Sebring: David Brabham race report

Brabham Starts Season With Healthy Points Haul At Sebring Henley-on-Thames, UK -- Sunday, March 21, 2010: Reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champion David Brabham took a healthy points haul at the season opening round, the Mobil 1 Twelve...

Brabham Starts Season With Healthy Points Haul At Sebring

Henley-on-Thames, UK -- Sunday, March 21, 2010: Reigning American Le Mans Series LMP1 champion David Brabham took a healthy points haul at the season opening round, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in Florida, mounting a strong defence of his ALMS crown by finishing second in LMP2 and fifth overall in America's most demanding endurance race.

Brabham and the Patron Highcroft Racing team dominated the first six hours at Sebring International Raceway to lead LMP2 by five laps before a small electrical fire occurred, caused by the welding together of chaffed wires in the cockpit.

The 11 laps in the pits lost the LMP2 lead but impressive performances all round from Brabham and the Patron Highcroft crew regained lost laps and ensured valuable points were scored to ignite the 2010 championship fight.

The first race for the HPD ARX-01c, round one at Sebring also marked the first outing for the new Highcroft driver line-up, with Brabham and Simon Pagenaud partnered for the majority of the 2010 season and Marino Franchitti bolstering the team's talent for the longer endurance races.

Franchitti took on Highcroft's qualifying duties for the first time on Friday and proved why he's the flying Scotsman by capturing the LMP2 pole. Thanks to excellent opening stints on race day by Pagenaud and Franchitti, the Highcroft pole turned into the LMP2 class lead right from the flag.

Brabham took control of the HPD ARX-01c on lap 114 to join the fray fourth overall with the aim of building on the one lap class lead.

With each Highcroft driver double stinting tyres, on the Florida track notorious for pushing driver and machine to the limit, the Michelins proved impressive and despite increasingly slippery track conditions causing tyre pick-up, which was tricky to shed, the 44 year-old continued to stretch Highcroft's advantage.

After a solid stint and 169 laps completed, Frenchman Pagenaud picked up where the British-born Australian, who lives in Henley-on-Thames (UK), left off, building Highcroft's P2 lead to nearly three laps by the half way point.

Pagenaud continued to push for the following three hours, and two full course yellows, to extend the Highcroft advantage to over five laps when disaster struck as he took his scheduled pit stop after 254 laps.

The chaffing and welding of two ECU wires in the cockpit sparked a small fire. Although quickly extinguished by the crew, repairs to the electrics cost the Highcroft car 24 minutes and the LMP2 lead.

Franchitti rejoined the battle proper fifth overall, after serving a 20 second penalty for too many pit crew members working on the car, and made good work of clawing back track position.

Brabham took the wheel once again as the Florida sun disappeared below the skyline and the fourth full yellow of the race was called, but the sportscar legend was ready to immediately give chase to the leading CytoSport Porsche and took a further lap back from the P2 leaders at the restart.

In another sterling double stint, Brabham pushed lap after lap at a blistering pace to top the lap charts and consistently set some of the fastest times of the field, leaving him ideally positioned at the fifth full course caution to take yet another lap back.

With green flag racing resuming with around 90 minutes to go, Brabham refused to let up the pace and continued to comfortably push, turn perfect, before making his final stop and handing the reigns to Franchitti after pegging back the LMP2 deficit to under five laps.

Charged with bringing the HPD ARX-01c car home for the first time, Franchitti did so by slicing the class gap by a further lap to cement second in LMP2 at the chequered flag. The result of fifth place overall for the Patron Highcroft crew mirrors Brabham and the team's 2008 result in the ARX-01b, the basis from which the 2010 car has evolved to achieve further success.

"We've scored some healthy points here by finishing second in class and, with just nine ALMS rounds this season, it was really important to get points on the board early on," said Brabham.

"It's disappointing not to have taken the LMP2 win as up until the electrical issue we drove a faultless race and enjoyed a five lap lead. Everything was working great, the pit stops were smooth and my teammates excellent. We were looking strong for the win until we lost 24 minutes in the pits and that was impossible to regain in the time we had left.

"Traffic is always heavy at Sebring but we found there wasn't a huge amount of difference in straight line speed between the LMP2, GT and LMPC cars, which meant we had to fight our way through the traffic in the corners and off line. I had a really difficult first stint as a result, as we were suffering from pick-up which was hard to get rid of. Although I managed to pull away from the competition, it was a bit tough and frustrating.

"Overall, the HPD ARX-01c showed great promise and made a strong first showing here today and there's a lot of positives to take away. It's great working with my new teammates and the chemistry and friendship between Simon, Marino and me is clearly working well already and that bodes well for the rest of the season.

"As in every race, we've learnt a lot today about ourselves, what we do and the way we do it. We'll be building on all those things and coming back stronger for Long Beach."

The ALMS championship fight continues with what will be the first race featuring the newly combined LMP category at round two at Long Beach, California, on April 17.

-source: david brabham

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham