ACURA SPORTS CAR TEAMS READY FOR NORTHEAST GRAND PRIX AFTER RECENT IMPRESSIVE LE MANS RUNS Le Mans Winner Brabham Seeks Lime Rock Win For Local Acura Team LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- The all-new Acura Assault heads to Connecticut...
ACURA SPORTS CAR TEAMS READY FOR NORTHEAST GRAND PRIX AFTER RECENT IMPRESSIVE LE MANS RUNS
Le Mans Winner Brabham Seeks Lime Rock Win For Local Acura Team
LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- The all-new Acura Assault heads to Connecticut this weekend at Lime Rock Park in the sixth American Le Mans Series racing event of 2007.
A local racing organization -- Highcroft Racing of Danbury, CT -- leads the Acura three-car effort for the Northeast Grand Prix set for Saturday, July 7, at 3 p.m. on the famed 1.54-mile, eight-turn road circuit that celebrates its 50th year of competition in 2007.
Highcroft Racing, in its first year as a factory-supported Acura operation, comes to Lime Rock with a stellar driving lineup including newly-crowned 24 Hours of Le Mans champion David Brabham and former Le Mans winner and Formula One star Stefan Johansson. Team owner Duncan Dayton has fielding sports car teams for the past five years with moderate success.
But, in 2007, Dayton brought in former Indy 500 winner Danny Sullivan as a senior advisor and a strong driver lineup to battle in one of the world's toughest sports car circuits, American Le Mans Series. Two weeks ago Brabham scored his first Le Mans title in 14 tries. Johansson, a past Le Mans and 12 Hours of Sebring champion, drove for Ferrari and McLaren in F1 and is a great team leader.
Joining the Highcroft Racing effort at Lime Rock for Acura will be the Andretti Green team with drivers Bryan Herta and Marino Franchitti, the younger brother of Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti, as well as the Lowe's Fernandez squad with Mexican stars Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz at the controls.
After leading off the 2007 ALMS campaign with an impressive debut of first, second and fourth at the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Acura sports car teams have had to battle the Penske Porsches for the LPM2 class victory as well as the overall win in the streets at St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Houston.
None of the three races produced another win for Acura in its initial sports car season but the Porsches and the more-powerful Audi cars definitely know the Acura teams are ready for another Victory Lane celebration. Herta lost by less than half a second at Houston.
Another Acura winner's circle celebration in the LMP2 class could come as soon as this Saturday at 3 p.m. in the Northeast Grand Prix.
All three of the Acura squads -- Andretti Green Racing, Lowe's Fernandez Racing and Highcroft Racing -- have been in position to score wins in the three previous street events and little problems have cost them the victory lane spots.
In the legendary Sebring contest, Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti won in Acura's initial race this year in the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a. And Dario also won the overall pole position at Long Beach and led for over an hour in the street classic.
Brabham scored Acura's second straight overall pole by taking the No. 9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a to the top spot in Houston qualifying. A small pit stop problem cost Brabham and his teammate Stefan Johansson a shot at the class title. Fernandez and Diaz nearly won at St. Petersburg.
Now, the three Acura lineups take on the tight Lime Rock, seeking the automaker's second win.
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "It was very exciting to win at Le Mans. I have been going there for 14 years and I finally got to the top of the podium. Now I would like to do it with our Highcroft Acura. I have been pleased with the performance of our Acura car. Winning the overall pole on the last lap of qualifying at Houston was exciting and gratifying. This Highcroft team is young as is the Acura sports car program. But this young team has really come together and we're should be good at Lime Rock. We have been getting closer to a victory in recent races. I feel we have been making progress with every race. The Lime Rock circuit is tight and tough to pass. I expect a lot of wild action in ALMS race."
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "The new Acura chassis has improved with each race. We had a car to compete well at Houston. Winning the pole overall was a great boost for our young team. We had a tough break during a pit stop at Houston and that cost us some spots. It is still early in the season and the Acura program is only four races old. I see the Acura program continuing to improve and develop, just like the Highcroft team. I believe we'll be more competitive in the next few races."
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "We are still very excited from the Sebring win. But we are going from a grueling race on an airport circuit from a sprint race on a street course to a smooth, fast permanent circuit. That is quite a contrast. We have been fast so far this year and we have been close to winning other events. We lost by less than a half a second at Houston. It was a good race with the Penske Porsche. I think the Lime Rock race will be fun. That track is tight and fastlent. I think the new chassis -- the ARX-01a -- could be very competitive on that circuit. It would be fantastic to win again."
MARIO FRANCHITTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): ""I'm delighted to be racing the XM Satellite Radio Acura in Lime Rock. I'm very proud of the job that Andretti Green Racing and Acura have done producing a car that was capable of winning the Sebring 12 Hours. Bryan and I came close to winning the last race at Houston. So we are anxious to go to the Lime Rock track. Testing the XM car has been fun and educational and now I'm ready to go racing again. Dario has won several races this year and I'd like to win one with the XM Acura. Lime Rock would be a good place for victory"
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): "The whole Le Mans experience was just fantastic. In our first visit here to start on [the LMP2] pole and finish second is just tremendous and I have to thank Lowe's for giving us this opportunity. Everything we learned here is going to be extremely beneficial for the future. Unfortunately, we were not able to bring home the class win. The experience of Le Mans is completely different from anything else and, with the schedule the week of the race, it is definitely not easy on anyone -- the mechanics, drivers, everyone. I think our Lowe's Acura was fast at the Utah race and I expect the same at Lime Rock. The Lime Rock race will be a big contrast from the large Le Mans circuit. It should be a wild race on the tight Lime Rock track. I am looking forward to it."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola): "We had a very fast car in Utah. I think we can do that again at Lime Rock. Lime Rock is much different from Utah with the short, tight circuit. But our Lowe's Acura has been getting better with each race. I know Adrian and I are excited to go racing again after six weeks off from the American Le Mans Series. I think we have a good car for Lime Rock."