Sebring: Acura Friday report

Acura Teams Put In Long Hours Of Preparation For A Shot At Winning Prestigious 12 Hours Of Sebring; De Ferran, Lowe's Fernandez and Patron Highcroft Squads Ready for Tough Task SEBRING, Fla. -- The Mobil 1 12 Hours of ...

Acura Teams Put In Long Hours Of Preparation For A Shot At Winning Prestigious 12 Hours Of Sebring; De Ferran, Lowe's Fernandez and Patron Highcroft Squads Ready for Tough Task

SEBRING, Fla. -- The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring annually produces one of the world's most grueling road racing events. Now, in its 57th year, the Sebring classic gives the drivers and their respective cars a brutal pounding on the historic, former World War II airport-racing surface.

The preparation required just to complete the 12-hour distance is remarkable, let alone winning the race.

The three Acura teams, set to fight the competition and the race circuit starting at 10:30 a.m. [EDT] Saturday, have put in long hours at their race headquarters and on-track trailers in the coveted quest for a position at the top of the victory podium on Saturday night.

Patron Highcroft Racing, based in Danbury, Conn., spent the winter learning and preparing an all-new Acura ARX-02a sports car for the ultimate division in the American Le Mans Series, LMP1, as the veteran endurance team goes against sports-car racing giants Audi and Peugeot this weekend. With drivers David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Dario Franchitti handling the controls of the No. 9 Patron Highcroft Acura, the team has worked on the reliability of the new Acura with weeks of testing before arriving at Sebring.

"Sebring is tough for the crew and drivers if you have an established race car," said Duncan Dayton, team owner of Patron Highcroft Racing. "But we have an all-new, very unique vehicle here at Sebring. So, our goals are first to finish the distance and then see if we are in position to race for the win. Last year, we won four races, but not here at Sebring. To win this race overall in the car's first voyage would be amazing. But it is possible."

De Ferran Motorsports, based in Brownsburg, Ind., comes to Sebring for the first time and brings an open-wheel background to the American Le Mans Series. Led by 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, the de Ferran team has an all-star lineup of engineers and mechanics for the potent No. 66 de Ferran XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-02a, but de Ferran admits his stellar crew is completely warn out from the long hours getting ready.

"We have a very experienced crew, but I think everyone is running on three hours of sleep per night," said de Ferran, who'll drive with Indy 500 winner Scott Dixon and young Frenchman Simon Pagenaud. "This is our first time to race at Sebring and we have a new car. So it is a double--edged sword for our team; both learning how to survive the 12 hours at Sebring and getting the new car to have speed and reliability. It is very difficult."

Scott Dixon drove the de Ferran car to the overall pole position Thursday at Sebring, but de Ferran concedes that one fast lap is much different from 12 hours of competition.

"With three drivers, we have different ways of driving the car and things we like about the car," he said. "But we have to compromise so the car is easier to drive for everyone. The same holds true for the setup. To get to the finish, we have to prepare for the long haul. So, we build the car for the punishing track surface and the race."

One Acura team with Sebring experience is the Lowe's Fernandez contingent in the LMP2 division. The Lowe's team finished third overall in 2007 at Sebring and second overall last year before a minor technical glitch penalized the Indianapolis-based effort. Now, drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz are set for a winning run.

"The rules have changed a little in the LMP2 class," said Tom Anderson, team co-owner with Fernandez. "But we have a pretty good sense of what is needed to run the entire distance and be competitive for the win. We have prepared our car, the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b, for every possibility, and we have spare parts and backup strategy plans. It's a tough race, no doubt. But our crew has worked out the race on paper with several different scenarios. I think we know what to expect and we are ready for the race. We're prepared."

Preparation is a key for the Acura teams to reach the checkered flag, and, with a little luck, they will get to the top step of podium at 11 p.m. Saturday.

It may take 12 hours to complete the race, but the teams have spent months getting everything ready for the battle at Sebring.

-credit: acura

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Luis Diaz , Tom Anderson , Simon Pagenaud