De Ferran Acura cruises to Utah victory

De Ferran Acura cruises to Utah victory

The De Ferran Motorsports duo of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud asserted their authority on the rest of the American Le Mans Series field with a peerless win from pole at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, their second consecutive in the Acura ...

The De Ferran Motorsports duo of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud asserted their authority on the rest of the American Le Mans Series field with a peerless win from pole at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, their second consecutive in the Acura ARX-02a.

P1 and overall winners Simon Pagenaud and Gil de Ferran celebrate.
Photo by Larry Kuivila.

The result came a year after the team made its debut in ALMS competition at this venue, but of course in the P2 class. Pagenaud and de Ferran's Acura was consistently the quickest car all weekend.

"The most important thing is the fact it's the one year anniversary for the team," Pagenaud said. "My partner did a great job with his stint and he got me a big gap to just go out and finish the race. It's an accomplishment to now end up on the top of the podium."

The two-hour, 45-minute race ran to its conclusion without a single safety car period, different from Long Beach when the race both started and finished under yellow.

In P2, Fernandez Racing's Acura ARX-01B of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz gutted out its fourth consecutive class win despite a late challenge from the No. 20 Dyson Racing Lola B09/86 Mazda of Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti.

Flying Lizard's No. 45 entry of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long scored the GT2 class win with the husband-wife team of Martin and Melanie Snow earning the first victory in the ALMS Challenge category for Porsche GT3 Cup cars from the Patron GT3 Challenge.

Pole sitter de Ferran launched into the lead at turn one and a fast- starting Jon Field in his Intersport Lola B06/10 AER jumped to second from seventh on the grid. Field's car had great straight-line speed but struggled through the corners, balking the remainder of the prototypes.

Start: #66 de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a Acura: Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud leads the field at turn 1.
Photo by Larry Kuivila.

"We knew the start would be interesting," de Ferran said. "We saw on the tape that Field came from 7th to 2nd last year and then passed the Audi to lead the race. We got a nice good start and I stretched so I moved to the outside because I had the room to do it."

By the time the rest of the prototypes cleared Field, de Ferran was already out to a lead of over 18 seconds on Scott Sharp in the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura by lap 11. De Ferran handed over to Pagenaud on the team's first pit stop roughly an hour into the race and from there it was practically all over but the crying, with nearly a one-minute lead at that point.

"I braked as late as I could and came out of the corner in first and I really put my head down, don't look in the mirrors, and drive as hard as I can," de Ferran said.

Sharp and co-driver David Brabham had issues adjusting the car's seat belts on its first stop, Sharp recalling it was a tight fit for most of his stint and Brabham elaborated on it at the end of the day.

It was a frustrating effort for the team to come second at such a disadvantage, the final margin of victory for de Ferran and Pagenaud one minute, 13.693 seconds. The Field entry also wheeled by Jon's son Clint and Chapman Ducote finished third in the P1 class, fifth overall and 10 laps down to the overall winners.

P2 had a barnburner finish as Fernandez endured an uphill battle to maintain the pace of the Dyson Lola Mazdas on the straights. It came down to pit strategy as Leitzinger had to make a late-race splash for fuel that took him out of a 35-second lead.

P2 podium: class winners Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, second place Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger, third place Guy Smith and Chris Dyson.
Photo by Larry Kuivila.

"I got out of the pits and I had Leitzinger behind me, so I knew I really had to push hard now," Fernandez said. "And when we got to the end it became really close. He was chasing me very fast."

Leitzinger hung within a few seconds of Fernandez after that and things were made more interesting when Fernandez encountered Leitzinger's teammate Guy Smith in traffic.

Fernandez was unable to lap Smith as the race wound to its conclusion and that allowed Leitzinger to close. Close but no cigar, Leitzinger came up merely 0.585 of a second adrift at the finish, meaning the wait for Dyson's first class win in P2 for some time will continue.

GT2 saw Flying Lizard resume their dominance from qualifying. The duo of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long led the majority of the race in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

There was a brief challenge from Farnbacher Loles Racing in the sister Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb (substituting for Dirk Werner this weekend as Werner was in Monterey, CA for the Rolex Series event), but nothing major.

"It was like a game of chess in my stint getting the Farnbacher Loles car within the gap J?rg had," Long said. "He could try to get close but as soon as I could tell they used their tires, I could attack and really build up the lead."

Risi Competizione's Ferrari F430 GT fought back from an opening lap spin to finish third in class, Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo at the wheel of the bright red entry.

#02 Gruppe Orange Porsche 911 GT3 Cup: Nick Parker, Carl Skerlong.
Photo by Richard Sloop.

Challenge class pole-sitter Carl Skerlong had to start from pit lane after a tire change but raced his way to the class lead within the first hour. The car ran into mechanical issues not long after pitting and handing over driving duties to co-driver Nick Parker.

The Snows also won the GTS class in the inaugural ALMS event in 1999, so perhaps fittingly they scored again in the first Challenge race. ORBIT Racing's duo of Guy Cosmo and John Baker finished second in class.

"The local knowledge here is a big help," Martin Snow said. "It felt good stepping back in among the prototypes. They were very courteous, and we still had some pretty good dices."

A month-plus long hiatus sees ALMS off until the first weekend in July at Lime Rock Park, though Flying Lizard and Risi will both be competing in the GT2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans next month. Corvette Racing also will retire the venerable and incredibly successful C6.R in the GT1 class at Le Mans before their return to ALMS with a new Corvette in GT2 later this year.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Guy Smith , Butch Leitzinger , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Guy Cosmo , Jon Field , Luis Diaz , Jörg Bergmeister , Jaime Melo , Patrick Long , Marino Franchitti , Marc Lieb , Martin Snow , Pierre Kaffer , Wolf Henzler , Simon Pagenaud , Dirk Werner , Carl Skerlong , Chris Dyson , Chapman Ducote , Nick Parker , Melanie Snow , John Baker
Teams Corvette Racing , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing