Road Atlanta: Acura Thursday practice report

ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA POSTS SECOND FASTEST TIME THURSDAY IN PETIT LE MANS PRACTICE BRASELTON, Ga. -- Coming off an overall victory in the streets of Detroit, Frenchman Franck Montagny continued his strong performance when he drove...

ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA POSTS SECOND FASTEST TIME THURSDAY IN PETIT LE MANS PRACTICE

BRASELTON, Ga. -- Coming off an overall victory in the streets of Detroit, Frenchman Franck Montagny continued his strong performance when he drove the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car to the second fastest LMP2 spot in Thursday's practice runs for the Saturday's Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Montagny's speed of 134.72 miles per hour just missed the fastest lap of 134.87 m.p.h. set by Romain Dumas in the No. 7 Penske Porsche as some 38 entries prepared for Saturday's endurance classic on the 2.54 mile, 12-turn racing facility north of Atlanta. Three practices, including a two-hour night run, were held on Thursday.

Montagny will co-drive with IndyCar Series stars Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti in the 1,000-mile American Le Mans Series contest, set to begin at 11:15 a.m. (EDT).

The de Ferran Motorsports team of Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud and current Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon clocked a speed of 133.74 m.p.h. in the No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b Thursday for fourth best in the LMP2 lineup, while the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura of Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz and Michel Jourdain Jr. recorded the seventh fastest speed at 133.19 m.p.h.

Patron Highcroft Racing, winner of four LMP2 events thus far in 2008, suffered a setback Thursday when Scott Sharp made contact with the Turn One wall in the morning practice session. The No. 9 Acura Patron Highcroft ARX-01b prototype sustained major damage, and the Danbury, Conn.-based team is currently preparing for Friday's qualifying, scheduled for 3:55 p.m. (EDT). Sharp set a speed of 130.78 m.p.h. before the incident.

Sharp, teaming with David Brabham and 2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti this weekend, is currently four points from the LMP2 series lead entering Saturday's race, the tenth round of the 11-race series. Sharp and Brabham have 155 points to Dumas and Timo Bernhard's 159.

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Getting back in this Acura car has been a big culture shock for me. This car is so quick and so technically advanced. These cars are the most technically-advanced on the planet. It is so much different from driving the stock car this year. I was able to test here a few weeks ago and that prepared me for this weekend. I felt I was on top of the car when I jumped in on Wednesday. The [Sharp] crash today was very tough on the crew guys. But the talent in the team is so good that they will give us a great car for the race. I know we'll be ready to go on Saturday."

SCOTT DIXON (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "It is fun driving this car. Jumping in and out of the car is different for me because you are in an Indy Car for the full distance of an event. But this Acura is a super car to drive. Driving in the traffic and with the different classes is very hard for a driver. After talking to TK [Kanaan] and Marco [Andretti], the Acura is pretty close to what I expected. It's a different style of racing but you are driving hard. I like the technical aspect of the Acura, too."

TONY KANAAN (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "It is always fun to drive this prototype sports car. My first race with the XM Acura, we won [at Sebring in 2007] and I would love to do it again. This Acura car is so much better now than back a year and a half ago. We have a very strong driver lineup with Franck, Marco and myself, and I think we can challenge for the win here at Road Atlanta. This car pulls a lot of more 'G's than the Indy Car, but it is such a technical car. For a driver, it is a blast."

LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We have been working very hard on race setup. It is a long race on Saturday and we want a consistent car for the entire distance. We want to run a similar race to what we did at Sebring this year. The car ran great for 12 hours then. We believe we can do it here, too. I feel good about how the car is handling now."

-credit: acura

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Franck Montagny , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Luis Diaz , Marco Andretti , Romain Dumas