PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING SCORE FIRST LMP1 VICTORY FOR ACURA AT ST PETE ST PETERSBURG, FL, SATURDAY APRIL 4, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing continued its run of achievements for Acura today by clinching the first LMP1 victory for the manufacturer...
PATRON HIGHCROFT RACING SCORE FIRST LMP1 VICTORY FOR ACURA AT ST PETE
ST PETERSBURG, FL, SATURDAY APRIL 4, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing continued its run of achievements for Acura today by clinching the first LMP1 victory for the manufacturer in today's second round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series - the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St Petersburg.
The Danbury, CT-based squad has previously clinched Acura's first LMP2 victory as well as its first overall American Le Mans Series win.
After starting on the front row today, Scott Sharp slotted into second place behind the sister de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX02-a.
Despite battling a loose car in the opening half of stint, Sharp was able to hold on to second place and after 40 minutes, behind taking huge chunks of time off the race lead.
By the time the de Ferran car pitted after 44 laps, Sharp had closed the lead down to two seconds. After the #66 car resumed, Sharp was initially able to put a lap on the de Ferran car before pitting under yellow to hand over to David Brabham.
At the restart, Brabham chased down the #15 LMP2 Acura to regain the lead on lap 57.
Despite a radio issue that prevented both pit and driver from communicating, the Australian was able to press on to the finish to claim the first win for the new Acura ARX-02a.
The win was Brabham's 17th class win in the American Le Mans Series and his eighth overall victory. It was his first LMP1 win since Washington DC in 2002. For Sharp, this is his fifth class victory, his second overall win and first LMP1 victory.
Today's result was also the fifth class win for Patron Highcroft Racing and its second overall victory.
The team's Miles to End Malaria partnership with Malaria No More also scored another great result - today's mileage earned an additional $1,714.17 to help battle malaria deaths in Africa, taking the season total to $13,174.59.
"We made the right changes to the car for the race and that really started to pay off during the last half of my stint.
"The car was incredibly loose early and I lost a lot of time, but after a while it just started to feel better and better and maintained a really good balance.
"It was perfect towards the end of the stint and I was really able to slash seconds off the lead.
"I can't say enough about the effort that everyone at the team has put in. They have been working so hard on a brand new car, trying to develop it quickly and they really have done a great job.
"We have had a great start to the season with excellent points in Sebring and a strong win here.
"Nine times out of ten the Patron Highcroft guys are the last team to leave the paddock and effort is being rewarded out on the racetrack. The effort shows in results like this."
"It is very satisfying to score Acura's first LMP1 victory and Patron Highcroft Racing have a habit of delivering firsts for Acura.
"It has been an unbelievable effort by the team. The amount of work that has gone into this program is just incredible - probably double the workload we had last year.
"After we got into the lead, it was very important that I didn't make a mistake. It looked easy out there but it wasn't at all - the track was incredibly slippery.
"Turn one felt like it was wet and I could have very easily spun a number of times.
"Scott did a fantastic job at the beginning. The tire strategy we had with Michelin really helped us - that started to show when Scott was really hauling in the #66 car before the stops.
"They had to pit before us and we were able to keep pressing on and then pit late under yellow."
"It is hugely satisfying considering all the effort that has gone in from Patron Highcroft Racing, HPD, Acura, Wirth Research and even the guys over at de Ferran. It has been countless hours.
"I'm thrilled to bring home the first win for Acura in the LMP1 class. It is a real shot in the arm for the guys. We finished third here two years ago, second last year and the victory today was really what we wanted.
"As good as our drivers were in the race in very difficult circumstances, I think the key to the race for us was the calls in the pits that the guys on the engineering stand made.
"We were trying to save fuel early and were able to go long on the first stint. We also made a great call on the tire selection with Michelin that made a big difference in the second half of the race."