Laguna Seca: Highcroft Racing preview

PATRÓN HIGHCROFT BACK TO HAPPY HUNTING GROUND AT LAGUNA DANBURY, CT, Friday, 14th April, 2010: In October 2009, the Monterey Peninsula was a happy hunting ground for Patrón Highcroft Racing - the Danbury, CT-based team clinching its first ...


DANBURY, CT, Friday, 14th April, 2010: In October 2009, the Monterey Peninsula was a happy hunting ground for Patrón Highcroft Racing - the Danbury, CT-based team clinching its first American Le Mans Series championship win.

A mere 224 days later, the team returns to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with a new mission - take full ownership of the 2010 championship lead.

After the opening two rounds of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, the Highcroft squad shares the points lead with the Porsche RS Spyder CytoSport squad.

David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud enter the Laguna weekend on high after an incredible final lap victory on the streets of Long Beach.

Sebring LMP2 class pole sitter Marino Farnchitti will return to the #1 Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c at Laguna Seca, joining forces with Brabham and Pagenaud.

The 2010 race distance has been extended from four hours in 2009 to six hours in 2010.

The added race distance also provides the team with a perfect preparation for their next challenge - the team's debut at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in France next month.

Winning has been a happy habit of the Highcroft squad in recent weeks. Not only did Brabham and Pagenaud win at Long Beach, Pagenaud also tasted success last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium when he won the European-based Le Mans Series event for the second year in a row while on loan to the factory Peugeot squad.

The Frenchman will also be hoping for two in a row back in the US as well - he took victory here at Laguna Seca last October for de Ferran Motorsports.

Highcroft boss Duncan Dayton has also kept the winning run happening. The team owner returned to the cockpit recently aboard historic machinery on the streets of Monaco - taking wins aboard his ex-Graham Hill 1959 Lotus 16 and 1970 Brabham BT33 Formula One cars.

Dayton has now taken 10 wins on the streets of Monaco - more than any driver in history.

Prior to heading out to California for the Laguna weekend, the Highcroft squad shook down the revised Le Mans aero kit for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The team will race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the same spec as the ARX-01c took victory at Long Beach.

After Laguna, the team turns its attention to Le Mans - having only a week to prepare the car before it departs for France for the team's Le Mans debut on June 12-13.

The team continues doing battle in many races - the race to retain its ALMS title crown, the race to prepare for Le Mans and an even bigger battle - the race to beat malaria.

Patrón Highcroft Racing has again teamed up with Malaria No More to raise funds and awareness for this disease which kills a child every 30 seconds in Africa.

With the purchase of a simple $10 mosquito bed net, fans can help combat this disease - either by visiting or just texting the word "MILES" to 85944 on their cell phone.

"I think the ARX-01 has proven to be very strong at Laguna over the past few years. I am expecting us to be very competitive again this year.

"There is one long straight at Laguna which the faster LMP1 cars will enjoy but it is not as long as what we had at Long Beach.

"I am hoping we will see less of an issue of the straight line speed disadvantage we saw in the last race but we won't really know until we get there.

"I always look forward to going to Laguna Seca and the Monterey Peninsula - it is such a beautiful part of the world.

"The track itself is a lot of fun. It is tricky because of the low grip surface, particularly if it is cold that could cause a few yellow flag periods.

"The six hour format will be new for the ALMS but it will be great preparation for us for Le Mans.

"Marino will be back in the car with us and Simon returns after his win for Peugeot at Spa - everyone's confidence is really on a high as well after our win at Long Beach."

"It is nice to be winning at the moment - it has been a good couple of weeks for me.

"Laguna Seca is one of my favorite tracks in the American Le Mans Series. I have had two really good races in the past couple of seasons.

"I had a great battle with Tony Kanaan in 2008 when we were both in the ARX-01 and of course I had the win last year.

"I think the Highcroft squad are going to be really strong next week and I am looking forward to what should be a great time with my teammates David and Marino.

"I'm really looking forward to heading back to this track. I won here last year but I think I am even better prepared this year. I am really lucky to be driving for the best sportscar team in the US with Highcroft and the best team in Europe with Peugeot - being in those environments really raises your game to another level.

"It is great that the race is longer because I think this race should be one of the pinnacle events on the calendar. It is a great race track and provides great racing for the fans."

"I can't wait to get back in the car. It feels like such a long time since Sebring and I'm itching to drive again - in fact I wanted to get back in at Long Beach but it is now my turn at Laguna.

"I hope we can carry that form from Long Beach into this weekend. It is going to be a very different weekend compared to Sebring or Long Beach but I think the performance of the entire team - the car, the crew, the strategy - everything has been fantastic and I think that puts us in a good position to take advantage of the longer race duration.

"I really love driving at Laguna. Last year I didn't actually get to drive in the race after an engine problem early on so I'm looking forward to getting out there and getting some laps in.

"I think it is going to be very close throughout the entire race. The speed differential between the combined LMP1 and LMP2 cars are going to be very interesting around here - it will be hard to predict but I know we have the team to take advantage of every situation.

