PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING HEAD THE LMP2 PACK AT PETIT LE MANS Road Atlanta BRASELTON, GA, Thursday, September 30, 2010: Patron Highcroft Racing dominated proceedings in the LMP2 class at Road Atlanta today, setting the fastest time in the day and...
PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING HEAD THE LMP2 PACK AT PETIT LE MANS
Road Atlanta BRASELTON, GA, Thursday, September 30, 2010: Patron Highcroft Racing dominated proceedings in the LMP2 class at Road Atlanta today, setting the fastest time in the day and the dark in preparation for this weekend's Petit Le Mans.
Simon Pagenaud set the pace in the morning session - the Frenchman's times tumbling as the track became drier after morning showers.
Pagenaud eventually lowered his mark to 1 minute, 11.759 seconds - good enough to lead the LMP2 class and be fourth fastest overall.
The factory-backed Honda Performance Development team elected to skip the afternoon session to fit the race gearbox and suspension components.
That decision turned out to be ideal with heavy rain hitting the 2.54 mile circuit and only nine cars electing to hit the track in damp conditions.
In the two-hour evening night session, Marino Franchitti kicked things off for the reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champions by bedding in race components including the new gearbox and brakes.
He worked his way down to 1:12.663 - 4th overall and first in LMP2 before handing over to Pagenaud.
Road Atlanta The Frenchman's stint was interrupted by lots of traffic and a red flag period, but he continued his strong pace from this morning.
David Brabham climbed aboard to complete the two-hour session. The Australian and the Highcroft engineers made further improvements to the car - eventually lowering their fastest time to 1:12.261.
In total, the Patron Highcroft team completed 40 laps, recorded the sixth fastest time overall and lead the LMP2 category over championship rivals Team CytoSport and Dyson Racing.
While delighted with the day's progress, the Highcroft crew will be able to sleep extra soundly tonight for the first time in three years. Unfortunately, major Thursday practice crashes in the past two years at Road Atlanta have forced the team to build brand new racecars from replacement tubs.
The team will have a final one-hour practice session tomorrow from 9:30am before David Brabham takes the wheel for qualifying at 3:50pm.
In Saturday's race - the final round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron - Highcroft need only to complete 70% of the race distance to claim its second consecutive drivers, teams and manufacturers championships.
The team is also in line to clinch the prototype class in the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge environmental award with a strong performance on race day.
David Brabham DAVID BRABHAM
"It was nice to get some laps tonight. We've made some great progress and the car feels really nice.
"We just need to make some little adjustment to make it a bit better.
"If we had to race it right now - then no problem.
"The guys have done a great job coming here with this package and giving us drivers a good car.
"In qualifying tomorrow I'm probably not expecting to be on pole because the Porsche is always extremely fast here and we still have a weight disadvantage.
"But qualifying is not going to win us the race and we just have to concentrate on the setup and go and do the best we can.
"I'm not overly concerned where we start on Saturday to be honest."
Simon Pagenaud SIMON PAGENAUD
"The HPD is pretty good and I am very happy at the moment. The team did a great job preparing the car for the race with all the new components going on this afternoon.
"I think we are pretty confident with the race car we have and the balance is really good.
"We know our reliability has been excellent all year and we have big ambitions for the race.
"Getting to 70 per cent is still a long way away but we have a great race car which we are all confident in.
"To be honest, I really can't wait for race day. I think it is going to a great event and I hope we are going to be able to battle for the class win as well as the championship.
"This is a very special event for the Series with many manufacturers taking part and the addition of the Porsche hybrid is a really good addition for the race.
"I'm looking forward to having a great day on Saturday."
Marino Franchitti MARINO FRANCHITTI
"The Patron Highcroft guys did a fantastic job getting the car stripped and rebuilt with all the race gear for the night session.
"I was out there first and had to bed in all the race stuff. No matter how much technology advantages, one thing never changes and that is the fact you have to go out there and bed in gears, diffs and brakes and bring them all up to temperature nice and gently.
"I got a couple of good laps in as it started to get dark. The car is certainly very good and has improved from where we have started.
"We're making small changes to get it where we want to be and we're working towards having a very comfortable race car.
"That is really what we are looking for. Everyone is up to speed and we all got some laps tonight so we'll have a longer run tomorrow morning and see how it is."