Long Beach: Acura preview

PATRON HIGHCROFT ACURA TEAM SEEKS LONG BEACH REPEAT WIN WITH POTENT NEW ACURA ARX-02a PROTOTYPE SPORTS CAR Lowe's Fernandez Team Goes After 3rd 2009 Win, de Ferra Team Ready For 1st Win LONG BEACH, Calif. -- If street...


Lowe's Fernandez Team Goes After 3rd 2009 Win, de Ferra Team Ready For 1st Win

LONG BEACH, Calif. -- If street racing experience is needed succeed at Long Beach this weekend in the American Le Mans Series event, then the three Acura sports car teams will be tough to beat. The Acura contingent in the Tequila Patron ALMS race this Saturday, April 18, comes to Long Beach with tremendous background in street contests.

The introduction of the new Acura ARX-02a prototype sports car has been a crowd pleaser already in 2009 with two pole positions and one victory in the opening two races on the ALMS tour. Featuring one of the most unique designs ever in sports-car racing, the new LMP1 Acura has to be considered the favorite to win the overall title on Saturday's ALMS race when the green flag drops at 4:10 p.m.

Leading the Acura organizations will be recent St. Petersburg overall winners David Brabham and Scott Sharp in the bright green, black and blue No. 9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a machine after an impressive overall win in the streets of St. Petersburg two weeks ago. Brabham and Sharp return to Long Beach after last year's wild LMP2 win over the Penske Porsches.

The tight 1.96-mile, 11-turn temporary circuit around the Long Beach Arena and Convention Center always poses trouble for racing engineers in setting up the cars for the bumpy pavement. The new Acura cars feature equal Michelin tires on all four wheels for better handling and traction.

Joining Patron Highcroft Racing in the LMP1 division for Acura will be the strong team of former Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran. De Ferran, a three-time pole winner at Long Beach in CART, returns to Long Beach as a team owner and driver for the first time since 2001 with his Acura squad. De Ferran and young French star Simon Pagenaud will pilot the No. 66 XM Radio Acura ARXo02a in search of the team's third straight 2009 pole and first ALMS win.

De Ferran has never won at Long Beach, but he has led numerous times before misfortune has taken away chances including in 1997. That year he led the entire race before his car ran out of fuel on the last lap. Pagenaud drove in the 2007 ChampCar race at Long Beach, qualifying third. Pagenaud won the overall ALMS pole at St. Petersburg in the Acura.

Adrian Fernandez, one of the most experienced drivers ever at Long Beach, comes to the Tequila Patron Grand Prix looking for his third straight LMP2 win. Fernandez, entering his 14th Long Beach event, and Luis Diaz have scored a dominating LMP2 victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Acura Sports Car Challenge in St. Petersburg.

Driving the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b sports car, Fernandez's wins added to Fernandez's impressive career with triumphs in ALMS, IndyCar, CART, Grand Am and Indy Lights. Diaz, who won the pole at St. Petersburg, just missed the pole last year at Long Beach.

DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "That Long Beach win last year was one of my favorite of my ALMS career. We came back to pass the Penske Porsche on the next to last lap, and it was the Patron Highcroft team's first win and it was in the Patron race. My brother, Geoff, won races at Long Beach and I always wanted to win there. I'm anxious to come back to Long Beach with the Acura. It will be fun."

SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "It is always exciting to come to Long Beach. The race has a great history and tradition, and it was a thrill to win last year. It was exciting to win at St. Pete with the new Acura as well. This new car is so advanced and revolutionary. I think the racing fans at Long Beach will really enjoy seeing the car up close and on the track."

GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "I'm so anxious to race at Long Beach again. I have won three poles there before, but never won the race. So coming back this year really has me fired up. And this new Acura sports car should be a rocket in the streets of Long Beach. The car handles so well that we believe we have a great shot at the pole and winning the race. Simon and I have been to the Long Beach before so it won't be like St. Petersburg and Sebring where the track were new to us. Of course, the track changes throughout the practices and qualifying runs, and our XM Radio Acura team will have to make the proper adjustments as the track surface picks up rubber. But we'll be ready for it."

SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "I got to race at Long Beach in the Atlantics [2006] and ChampCar [2007] and I really like the layout. You can't make any mistakes there or your race is done. It will be very exciting to race the new Acura at Long Beach. This new car is so fast in the corners that the Long Beach track will be very suited to it. But the racing will be tight, and there could be some pushing and shoving to get through the traffic."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "Long Beach has always been special to me. I have been close to winning in the past, but second in 2003 is as close as I have gotten. Now, our Lowe's team is really rolling with two straight wins. It would be great to win Long Beach for our team and the Lowe's people. It will be a tough race though."

LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "Last year, I was disappointed after qualifying because I thought we had a car for the pole. And I led the race for some time. But we didn't get the win. Now, I really want the Long Beach win."

-credit: acura

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Luis Diaz , Simon Pagenaud