"This car has been very quick here in the past and you are constantly turning here so I hope that is going to play to our advantage."


Q. Laguna Seca, what is your favorite corner and why?

DAVID BRABHAM: I think the best corner for me is turn six. You go up over a slight brow and the car gets a little light. And then when you turn in you dip down and then you've got to make sure you don't run off the road on the exit. It's a great corner. My favorite isn't the corkscrew, because I think it's overrated.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I love the corkscrew corner. It's obviously an incredible corner in America and famous all over the world. It's just impressive to go into that corner. You can't see anything and all of a sudden you're going down just like a ski slope.

It's an amazing feeling. And, again, you have to be very precise with what you do, and the approach of that corner is very special.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I'm not sure of the numbers, but there's a lefthander after the corkscrew downhill. And in these cars, we pull huge Gs through there. And the car, you have to have the steering exactly right as you go in the corner because no matter how much assistance you have, the car completely locks out then and there.

I just love that corner. It's just so thrilling.

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of the Laguna Seca race?

DAVID BRABHAM: Well, for us the most challenging aspect is the weather. It gets quite cold. The tires drop down in temperature and pressure, and restarts are extremely difficult.

To keep the car on the track is not easy. I know that sounds strange, but when you've got cold tires, tire pressures are low on that particular track because it's a very fine surface. It's near impossible to go out quickly on your first lap.

SIMON PAGENAUD: The traffic is very challenging. You've got to get around the GT cars and the track is quite narrow, and you feel like it's a street track.

It's also dirty offline because the gravel traps are sand.  So when it's
windy, you get sand on the track.  And it is very easy to make a mistake.

I love that racetrack for the traffic, which is very intense.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: Most challenging aspect is the dust that surrounds the track. The sand gets pulled onto the track. Sometimes we have the track where it's dry and you have a dry lane and you go out on slick tires but it's wet off line, and that's almost the feeling at Laguna Seca.

If you make any little errors on your line or you get off line, it really just sucks you into the dirt. And then it takes many laps to clean the tires up. So you've got to be very precise and stay on that one clean part of the track.

Q. What's the secret to a good lap at Laguna?

DAVID BRABHAM:  The secret to a good lap at Laguna is to treat it much
like a street circuit.  You've got to be so incredibly precise there.
The very nature of the track makes the car push a little bit.  The grip
level is low.  So you can't overstep, but you've still got to push it.

SIMON PAGENAUD: It is to be very precise. And, again, you have to push yourself every corner to brake late, put the power down very early. The rhythm of that track is amazing as a driver. You really feel like you're pushing yourself to the limit.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: The secret to a good lap at Laguna is being very precise. Since the MotoGP went there, they flattened the curves. So you have to use some of them, but if you take too much, you pick up dust and it costs you time at the next corner.

So it's very much about getting the flow right. And the corners in a lot of places lead into each other, so you have to have the momentum to go in and just be, like at most places, really precise.

Q. How do you think the Patrón Highcroft car will go against the opposition at Laguna Seca?

DAVID BRABHAM: I think like all other street circuits, I think the Patrón Highcroft Racing car will actually go very well - it will be a very strong race for us.

SIMON PAGENAUD:  I think Laguna should be the best track for us all
year.  It is very sweepy, a lot of corners, highspeed corners which
should suit very well to our car.  We've got a lot of downforce, very
lightweight.  That should be exactly what we need there.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think right there, judging on last year when the car was a P2 against the P1, it was there the whole way through the race and was very competitive overall, never mind just in the P2 class. So I really expect that to be a very strong race for us, and I think it's certainly one that we'd be very disappointed if we didn't win.

Q. If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?

DAVID BRABHAM: In terms of the circuit, not a lot, to be honest. I'd like to have less of the dirt which is around, but obviously it's kind of like in the desert a little bit. Sometimes that dirt comes across the track very easily with the GT cars and makes it quite tricky if you're on the limit through the corner. But other than that, it's a great circuit.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Absolutely nothing. Just the way it is is absolutely brilliant.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think I would go back to the original Laguna Seca lap where when you came down to Turn 1 it wasn't so much a hairpin as a sweeping lefthander, and then you're flat up to I think it's 5, Turn 5. And I think that would be really fun to take it back to as it was in the old days.

Q. What's your favorite Laguna Seca memory?

DAVID BRABHAM: I've had a few, actually. I won a championship there back in '98, and I was having a great battle with Eric Bernard in the other Panoz and I had to dive down the inside after he'd just come out of the pits. And he had slightly colder tires than I did and I managed to get past him.

It was only probably ten laps before the end, and whoever won that race was winning the championship. It was a brilliant race and it was great to win that championship in that way.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it is probably my battle with Tony Kanaan in 2008. We were battling with the same cars wheel to wheel going through traffic at night.

It was great to battle with him and show him some a good fight.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: That's a tough one. I think it was the first time I drove around there in the dark, because there's no ambient light around and it's completely pitch black. It was very eerie but quite exciting to drive around there and in the dark, and I really look forward to that again.

-source: phr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , David Brabham , Tony Kanaan , Simon Pagenaud , Graham Hill