Patron Highcroft Racing delivered a solid qualifying performance at Road Atlanta today with David Brabham behind the wheel in preparation for tomorrow's championship deciding Petit Le Mans - the final round of the 2010 American Le Mans ...
Patron Highcroft Racing delivered a solid qualifying performance at Road Atlanta today with David Brabham behind the wheel in preparation for tomorrow's championship deciding Petit Le Mans - the final round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series.
With Marino Franchitti, Simon Pagenaud and David Brabham all topping practice sessions in LMP2 over the two days, the Patron Highcroft team switched into race preparation mode today. Despite taking a conservative approach in qualifying, Brabham was immediately on the LMP2 pace once again. His times tumbled throughout the 25-minute session. Featuring as high as fifth overall, he pushed to record the factory-backed Honda Performance Development ARX-01c's fastest time of the week so far and broke into the 1minute 10second margin within five flying laps. The Australian improved further still, his best lap around the 2.54 mile circuit stopping the clocks at 1:10.661 - less than one tenth of a second behind the then LMP2 pole sitting CytoSport Porsche.
Content with his afternoon's work, Brabham retired to the pits with 12 minutes remaining. His position on the timing sheets only changed when Guy Smith snatched pole, pushing Brabham down to third. Regardless, with just eight laps completed against Smith's 13 and the 10 laps recorded by the Porsche of championship rival Klaus Graf, Brabham and Highcroft's smart strategy will ensure their Michelin tires are best conserved for race start tomorrow. Simon Pagenaud will take the start tomorrow, lining up eighth overall and third in class. With a 16 point lead heading into Saturday's race - the final round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron - Brabham, Pagenaud, Patron Highcroft Racing and Honda Performance Development only need to complete 70% of the race distance to take the drivers, teams and manufacturers championship crowns for the second consecutive year. The team will hit the track one more time tomorrow morning for a 25-minute warm-up at 9:15am. The 1000 mile / 10 hour race (whichever comes first) goes green at 11:30am.
"I'm very happy because we were not really focusing too much on qualifying - our aim has always been the race.
"To only be a 10th of a second behind is closer than we expected. The Patron Highcroft team gave me a great car and I had a lot of confidence in it.
"The car is in great shape and we go into the race with a lot of momentum.
"Under normal circumstances we might have come in for a fuel top up and had another go for pole but our plan was to do a short run and not hurt the car nor the Michelin tires.
"What we qualify with is what we will race with.
"It demonstrates our eye is on the bigger picture. All three of us are very happy with the car and the guys contributed greatly to the set-up for tomorrow.
"The team is working very well together and there is a very good mood amongst the guys.
"We've worked very hard all year for the championship and the reward we're chasing is the championship title."
"We're looking really good for tomorrow but we still have 70 per cent of the race distance to cover.
"I am very pleased and delighted with the race car. David and Marino are both very confident as well.
"We have done a very good job of just focusing on our own race and tomorrow is a long day many things could happen.
"We are only within a 10th of a second of the Porsche without taking any risks.
"Strategy and consistency will be very important tomorrow and we are very pleased with the consistency of the car.
"The start is a critical part of the race, but you can't do anything different.
"If you take things too easily you can get in trouble. You have to be aggressive but very smart at the same time."
"David did a fantastic job in qualifying today and really got the most out of the car.
"He put us in a great position for the start of the race tomorrow.
"We did one run and David looked after the Michelin tires. It is a long race tomorrow and we are all very happy with the car we have and the three of us are really looking forward to it - we're ready to go racing.
"This race is really an absolute classic even though it has only been around for 13 years.
"This is an event that all the drivers and fans really look forward to. Being the final round of the series brings extra importance to it and you feel that atmosphere build as the week goes on.
"Every year the race is fantastic and I think tomorrow will be exactly the same.
"I should be done in the car by the time my brother Dario is going for the IndyCar championship, so I'll have one eye on that and if all the cards fall our way, that would be the perfect evening."
"We're actually really pleased with the pace of the car because we weren't pushing too hard.
"It would have been fun to have been on pole but given that it is a long race tomorrow, we decided to save the Michelin tires. To be within a 10th of a second of the Porsche is great because the 25 kilo weight break they have we think is worth about 4/10ths of a second.
"We're pleased with the pace and David said the car was great so we're looking forward to a good run tomorrow.
"The boys get to have a nice early night without having to rebuild a car this year. We talked to Paul Drayson before and it is unfortunate what happened to them yesterday. We know what that is all about and wish them the best to get those fixed."
MALARIA NO MORE
While the team continues the race to retain its ALMS title crown in 2010, the team will also continue its race to defeat an even bigger rival - malaria deaths in Africa.
Patron Highcroft Racing has again teamed up with Malaria No More to raise funds and awareness for this disease which kills a child every 30 seconds in Africa. The team also ran a special Malaria No More livery at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to promote the cause.