David Brabham can claim yet another entry in the annals of American Le Mans Series history, sealing back-to-back championship titles in style at the final Series round -- Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta -- winning the LMP2 class and finishing fourth...
David Brabham can claim yet another entry in the annals of American Le Mans Series history, sealing back-to-back championship titles in style at the final Series round -- Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta -- winning the LMP2 class and finishing fourth overall.
A legend of the ALMS since its inception in 1999, Brabham was justifiably rewarded with his first championship crown last year, winning LMP1. Another stellar season, in a year that saw the Australian celebrate his 100th ALMS race start, has delivered not only the drivers crown but also the teams and manufacturers titles for Patron Highcroft for the second consecutive year.
The champion 2010 partnership of Brabham and Simon Pagenaud has delivered a faultless run of podium perfect performances, despite competing against more powerful LMP1, turbo charged and weight advantaged rivals in the newly combined LMP class.
An impressive tally of a hat-trick of race wins, four second places and a single third place finish, helped Highcroft's dynamic duo enter the Petit Le Mans round with a 16 point lead and needing to complete 70% race distance to take the title.
Treating the season finale like any other race, Pagenaud claimed the class lead within the first 30 minutes at Road Atlanta and took the Highcroft car into the crucial final quarter of the race before Brabham took the chequered flag to claim the team's fourth season victory and cement his double crown.
"It's an amazing feeling and such a great accomplishment to clinch back-to-back titles," said Brabham (Henley-on-Thames, UK). "It's not an easy thing to do but we did it by delivering a faultless race to finish the year on a massive high.
"We took the title exactly the way we wanted to. We made sure that we treated this race like another other and concentrated on winning. As soon as you start talking about potential issues you can create them. Instead, we decided to do what we have been doing all season and it certainly paid off.
"This team has done a stellar job all year. We've finished on the podium every race so full credit must go to the entire Patron Highcroft crew.
"I've had a great four years since joining the team. We took the LMP1 title last year, I've won Le Mans three times with Peugeot and Aston Martin, and now I've got two ALMS titles. You can't achieve all that without the support of great teams and I feel very fortunate to be achieving all this at this point in my career.
"My two teammates, Simon and Marino did a fantastic job as they have done all year. We were pushing hard all the time to find a good rhythm. In fact we've gone through the entire season without a scratch on the car and that takes some doing. It really is a phenomenal effort.
"I wouldn't be able to do what I do without the support of my special family who go without seeing their husband and dad a fair bit during the racing year. So, my huge thanks go to my wife Lisa and my boys, Sam and Finn."
The Highcroft crew dominated today's proceedings at Road Atlanta from the start. A strong final qualifying effort from Brabham yesterday placed Pagenaud third in class for the start of the 13th annual Petit Le Mans.
Pagenaud wasted no time taking the Porsche RS Spyder of championship rival Klaus Graf for second in LMP2 on lap two, swiftly followed by the class lead during the first safety car period triggered after 19 minutes -- a position Highcroft would not relinquish for the rest of the race.
Pagenaud continued to stretch Highcroft's advantage throughout his 1 hour 51 minute stint before handing the reigns to Brabham who joined the fray sixth overall.
By the time the second full course yellow came at 2 hours 32, Brabham had pushed to build a one lap lead over the Dyson Mazda and four laps on the CytoSport Porsche. Once clear of the consecutive cautions, the 2009 LMP1 champion clocked up the car's fastest lap of the race so far on his way to creating a two lap cushion over the Dyson car and seven laps on the Porsche.
After a solid two hour stint, Brabham pit under the fourth race caution to handover to Marino Franchitti 3 hours 50 minutes into the race.
The Scotsman continued the Highcroft charge through two further safety cars to hold fourth overall. The Dyson car retired from second in LMP2 reporting a gearbox problem just under an hour later, helping Franchitti to complete his double stint boasting a nine lap lead over the Porsche Spyder.
With Pagenaud back at the helm approaching 5 hours 30, the Highcroft HPD car kept coming into its own -- Pagenaud surpassing his own fastest laps when clear track and full course cautions would allow.
It was during the ninth, and thankfully final, safety car period approaching the 7 hour mark that Pagenaud drove the ARX-01c past the 70% race distance and into the ALMS history books. With the pressure eased, the team switched its focus to sealing the title with gusto and securing another class win.
As well as commanding LMP2 throughout the race, the Highcroft car was also battling the LMP1 Intersport Racing Lola for fourth overall and Jon Field slipped past to push Pagenaud back to fifth at the restart.
Brabham took command once again as the sun began to set with an impressive 10 lap class lead. As darkness descended, the sportscar legend reclaimed fourth overall, built a two lap lead over fifth place, and a 12 lap advantage to second in LMP2 before pitting at 8 hours 37.
The newly crowned double ALMS champion refused to let up the pace in the closing stages of the epic 1000 mile marathon to claim not only Highcroft's fourth season win but also the accolade of the highest placed ALMS entered team.
"It was a great performance and a solid run from the Highcroft crew. Everyone else had issues but we ran perfectly all the way through," continued Brabs.
"The car was so good today. There was a lot of pressure and a lot of cars on a tight track yet we don't have a scratch on the car. The team did a fantastic job with setup. The car was so nice to drive -- the harder you pushed, the more the car liked it.
"We were never going to beat the Audis and Peugeots here, but it means something to beat our ALMS competitors. Massive thanks go to Duncan and all the Highcroft crew. This is a really great period in my life working with really great people.
"Although Highcroft's work is done, my season hasn't finished. My focus is already on flying to Australia on Monday to race the Bathurst 1000 and I'm looking forward to doing the best job I can there and spending time with my family."
Brabham, Pagenaud and Patron Highcroft Racing will collect their 2010 silverware during the end of season awards ceremony on Sunday evening, October 3.