY FOR PETIT LE MANS; SEBRING WINNERS ANDRETTI GREEN RACING LEAD THE CHARGE
Acura Prototypes Seek Second Win In Their First Season of Competition
BRASLETON, GA -- The all-new Acura sports car teams, led by 12 Hours of Sebring winners Andretti Green Racing, come to Road Atlanta this weekend, Oct. 4-6, in search of another victory celebration in one of the season's biggest sports car classics, the 10th annual Petit Le Mans.
The three Acura racing organizations, AGR, Lowe's Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing, debuted their new prototype sports cars in 2007 when the automaker made its first appearance in the tough American Le Mans Series earlier this year at Sebring. In the season opener, drivers Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti drove the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a to the LMP2 class victory and second overall in the grueling 12-hour contest on the air strip south of Orlando.
The victory was stunning in many ways for Acura. Winning on the rough Sebring circuit was impressive.
But winning in Acura's very first sports car event was spectacular.
"Winning the first race at Sebring (with Andretti Green in the LMP2 class and second overall) was hard to believe and that was quite an accomplishment for the new Acura program," said Robert Clarke, president, Honda Performance Development. "When you win the season opener, you feel that you can win some races. But we were realistic about the 2007 season. We weren't looking for on-track results. This was a learning year for us."
Clarke is optimistic about the Acura squads on the 2.54-mile, 12-turn Road Atlanta circuit.
"At Road Atlanta, I expect the Acura teams will be contending for a win," said Clarke. "We are out of the championship this year. Learning the ALMS series and sports car racing in general was the goal in 2007 for Acura. But I believe we have an outstanding driver lineup for the Petit Le Mans. Our teams are ready for long race." The Acura drivers come to Road Atlanta with sensational racing resumes. They hope to add the Petit title to their win lists on Saturday in the ten-hour event.
Franchitti, the current Indy 500 champion, has left the AGR group to racing in NASCAR in 2008.
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar Series titlist, won at Sebring, five IndyCar races in 2007 and finished third in the IndyCar points. Herta has won in ALMS, IndyCar, CART, Indy Lights and Barber Saab during his racing career. Brazilian star Vitor Meira, who drove to third overall in last year's Petit Le Mans in his only ALMS start, will join Kanaan and Herta in the AGR Acura this weekend at Road Atlanta.
Adrian Fernandez, co-owner and driver of the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola, is a veteran of open-wheel and sports cars. The popular Mexican debuted in ALMS this year with a third overall at Sebring and a podium finish at Mid-Ohio with Luis Diaz. Highcroft Racing drivers David Brabham and Stefan Johansson, former Formula One standouts, bring their mount, the No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a, with four podium finishes already in 2007. Brabham, the 1999 Petit winner, won the overall pole in the streets of Houston and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year. Johansson finished second in last year's Petit event. British open-wheel star Robbie Kerr will team up with the Highcroft drivers for the Petit race.
TONY KANAAN (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a): "I'm really looking forward to getting back in the Acura ARX-01a. We had a great time in Sebring and hopefully we'll able to get Acura their first win at Petit Le Mans. Like at Sebring, we'll have all the challenges of an endurance race. The guys at Andretti Green Racing and Acura have worked all season making improvements to the chassis and engine and I fully expect to be in the hunt for another victory. We tested there recently and I had a great time in the car. It's just fantastic to drive."
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX- 01a): "We had a chance to test the XM Acura at Road Atlanta and it went really well. I really feel like we've got a good starting point and a strong driver lineup as we head back for the race. Because of the length of the race and the speed deferential between cars, the key is to protect the car for 10 hours. A lot of cars end up with car-to-car contact damage that is avoidable. They spend time in the pits repairing damage that's preventable. One of the biggest keys for the three of us is to not make any mistakes that will cost us more time in the pits."
VITOR MEIRA (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a): "This is a great opportunity for me and I looking forward to driving for Andretti Green with Tony and Bryan. I know XM and Acura have put a lot of effort into the car and hopefully I can help them win their Petit Le Mans. I'm very excited."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "I have been pleased with the performance of our Acura car. Winning the overall pole on the last lap of qualifying at Houston was exciting and gratifying. This Highcroft team is young as is the Acura sports car program. But this young team has really come together. I am looking forward to going to Petit and Road Atlanta. I was able to win overall at Petit in 1999. That was great. I never thought I would never drive the Panoz sports car. It was a wild car. But I joined the team and won the big Road Atlanta race. I would love to do it again with the Highcroft Acura. I think with Stefan [Johansson] and Robbie [Kerr] we have a strong lineup for Petit."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): " "I was able to experience the flavor of Petit last year as a spectator when we came here to announce our ALMS program and unveil the car. This is truly a great event for both the fans and the drivers. We tested here a couple of weeks ago, and I really enjoy driving this track. Reliability is always an issue in endurance races but we proved that we have a competitive and reliable package at Sebring. Luis and I both have a lot of confidence and high expectations for this weekend."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): "I love this track. We had a good test here and I'm very excited for the race. With only two races left and the standings so close, it is all about results and scoring as many points as possible for a strong finish in the championship. A lot can happen in these endurance races, but I believe we have the package to be a strong contender this weekend."