St. Pete: Highcroft Racing preview

PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING AIMS TO GO ONE BETTER IN ST PETE IN '09 DANBURY, CT, Monday, March 30, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing is returning to a happy hunting ground for the team this week in Florida for the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St.

PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING AIMS TO GO ONE BETTER IN ST PETE IN '09

DANBURY, CT, Monday, March 30, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing is returning to a happy hunting ground for the team this week in Florida for the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg - round two of the 2009 American Le Mans Series.

The factory Acura squad has finished third (2007) and second (2008) over the past two years on the Florida airport/street circuit and now has its sights set on continuing that trend by targeting victory with the new Acura ARX-02a LMP1 car.

Last year Patron Highcroft Racing earned the first overall victory for Acura in the American Le Mans Series when Scott Sharp and David Brabham took the win at Lime Rock Park.

The St Petersburg event will be a dramatic contrast to the opening round of the championship at Sebring - switching from a 12 hour enduro to a frantic one hour, 55 minute sprint.

However, each lap completed at St Pete will help the team in its battle against malaria deaths through the Miles to End Malaria program - Patron Highcroft Racing's unique charity partnership with Malaria No More.

For every mile completed in the American Le Mans Series, Patron Highcroft Racing and Tequila Patron will donate $10 to fund the distribution of life-saving mosquito nets in Africa. Race fans can join the fight for as little as one penny per mile (approximately $45 for the year) at http://www.milestoendmalaria.org.

To date, the team has raised nearly $11,500 for the new charity campaign.

Patron Highcroft Racing enters round two of the championship with a handy 18-point lead over de Ferran Motorsports. While neither team made it to the finish at the opening round of the championship, Scott Sharp, David Brabham and Dario Franchitti were able to complete more than 70 per cent of the race distance to earn valuable points.

Scott Sharp

"I'm really excited about the next stretch of races. "Acura, HPD and Wirth Research really kicked things into gear this time last year and the next three races are really important from a reliability and development standpoint for the program.

"We are all looking at improving the car so the next time we see the Audi and the Peugeot again we will really be looking at going head to head with them.

"We now have our sights set on the de Ferran team because that is what we will be gauged against.

"It will be an interesting situation because not only are we trying to beat them - and they beat us in return - but we are working hand in hand to try to develop the car as quickly as possible.

"It will be quite a change this week from the 12 Hours of Sebring to the less than two hours of St Pete but I really love street circuits and can't wait for this weekend."

David Brabham

"I'm really looking forward to St Petersburg. We've finished third and second there over the past two years and I'd love to make it a win this time around.

"Last year this race really marked the turn-around point of our championship when our team really gelled together - we were ready to win.

"This street circuit has been a happy hunting ground for us.

"After a strong race at Sebring, it is great to have a good batch of points on the board but we have to work hard to maintain that momentum and we still need to improve.

"This will be our first time with the new Acura ARX-02a on a street circuit - that is a challenge we are really looking forward to.

"We don't have a lot of track time before the race so it will be important to arrive as best prepared as we could possibly be to maximize the car's performance before the race."

SCOTT SHARP AT ST PETERSBURG

What is your favorite corner and why?
"The turn one, two, three complex at St Pete is certainly my favorite

"That section of the track is very important in putting a good lap together.

"If you lose some time through this section of the track you find yourself never able to make it up.

"It is actually faster than it appears with a real flow to it. In our Patron Acura last year we were pretty much flat out through that section - it is quite a ride.

"You use all the road through the exit of turn three as the car slides out on exit. It certainly is an exciting section to drive."

What is the most challenging aspect of the St Pete circuit?
"As a typical street circuit St Pete has minimal passing zones.

"Many sections of the track are literally one lane areas. The back section of the track is very tight so the only place you really have to pass is at the end of the main straight under braking.

"A lot of times guys will get very defensive so that makes it a challenge.

"Strong braking is critical to be able to go deeper than the next guy."

What is the secret to a good lap at St Pete?
"As is typical in the American Le Mans Series, getting a clear lap is really important.

"Having a car that turns really well is key because there are a lot of 90 degree corners - most of which don't provide a lot of grip.

"The front end tends to wash out quite a bit so having a car that will rotate and put the throttle down well helps a lot to carry as much speed as you can."

If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?
"I'd love to see some of the tighter sections of the track opened up a little. Many of the braking zones are also quite bumpy so if there was a way they could smooth it out and open things up a little I think we would have more passing and even better racing."

What is your favorite memory of St Pete?
"Finishing second at St Pete last year was great because that really proved to be the launch point for the rest of our season. It really gave us great momentum which we built upon."

-credit: phr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Dario Franchitti