Brabham & Patron Highcroft Fight Back To Take Title Fight To Final Round
Henley-on-Thames, UK -- Sunday 27 September, 2009; David Brabham and the Patron Highcroft Racing crew made a sensational comeback, after rebuilding a new car from scratch in 24 hours following Scott Sharp's massive accident on Thursday, to score vital championship points in the 12th Petit Le Mans 1000miles/10 hour race at Road Atlanta.
Brabham, together with Sharp and Dario Franchitti, repaid the team's round-the-clock work to drive turn perfect through challenging weather conditions in a race that was eventually red flagged due to heavy rain. Their reward of a 21 point lead from de Ferran Motorsports takes the LMP1 title fight to the final round of the season at Laguna Seca on 11 October.
Thankfully Scott Sharp walked away unharmed from a horrendous accident during Thursday's second practice session that totalled the Patron Highcroft Acura. An awesome effort by the Patron Highcroft crew saw the car rebuilt from the ground up, turning a bare tub flown in from Honda Performance Development head quarters in California into a complete Acura ARX-02a in less than 24 hours.
With around only 10% of usable parts left from the original car, the team worked through the night to assemble and attach a mind blowing 4000 mechanical components. The car was ready to roll by 5:45am - in time for Brabham to run in morning warm-up which was delayed due to heavy overnight rain.
After starting from the pit lane, Brabham wasted little time slicing his way through the field up to seventh within 45 minutes and the Le Mans 24 Hours 2009 winner continued his charge to lie fifth after the first round of pit stops were complete.
Brabham took advantage of the first full course caution after 90 minutes of racing to pit and handover to Sharp. Brabham had experienced issues with the steering wheel dash during his session and when the problem wasn't resolved with the reconnection of the wheel during the driver switch, Sharp pit again for a change of wheel. He joined the field for green flag racing in seventh.
Taking the wheel of the new Acura for the first time, Sharp recovered sixth place and delivered a solid double stint through a session littered with four full course cautions.
During the fifth full yellow, Sharp pit on lap 150 to make way for Dario Franchitti but the Scottish IndyCar ace spent much of his stint sitting behind the safety car.
Conditions took a further turn for the worse and the resulting downpour was so severe that the race was red flagged on lap 184, with the clock approaching the 4 hours and 50 minute mark.
With conditions unchanged and parts of the track still water-logged, the chequered flag was waved and a full race result declared at 8.44pm.
Commenting on Patron Highcroft's awesome comeback to retain the LMP1 championship lead, Brabham said: "It's really job done all round today after an unbelievable effort by the crew for the second year in a row, but the rebuild was much tougher this year. Thankfully Scott walked away from a really violent accident, which is a testament to the car's strength and to the team, HPD and Wirth.
"What the Patron Highcroft crew has achieved here is magic. We had to wait for a new tub to arrive, but in that time the team jumped into action and did vital preparation work that helped them to build the new car ahead of schedule. It was amazing to see a team working in harmony towards a common goal. I wear the Humanity's Team logo on my helmet in support of the Oneness campaign and this really was a perfect example of Oneness.
"A lot of good things came from this experience, not only the team's effort but the offers of help we received, from teams up and down the pit lane to local businesses offering to stay open 24 hours if needed. That's what makes the American Le Mans Series so special -- you wouldn't find it anywhere else.
"The car felt fine out of the box, but I had a big problem trying to get enough traction out of the corners without getting a misfire down the straight. I had to drive conservatively, as I was worried someone might hit the back of the car because I was so slow out of the corners. I decided to try a TC setting I wouldn't usually use and it cured the problem and I went two seconds a lap quicker.
"There was a different mindset for this race, especially after the events of the last 48 hours. The mentality had to be to hold back and finish, which was weird as we are used to going for it and your natural instinct is to push. It was absolutely the right decision to end the race, which probably should have been stopped earlier as cars were spinning off under yellow and there was a lot of water on the track.
"We leave here 21 points clear of the de Ferran team, who I was sorry to see had a tough race. The points difference means we have to get to 70% race distance at Laguna Seca to win the championship. We go there with a brand new car, although not too many spares, so the guys in the factory are going to be busy. We were quick there last year and got pole, so we have a good idea of the set-up needed which will give us a good base to be competitive. No doubt, it's going to be a great battle for the fans."
After another sensational season in the ALMS with the Patron Highcroft team, Brabham has once again made it through to the final poll for the 'Most Popular Driver' award. The British-born Australian was voted the fans favourite in 2008 after a stellar LMP2 campaign while Patron Highcroft team principal Duncan Dayton is again elected a finalist in the 'From the Fans' category. Polls remain open through Sunday, simply log on to www.americanlemans.com to cast your vote.