Road America: Highcroft Racing preview

PATRON HIGHCROFT READY TO UNLEASH THE ACURA ARX-02A AROUND ROAD AMERICA DANBURY, CT, Thursday, August 13, 2009: American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship leaders Patron Highcroft Racing is set to unleash its Acura ARX-02a prototype around the ...


DANBURY, CT, Thursday, August 13, 2009: American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship leaders Patron Highcroft Racing is set to unleash its Acura ARX-02a prototype around the fastest, longest and most picturesque road racing circuit in the US this weekend.

The team heads to Elkhart Lake in Wisconsin for the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase featuring the American Le Mans Series at Road America - round seven of the 2009 championship.

Located half way between Milwaukee and Green Bay, the 4.048 mile, 14-turn circuit opened in 1955 and has been happy hunting ground for Patron Highcroft Racing.

Clever pit strategy last year from the team put Scott Sharp and David Brabham into race winning contention late in the event.

However, Brabham got baulked on a late restart and was passed for the LMP2 lead - only to regain it minutes later when the class leader clashed with a lapped car.

Patron Bee After six races in the 2009 title-chase, Sharp and Brabham hold a nine-point lead over the sister Acura entry of de Ferran Motorsports. Consistency has been the secret to the team's success - scoring points in every round of the 2009 championship including an overall victory at St Petersburg in round two.

The team arrives in Wisconsin after Sharp and Brabham brought home a wounded car to second place at Mid Ohio. A GT2 class Porsche turned in on the Patron Highcroft Acura prior to the first pit stop - badly damaging the all-important floor of the car.

The underside of the modern prototype sportscars generates a significant amount of downforce - the Mid-Ohio damage left the American/Australian duo battling huge oversteer for the remainder of the race.

While team maintains a handy lead in the championship battle, Patron Highcroft Racing is also leading a fight to end malaria deaths in Africa through its partnership with Malaria No More.

Launched at Sebring by former Wisconsin Congressman, Mark Green earlier this year, the Miles to End Malaria campaign pledges dollars for every mile completed by Patron Highcroft Racing in the 2009 championship. Major supporters include Highcroft Racing, Tequila Patron and American Le Mans Series founder Dr. Don Panoz who are all pledging $5 per mile.

Fans can contribute as little as a penny per mile to the campaign at

Miles to End Malaria community service television commercials filmed by Sharp and Brabham will again be aired during this weekend's telecast on SPEED TV.

"Road America is definitely my favorite track. It is one-of-a-kind in the US. The speed, the flow, the length - it is a gorgeous place that is very unique and is a real driver's track.

"I can't wait to get on track with the Acura. The car should be fantastic through the higher speed sections especially carrying the speed around the Carousel, through the Kink, the whole section through Thunder Valley - our car should really excel through that area.

"This will be a new challenge for the drivers, the engineers and the whole Patron Highcroft team. The Acura will be trimmed out aerodynamically more than at any other track we go to, but you still need mechanical grip as well for the variety of 14 different corners at this track.

"This will be a new opportunity but we have really grown in our knowledge of the Acura and what makes it work best. It is not just the drivers that love this place, it is the engineers and the entire team.

"Our biggest challenge next week will probably be the Intersport Lola - they are very quick in a straight line there will be plenty of opportunities for them to use that pace."

"I always look forward to coming to Road America to race. All drivers love to come here because of the nature of the circuit, especially aboard any LMP1 prototype because they are so quick around here. It is always enjoyable.

"This track will require a set-up that we haven't tried before so it will be interesting to see how the car responds.

"With the long straights you are trying to minimize the drag, but you still need to the car to work through the turns. We have a good idea of what the car will need and it will be interesting to see when we first get on track on Friday.

"Some people say we have been a bit unlucky in the past few races, but we have to take a look from a positive angle. Really, we were lucky at the start of the year to be able to open up a bit of a points gap.

"But we have had to look our performances and dig a lot deeper and I think as a team we are now a lot stronger ever before.

"The last two races we have executed exceptionally well to put ourselves in a position to win. We just have to continue with that."


What is your favorite corner and why?

"Definitely the Carousel. It is very challenging to get through there flat. You really need the car set up really nicely through there, normally with a little bit of oversteer.

"Any understeer really kills your speed because you have to lift. Oversteer you can deal with a bit. We were flat last year in the LMP2 car so hopefully we can do it again in the LMP1 Acura."

What is the most challenging aspect of Road America?

"You end up running with so little wing because of the long straights that under braking into the slow corners it really becomes quite tricky.

"You have to drive the car a little bit differently than what you normally would so that is the biggest challenge.

"It is very easy to lose the grip under brakes."

What is the secret to a good lap at Road America?

"You need to trim out the aerodynamics as much as you can and be as brave as you can.

"Running too much downforce really kills your speed on the straights."

If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?

"You wouldn't change a thing. It is the best circuit in North America."

What is your favorite memory of Road America?

"Winning the LMP2 race was a big thrill last year. It was an extremely exciting race. I lost the lead with a couple of laps to go and then got it back when the AGR car hit a backmarker.

"It was a continuation of the roll we were on at the time - it was just mega.

"I also had a great win with Jan Magnussen in a GT1 Ferrari against the Corvettes a few years ago.

"Johnny O'Connell was leading in the Corvette and was really suffering in the heat but Jan got him right at the end."

-credit: hc

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Series ALMS
Drivers Jan Magnussen , Scott Sharp , Johnny O'Connell , Mark Green , Don Panoz