Sebring: Acura preview

ACURA TEAMS LOOK FOR A REPEAT PERFORMANCE WITH NEW ARX-01B PROTOTYPE CARS IN LEGENDARY 12 HOURS OF SEBRING Marco Andretti Joins 2007 Winning Team In LMP2 Class SEBRING, Fla. -- Acura seeks to repeat its 2007 performance in ...


Marco Andretti Joins 2007 Winning Team In LMP2 Class

SEBRING, Fla. -- Acura seeks to repeat its 2007 performance in Saturday's prestigious Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the opening race of the 2008 American Le Mans Series.

A year ago, three all-new Acura prototype teams made the car maker's sports car racing debut in one of the world's most grueling racing contests and even surprised themselves with a sensational 1-2-4 finish in the high-competitive LMP2 class.

The Andretti Green Racing trio of Bryan Herta, Tony Kanaan and Dario Franchitti drove the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a car to victory lane followed by the Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. The Highcroft Acura of David Brabham, Stefan Johansson and Duncan Dayton placed fourth in the 12-hour endurance classic.

Now, the three Acura operations return to the 17-turn, 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway in search of another winner's circle celebration in the race's 56th edition.

All three teams will campaign the new Acura ARX-01b, with full homologation from the ACO and ALMS, that features a newly-designed chassis from HPD and Wirth Research as well as the potent 3.4-liter, V-8 normally-aspirated engine.

The defending LMP2 champions come to Sebring with a new driver lineup as Herta is the lone returning winner. But the Andretti Green contingent still brings a lot of experience to the cockpit with open-wheel veterans Christian Fittipaldi and Marco Andretti, the third generation star who make his Sebring debut. Andretti hopes to duplicate his grandfather Mario's Sebring record with a victory. Mario won Sebring four times including three overall (1967, 1970 and 1972).

The popular Lowe's Fernandez team, with Fernandez and Diaz back in the driver's seat, has switched to the new Acura ARX-01b for 2008 after fielding a Lola in 2007. Fernandez, the top qualifier in LMP2 in last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, looks to capture his first Sebring title after winning in numerous open-wheel series throughout his brilliant racing career. The Lowe's team scored three podium finishes in 2007.

The Highcroft team, after placing third in 2007 LMP2 team standings, sports new livery with Patron Spirits as the primary sponsor. Joining the Highcroft squad behind the wheel is veteran IndyCar Series racer Scott Sharp, who started his career in sports cars in the 1980s. The two-time Trans-Am Series champion will team with Le Mans winners Brabham and Johansson at Sebring.

The Acura group will be attempting to slow down the Porsche assault that won eleven of 12 races in 2007. The Penske and Dyson Porsche teams will lead the charge against the Acura lineup.

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b): "I am very excited for the season to begin particularly because of this new car. The results of our tests have been extremely promising, and we are coming to Sebring with a strong package and great partners in Lowe's and Acura. Having said that, Sebring is just a different animal altogether. I can't begin to add up the miles that I have done in testing, but a 12-hour endurance race is tough."

LUIS DIAZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b): "By far, this is one of the most difficult tracks that I have driven on but at the same time it is exciting to drive. I watched a lap of the track from a helmet camera that I had on during a recent test, and it was amazing. As a team, we have been doing everything we can to go for wins this season. Adrian and I have been working hard on our physical conditioning."

MARCO ANDRETTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I've had a chance to drive the car in a couple of tests and I've been very happy with it. The car has been really quick, fun to drive and has been incredibly durable. I'm just excited to be driving with Bryan (Herta) and Christian (Fittipaldi). What Bryan was able to do last year, in Acura's very first start, was amazing. I think I'll be able to contribute and, hopefully, run up front. My grandfather has won three times at Sebring and I hope to add my name to that list."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I'm obviously very excited to make my first start in the XM Acura. Since I started driving the car in December, we've had four test sessions and I'd say that I'm very comfortable in the car. Bryan (Herta) really sped up the whole process of me learning about the car and it's been good to have his experience. I'm also excited to be driving with Marco (Andretti). Acura has really stepped it up this year, for sure."

BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "Certainly the guys at Acura have put in a lot of work over the winter attempting to make the XM Acura faster. We've made some aerodynamic changes that will be very difficult for fans to notice. and I think we've achieved that. For sure there will be a target on our back at Sebring, though. Christian (Fittipaldi) and Marco (Andretti) have gotten to drive the car at a couple of tests."

SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "It's hard to put into words how excited I am to start the 2008 ALMS season with the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura program. I've been incredibly impressed with the performance of the car and the team. It is so exciting for a driver to be surrounded by a group so hungry to excel. Ever since I was a child, I have heard stories about the legendary drivers that have been a part of Sebring history and the famous races they created."

DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Sebring is the toughest race we do and it is our first race of the season. Preparation, speed and great pit stops are some keys to winning this iconic race. I am looking forward to adding Sebring to my list of wins in the ALMS. I'd love to take my first Sebring win this year"

STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Sebring has always been one of my favorite races, it's a very demanding track with its mixture of very high-speed corners and bumpy track surface. It's challenging and physically demanding over the course of 12 hours. I have been fortunate enough to win this race outright twice, the first win in 1984 was at the very beginning of my racing career. My second win was in 1997, so the timing for the third win is getting pretty close. So maybe I'm due for another win this year."

-credit: acura

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , David Brabham , Stefan Johansson , Scott Sharp , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Dario Franchitti , Tony Kanaan , Bryan Herta , Luis Diaz , Marco Andretti