Lime Rock: de Ferran Motorsports race report

Pagenaud and de Ferran celebrate win number three at Lime Rock Park Flawless performances from drivers Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud took the No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-02a to victory in today's (Saturday) ...

Pagenaud and de Ferran celebrate win number three at Lime Rock Park

Flawless performances from drivers Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud took the No. 66 de Ferran Motorsports XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-02a to victory in today's (Saturday) Northeast Grand Prix at the Lime Rock Park circuit in Connecticut. It was de Ferran Motorsport's third straight victory coming after back-to-back wins on the streets of Long Beach and at the Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.

Although de Ferran started round five of the 2009 American Le Mans Series from pole position and Pagenaud set the race's fastest lap, the team's third consecutive victory was fiercely contested and came after an epic race-long duel with the similar Acura ARX-02a of Patron Highcroft Racing's Scott Sharp and David Brabham. The two pace-setting Acuras prototype sports cars totally dominated the event, serving up a dramatic duel throughout what was a thrilling two hour 45 minute showdown on the tight and scenic 1.53-mile Lime Rock track.

Such was the leading pair's searing pacein the sunshine that they finished more than seven laps clear of the third placed car.Taking full advantage of pole position, de Ferran established an early lead, which the former Indianapolis 500 victor held until the first round of pit stops at the end of the first hour. However, the invention of the Safety Car meant Pagenaud rejoined the circuit with Brabham hot on his heels. For the next hour, the impressive young Frenchman fended off a series of challenges from the more experienced Le Mans 24 Hours winner as the two leaders dodged their way through the slower traffic.

The final round of pit stops just after the two-hour mark, though, appeared to have favoured Brabham. Having only changed two tires, the Australian rejoining a couple of seconds in front of the now chasing Pagenaud who had lost time by taking four new tires during his stop. But, with 13 minutes left, the Highcroft Acura suffered a late puncture leaving Pagenaud clear to take a hard-earned victory.

"Today the show was on and I think the fans had a good time," grinned the 25-year-old French ace. "The car was really good at the beginning though we developed a little bit of understeer at the end. I made the decision to change all four tires as I was worried about punctures, which is what happened later to Highcroft. There was lots of debris out there and I wanted to be safe by changing all the tires - I'm glad that it paid off. I'm very happy for the whole de Ferran team that we were able to extend our winning streak to three."

Team owner Gil de Ferran was equally excited after such an exhilarating win. He said: "It was a great race - I hope the fans share my excitement! We built a good lead at the start, but as the race continued and traffic becomes a factor, the gap would vary massively. I had a moment where I got sideswiped by one of the other prototypes and I lost a little bit of time. Also, while navigating turn 5, I mistakenly hit the Pit Lane Speed Limiter button, which caused the car behind me to run into me, causing some minor damage and a bit more time lost.

"Once Simon got in the car everything was going well and he kept the lead, but Highcroft pitted after us and could react to what we did on the last stop by only taking two tires, which put them a bit ahead of us on the track," continued de Ferran. "Unfortunately for them - and fortunately for us - they got a puncture in one tire and we were able to take back the lead. Regardless, it was going to be an interesting race all the way to the finish - I think in general we had a little edge on pace, so it's a shame that we couldn't race them till the end. The car was really fast and we're very happy to get the win, this is our third win in a row. It is important that we keep focused and don't let off."

Now the on-form de Ferran Motorsports team will be aiming to extend its winning streak at the Acura Sports Car Challenge staged at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on 7-9 August.

-credit: dfm

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Simon Pagenaud