PATRÃ“N HIGHCROFT TAKE CLASSIC LONG BEACH VICTORY IN AMAZING LAST LAP FIGHT Long Beach LONG BEACH, CA, Saturday, 17th April, 2010: PatrÃ³n Highcroft Racing's Simon Pagenaud pulled off an incredible final lap victory on the streets of Long...
PATRÓN HIGHCROFT TAKE CLASSIC LONG BEACH VICTORY IN AMAZING LAST LAP FIGHT
Long Beach LONG BEACH, CA, Saturday, 17th April, 2010: Patrón Highcroft Racing's Simon Pagenaud pulled off an incredible final lap victory on the streets of Long Beach in today's Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series event - completing an amazing comeback over the Aston Martin of Adrian Fernandez.
Pagenaud was handed the race lead by teammate David Brabham with 39 minutes remaining and opened up a race lead of up to eight seconds.
In the first race for the combined LMP1 and LMP2 prototype class, the LMP2 Honda Performance Development ARX-01c machine was dramatically fast in the turns, but suffered from a significant straight line speed disadvantage over the LMP1 cars like the Aston Martin of Fernandez and Harold Primat.
As the race drew to a close, Fernandez was able to close on Pagenaud in traffic and made a move for the lead down the main straight with six minutes remaining.
But Pagenaud was not about to give up without a fight. A small error by Fernandez at the fountain enabled Pagenaud to close through the top end of the circuit and the Frenchman made the pass for the lead at turn five.
As the team held its breath in the final moments of the race, Pagenaud was able to hold off Fernandez to the finish line to take the victory by only 0.353 of a second - the fourth closest finish in the history of the American Le Mans Series.
The victory sent Patrón Highcroft Racing back to the top of the American Le Mans Series LMP class championship table - sharing that position with the Muscle Milk Team CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder squad which finished third today.
Brabham started the race on the front row, but found himself in fourth place at the first corner after several more powerful LMP1 cars went by on the straight.
He quickly moved his way up to third place behind the Aston Martin and made a move for the position entering the back straight. Contact during the pass and a subsequent spin by Harold Primat resulted in Brabham being assigned a stop-go penalty by race officials.
Brabham resumed from the penalty in fifth place and charged his way back to second in only four laps. A full course-yellow with 48 minutes to go enabled the Patrón Highcroft squad to pit to make a full service stop for driver change, fuel and Michelin tires.
Outstanding pit work by the crew put Pagenaud back in the lead on resumption of the race.
Long Beach has been a happy hunting ground for the Danbury, CT-based team. Patrón Highcroft Racing took it's first ALMS class win here in 2008 with a dramatic late race pass by Brabham. They also looked set to win last year before incurring a pit lane penalty.
Today's victory was Brabham's 20th American Le Mans Series victory and his fifth overall victory for Patrón Highcroft Racing. Pagenaud scored his first victory in Patron Highcroft colors and his sixth ALMS win. It is also his second consecutive win on the streets of Long Beach.
Patrón Highcroft Racing will now set its sights on returning to the venue where it clinched it's LMP1 championship victory last season - Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The third round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Patrón will be run at the historic venue on May 22.
Patrón Highcroft Racing's Simon Pagenaud came within inches of grabbing pole position for tomorrow's Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series event at Long Beach - just missing out by only .072 of a second.
"I could see Adrian was having some issues in the final laps and I thought I could just play it smart and settle for second. But I'm a real racer and I know everybody in the team wants to win and that's what they deserve.
"I said to myself I would keep pressuring him to the end and maybe he would make a mistake.
"That's really what happened at the fountain on the last lap. I saw the opportunity to get close in turn five and he slid wide and I was able to get underneath him.
"I was able to brake late enough and keep him behind me. The next problem was to deal with the straight line speed before the finish.
"I thought he would be right there but I was able to hold him off at the hairpin and out drag him to the finish line.
"It is a fantastic result and congratulations to David who did a great job to hand the car to me in the lead and the crew who helped us make a great recovery from that penalty."
"It is nice to be in the pits and watch Simon chase down the lead. This Patrón Highcroft Racing team always amazes me - the pit stop was critical in this victory and they certainly did an amazing job.
"It was a great fight all the way to the end and he put huge pressure on Adrian and capitalized on it.
"Myself, the team and Simon have all be remarkably successful here in recent years and we love the place and love coming here.
"We had a huge contingent of guests from Patrón and GE who I know really enjoyed the race and were thrilled with the result.
"When I got the penalty I was closer to Harold than what I was previously. I charged down the inside and it was just a little bit too tight. We touched and I think I probably would have got away with it but he lost the rear end and spun."