Highcroft Racing Finishes Third In Petit Le Mans At Road Atlanta Saturday BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - When Duncan Dayton purchased one of the older Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AERs for his Highcroft Racing team to campaign in the American Le Mans ...
Highcroft Racing Finishes Third In Petit Le Mans At Road Atlanta Saturday
BRASELTON, Ga., Sept. 30 - When Duncan Dayton purchased one of the older Dyson Racing Lola EX257 AERs for his Highcroft Racing team to campaign in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS), he said he didn't expect to win a race against the newer factory-backed cars, but with a little luck he felt a podium finish was a definite possibility.
That possibility became a reality Saturday night at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center here thanks to the driving talents of Dayton, Memo Gidley and Vitor Meira; hard work by everyone on the Danbury, Conn.-based team; perseverance, and that often elusive racing luck. In the last hour of action the entry went from fifth to third due to problems encountered by two of its rivals.
Eight hours and 14 minutes into what turned out to be a nine hour and 17 minute race the third-place car of Jamie Campbell-Walter spun in oil in Turn Five, which allowed Gidley to move into fourth place a couple of laps later. Then, with 14 minutes remaining in the 1,000-mile contest, the second-place Audi pulled into the pits with a broken left-front tie rod. As the Audi remained in the pits, the Highcroft entry took third place both overall and in the top class, LMP1, with five minutes remaining, and Gidley brought it home for the podium.
Although Dayton, of Danbury, Conn., has won his class at this race twice before, it was only Gidley's second Petit Le Mans ever and his first podium here. It was also a fitting present for the Grand American Rolex Series driver's 33rd birthday, which he celebrated on Friday. He hails from Novato, Calif. and Sherrills Ford, N.C.
Meira's podium was even more remarkable, as he'd never even seen an ALMS race before this weekend, nor had he ever been to Road Atlanta. He only did one stint, albeit a double, but the Indy Racing League IndyCar star from Brasilia, Brazil and Indianapolis went home a podium finisher in the top class in one of endurance sports car racing's premier events.
The excellent run was not without its problems earlier in the day, however.
Just 57 minutes into the race Dayton's former Intersport Racing co-driver, Jon Field, ran into the back of him going into the first turn, taking a chunk of right-side upper-rear bodywork off the Highcroft No. 9. Dayton spun from the impact of the hit and ended up stranded on the inside curbing in Turn One, bringing out the event's second full-course caution.
With some help from the cornerworkers Dayton made his way back to the pits under his own power, and the hard-working Highcroft Racing crew quickly replaced the damaged bodywork, gave him four fresh Dunlop tires and fuel, and sent him back out.
"Jon hit me; there's no rivalry there, is there?" Dayton said afterwards.
A couple of penalties didn't help, but the team persevered. At the half-way point it was sixth overall and sixth in the top class, LMP1, but by hour six it had moved into fifth place. The entry stayed in fifth until the last hour, when its perseverance paid off.
The race was broadcast live on SPEED.
Post-race driver quotes follow:
Duncan Dayton: "I'm just really proud of everyone on the Highcroft Racing team and for Memo and Vitor's perseverance. They both did an excellent job. We had some problems early on that looked like they were going to knock us out of contention, so to get on the podium is very satisfying.
"The car was fantastic. I really have to thank Dave Luckett and Tom Knapp for having the car prepared so well. Michael Gue also helped with excellent race strategy; he helped us get a lap back once.
"Our Dunlop tires were very consistent, and our AER power was very good. I had a strong run going once with Field and one of the Penske cars, and for that little engine to be running so well with the V8 is fantastic."
Memo Gidley: "This team's attention to detail was apparent right from my seat fitting, and it continued to show here and it paid off. To run as fast as we did here was a real testament to a team that hasn't even run all the races this year.
"The car was great. It was consistent and easy to drive. It was fun; I could have stayed out there for a lot longer time. We didn't come here to test like some of the other teams did. I think the car was great!
"It was a good way to end this year. With a team like this, I'm sure the Acura program next year will be awesome."
Vitor Meira: "This was very cool. I hope we get to do it again sometime!
"The car is awesome. I'm sure with Acura and Courage coming to the team next year, it's going to be even better than it already is.
"This was my first time at Road Atlanta but I think it's a good place to have such a race. We had action all the time. It was a lot of fun!"
-credit: highcroft racing