Laguna Seca: Highcroft Racing preview

PATRON HIGHCROFT ONE STEP AWAY FROM CHAMPIONSHIP SUCCESS Patron Highcroft Racing enters the Monterey Sports Car Championship presented by Patron next weekend needing to complete only 70 percent of the race to become only the third US-owned...


Patron Highcroft Racing enters the Monterey Sports Car Championship presented by Patron next weekend needing to complete only 70 percent of the race to become only the third US-owned team to claim the American Le Mans Series LMP1 class title.

The team enjoys a 21-point lead in the championship chase thanks to three wins by Scott Sharp and David Brabham. But the dominant points position is also thanks to a remarkable performance by the Patron Highcroft crew at the previous round of the championship at Petit Le Mans.

After a dramatic crash on Thursday which destroyed the team's Acura ARX-02a, the team began work on building a complete new car from a bare tub flow in from Honda Performance Development on Friday morning prior to Saturday's race.

In a task which would normally take three weeks, the teRebuild am completed the new machine within 24 hours and was back on track for the morning warm-up and subsequently finished the rain-shortened race as the best performing ALMS LMP1 regular - finishing sixth and extending its points lead by four points.

The dramatic race against time was captured by a time-lapse camera - the finished video quickly becoming a YouTube sensation viewed by more than 40,000 fans.

Series veteran David Brabham has his sights set on clinching his first American Le Mans Series championship, while Scott Sharp has the opportunity to become only the second American driver to claim the LMP1 title.

The team has scored points in every round of the 2009 championship and has led the LMP1 title chase since the opening round of the season at Sebring International Raceway.

Race victories at St Petersburg, Road America and Mosport have pushed the points gap to 21 over de Ferran Motorsports. With 25 points awarded to the winner in the final round, the team only needs to be classified as a finisher after 70 percent of the race - nine points for seventh place in the LMP1 class will put them in an unbeatable position.

At the correspCrash onding event in 2008, Patron Highcroft Racing started from pole position aboard its LMP2 class Acura before power steering issues delayed the team at the finish.

The Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca event will also complete the team's 2009 fundraising efforts through the Miles To End Malaria campaign.

Key supporters including Highcroft Racing, Tequila Patron and American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz have all pledged $5 per mile - pushing the season total to $56,784.18. The team has already completed 3,362 miles and are expected to add more than 325 miles in the final four-hour event.

"I'm excited to get back to Laguna Seca. It is a picture perfect place for the championship to end and everybody at Patron Highcroft Racing did an amazing job at Petit Le Mans to keep us in this strong position in the championship fight.

"We are in great shape going into the last round and that is a real credit to the guys.

"It is hard to hold back competitive race drivers and obviously we want to finish the year with another win.

"But, it would be foolish of us to go over the line in any area and throw away our goal for the season which is to win the championship - especially when we are in such a strong position.

"This will be something we will discuss a great deal in meetings in preparation for the race to fine tune our plan.

"We just have to get to that 70 percent mark to finish the job. The de Ferran guys have nothing to lose so I am sure they are going to charge hard.

"I think we'd let them go do that and we will concentrate on driving the car well, driving the car smart, stay on the lead lap and keep them in our sights.

"After we seal the deal and clinch the title - then we can really go racing."

"We have worked so hard this season to get to this point. We are obviously in a commanding situation in the championship but it isn't over yet.

"We have to maintain our focus, do what we have been doing all year and the results will come.

"The first job next weekend will be to clinch the championship by finishing 70 percent of the race.

"It shows how strong the team has been this year and how hard we have worked to be in this fortunate situation.

"The team has done an outstanding job with its results and reliability to put us 21 points in the lead.

"We go to Laguna with two jobs to complete. Finish that 70 percent to claim the title, then it is gloves off and throw everything we can at winning the race.

"Laguna Seca is located in a beautiful area. The Monterey Peninsula is really magnificent and is certainly one of my favorite places to visit. The track itself can be quite tricky because there is a not a lot of grip. A lot of work will go into getting the set-up right and working closely with Michelin to optimize the performance of the car.

"It is quite a technical challenge and is also a real driver's circuit."


What is your favorite corner and why?
"That one is easy - it has to be the Corkscrew. There is just no other corner like it in the world. You drop three-storeys over the Corkscrew and then you keep heading downhill - it really takes your breath away. That section of the track is momentum critical. You can't slow down too much, you have to keep your speed up and it flows right into the rest of the circuit."

What is the secret to a good lap at Laguna Seca?
"You have to keep your speed up. Almost every lap you find yourself pushing your cornering capability.

"It really is an amazing circuit, but it is really important to put the whole lap together.

"That is very challenging to be able to do because it offers a wide variety of corners from the Corkscrew, to the turn one hairpin through to all the fast sections in between."

What is the most challenging aspect of Laguna Seca?
"Finding a balance between wanting to push harder and harder but remaining smooth.

"It is a circuit that pays great dividends for being very smooth and you have to keep your momentum rolling all the way around the track."

If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?
"Laguna has such a heritage and it is such a unique circuit. If I could change anything about it I would like to bring the date forward a little so it wasn't so cold!"

What is your favorite memory of Laguna Seca?
"I ran my first ever IndyCar race there. It was quite a shock for me to come from sedans into open wheel downforce cars and having never been to Laguna before, it is a memory I will certainly never forget."

-credit: hr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Don Panoz