Mid-Ohio: Acura preview


Four Strong Acura Teams Primed For Wild Action in Acura Sports Car Challenge

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- David Brabham's sensational late-race pass on the tight road course at Lime Rock Park last Saturday made history for the Acura American Le Mans Series sports car program.

Brabham, the personable Aussie, and his teammate Scott Sharp gave the young Acura ALMS racing organization its first overall victory in a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the No. 9 LMP2 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b prototype machine.

Brabham made a similar maneuver early this year in the streets of Long Beach to win the LMP2 class over the Penske Porsche with a last-lap pass to give the Patron Highcroft team its first ALMS win.

Now, with two wins and a pole already in five races, Brabham and Sharp come to the demanding Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for Saturday's Acura Sport Car Challenge starting at 2:10 p.m. EDT.

But the Patron Highcroft duo won't be the only Acura squad holding down the fort at Mid-Ohio.

Former Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran comes back to the popular Ohio racing facility for the first time since he won the pole position in the 2001 CART event. The two-time CART champion retired from the cockpit in 2003 after winning his final race at Texas, the IndyCar Series finale that year. After serving as the sporting director for Honda Formula One for three years, de Ferran decided to form his own racing operation and teamed with Acura. De Ferran also decided to return to driving as well as serving as team owner. Gil's new team made its ALMS debut in May at Utah. De Ferran teamed with young French star Simon Pagenaud to place third in No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround team's first race.

The tough Mid-Ohio course will host a stellar field in the Acura Sports Car Challenge that includes Audi, Porsche, Ferrari, Mazda, Corvette and the Acura teams of Patron Highcroft Racing, de Ferran Motorsports, Lowe's Fernandez Racing and Andretti Green Racing.

The No. 15 Lowe's Acura contingent of Mexican driving stars Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, who drove wheel-to-wheel with the winning Porsche throughout the 12 Hours of Sebring, have switched from the Lola chassis to the new Acura ARX-01b car in 2008 and shown impressive speed in 2008. Fernandez is a two-time winner at Mid-Ohio after taking the checkered flag in the 1998 CART race and the 2006 Grand-Am event. Diaz has been a strong contender at Mid-Ohio throughout his career including Indy Lights, Formula Atlantic and Grand-Am.

The Andretti Green Racing brings newcomer and 24 Hours of Le Mans star Franck Montagny as the new primary driver of the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b at Mid-Ohio. Montagny, who placed second at Long Beach last April in the final Champ Car race, will team with Indy Lights Series star Rafael Matos, who'll race the XM Acura Saturday and his Indy Lights both days (three races total).

Montagny is a past Formula One driver, testing for Renault, Toyota and Jordan and racing six races for Super Aguri in 2006. The French driver has been a factory Peugeot driver for the past two years at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.


DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-0ba): "The Lime Rock was a big one. It was close to the team headquarters (in Danbury, CT) and Acura's first overall win. It has been good year so far for me with wins at Long Beach, Le Mans and Lime Rock. Long Beach was very special. To win there for Patron in their title race and in the backyard of Acura was big for our team. Winning in four ALMS classes is great for me but it doesn't mean as much as the effort that the team put forth. The Long Beach and Lime Rock wins was a very exciting for me and the rest of the team. The Mid-Ohio circuit is a very physically demanding course."

SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "To get the first overall win this year for Acura and Patron, it's a big accomplishment. This event will be the fourth different type of car I will have raced at Mid-Ohio. I drove in the Trans-Am and clinched the title here in 1993. I raced in a Champ car in the 1990s and last year in the Indy car. This Acura is really close to an open-wheel car."

LUIS DIAZ: (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We are getting more comfortable with the new Acura chassis. This new Acura ARX-01b car has more downforce and handles better. We have been very competitive at the first few races this year but we have had some bad luck so far. Mid-Ohio should be a good circuit for our Lowe's Acura."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We are working on getting the Acura package and total Acura family stronger. We are learning a lot from every race, and I think we are making a lot of gains right now with our Acura engine and chassis. We are trying to make adjustments for Mid-Ohio. I have won in ChampCar and sports cars before at Mid-Ohio."

FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I'm very excited to join Andretti Green Racing and the XM Acura program. I am looking forward to working with the team. We tested at Mid-Ohio recently so I feel good about the race. I know how competitive the American Le Mans Series is and know how challenging this race will be. I'm anxious to race."

RAFAEL MATOS (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I'm very excited to be driving the XM Acura at Mid-Ohio in addition to my duties for the Firestone Indy Lights Series. I got to test AGR's XM Acura car at Mid-Ohio earlier in the season, which I think will help me get up to speed much quicker. I am looking forward to driving with Franck."

GIL de FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound de Ferran Motosports Acura ARX-01b): "I'm having a great time driving a race car again. But in addition, I am enjoying the out of the cockpit activities as a team owner. It's been a very fun project. We are learning about sports car racing right now. It is different from open-wheel racing. But driving the prototypes is a lot like driving an open-wheel car. The car handles very similar to an Indy Car. This Acura is very close to a Formula One car with very high technology. It's so much fun to drive."

SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound de Ferran Motosports Acura ARX-01b): "I am thrilled to be a part of de Ferran Motorsports and to drive with a legend like Gil. It was exciting to compete with this team and compete in the American Le Mans Series. This series has some of the most sophisticated racing cars in the world. And there are some great drivers too. I think there at 14 guys who have driven in F1 in the ALMS this year."

-credit: acura

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