Sebring: Highcroft Racing preview

PATRON HIGHCROFT BEGINS CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE WITH SEBRING ENDURO CLASSIC David Brabham DANBURY, CT, Monday, 15th March, 2010: Patron Highcroft Racing enters next week's opening round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila ...

PATRON HIGHCROFT BEGINS CHAMPIONSHIP DEFENSE WITH SEBRING ENDURO CLASSIC

David Brabham DANBURY, CT, Monday, 15th March, 2010: Patron Highcroft Racing enters next week's opening round of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron with one eye on defending its championship crown and the other on writing a new page in the history books of America's oldest and most challenging endurance race.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida provides a unique challenge for the ALMS teams - starting the season with a venue and race distance which is regarded the biggest test of man and machine in international sportscar racing.

The Sebring circuit uses the runways of a former WWII bomber base - the bumps providing the Highcroft crew with a tremendous challenge of ensuring reliability. Taking victory is one thing, but simply finishing 75 percent of the race is imperative. Teams can only score championship points after completeing three-quarters of the race distance.

The team's dedication to reliability was critical last year at Sebring for the team - Highcroft recording a points scoring finish and collecting enough points to maintain its lead in the championship to the very end.

The Honda Performance Development factory team will be armed with the HPD ARX-01c - a development version of the machine with which David Brabham recorded Highcroft's first ever overall victory in 2008.

Brabham is now paired with chief 2009 rival Simon Pagenaud in the #1 entry with Marino Franchitti joining the team for the endurance races.

Sebring has been kind to the Brabham family in the past. David's father Sir Jack clinched his first Formula 1 World Championship at Sebring in 1959, his brothers Geoff and Gary are both overall race winners here and David himself has both GT1 and GT2 victories at Sebring.

For the Sebring and Petit Le Mans endurance classics, the American Le Mans Series will maintain the traditional separate classes for the more powerful and heaver LMP1 cars, and the lighter and more nimble LMP2 entries.

For the remainder of the season, these two classes will be combined. Only full-season entrants are available to score points.

The Sebring honor roll reads like a "who's who" of international motorsport with American legends including Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, Lloyd Ruby, Mario Andretti and AJ Foyt among the winners. International winners have included Juan Manuel Fangio, Stirling Moss, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren and Jacky Ickx.

Three days of testing kick off Sebring preparations for Highcroft from Monday (March 15) before official practice begins on Thursday (March 18). Qualifying is staged on Friday (March 19) with the 12-hour endurance classic getting the green flag at 10:30am on Saturday (March 20).

David Brabham

"The team already knew the ARX-01 car very well and after the testing we have done I feel our preparations have gone extremely well.

"If we look at where we were compared to last year, I think we are in very good shape

"We don't really know what our opposition will be like until we get out on track but we can't be worried too much about anybody else - we have to focus 100% on just doing our job to the best of our abilities.

"Sebring is one of the most important races of the year and we have seen in the past if you don't get the points at Sebring, it makes it very difficult to take the championship.

"Getting to the finish as strongly as we can is our #1 focus. We can't really worry about anybody else."

Simon Pagenaud

"Everybody at the shop is really looking forward to getting to the track next week for the first race of the year.

"I'm really looking forward to my first race with Highcroft because I have had such a warm welcome. David and Duncan have done everything they can to make me feel comfortable as part of the team.

"I've had some great battles with Highcroft over the past two years but it is now great to join forces and try and raise the performance even higher.

"Sebring can be very tough mechanically but a victory in LMP2 is certainly our goal, but firstly we have to get to the finish.

"Victory in LMP2 is a realistic goal for us but we know with racing at Sebring anything could happen.

Marino Franchitti

"I don't think we could be any better prepared. We've made the most out of the testing time we had available and all of it has been at Sebring. We couldn't be going to a better place for the first race.

"The team know the car so well and all the drivers are very comfortable so everyone has that feeling of 'we're ready to go racing' - I can't wait to get started.

"I felt at home here at Highcroft from the moment I walked in the door. Everyone has been so welcoming - that has been very nice.

"I have been up at the shop three or four times and done a couple of tests so it has been nice to really feel part of the team, both on the track and socially as well.

"I've felt like part of the Highcroft family from the very beginning."

SEBRING BY THE NUMBERS
Track Distance: 5.95 km / 3.697 miles
Pole Time: 105.28 seconds
Average Speed: 204 km/h / 127 mph
Fastest Corner: Turn 1
Max Corner Speed: 225 km/h / 140 mph
Max Lat G's: 3.2 G
Max Lat G's: Corner: Turn 1
Slowest Corner: Turn 7
Min Corner Speed: 75 km/h / 47 mph
Top Speed (ARX-02a): 265 km/h / 165 mph
Top Speed (ARX-01c Est): 255 km/h / 158 mph
Full Throttle: 70%
Max Braking G's: 3.0 G
No. of Braking Zones: 9
Gear Changes: 34
Left Turns: 6
Right Turns: 11
No. of Turns: 17

- Second longest circuit in the ALMS
- Fourth highest average speed
- Largest number of turns of all ALMS tracks including most turns right
- Has the equal slowest corner speed for a road course
- Tied with Long Beach and Miller Motorsports Park for the most number of braking zones
- With Road America has the most gear changes per lap
- Rated fourth for maximum number of G's

DRIVER'S EYE - SEBRING

Q. Sebring, what is your favorite corner and why?

DAVID BRABHAM: Sebring, my favorite corner probably is Turn 1. It's extremely fast. It's nearly flat out in top gear. It's very bumpy. It's a real challenge to get through there as quick as possible without running out of road on the exit and having a big crash.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Turn one at Sebring is very exciting. It's very bumpy, very fast, sixth gear going into the corner, and you want to be really close to the wall on the outside, which is the race line.

If you skip away from that line, then you risk to go off. So it's a very important corner where you carry a lot of speed and you can make a lot of time.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: Turn one is definitely my favorite turn at Sebring, because you go in there and it's just huge and open and you think you've got all the space in the world. But it really narrows down from the apex to the exit. And if you've made even the smallest error on your line on the entry, you're in real trouble once you get to the exit. So it's a huge, huge speed, and it's a huge challenge just to get it perfect.

Q. What is the most challenging aspect of 12 hours of Sebring?

DAVID BRABHAM: Most challenging aspect of doing the 12 hours of Sebring is really just man and machine. It's the toughest racetrack we go to. It's probably the toughest event we go to. And even if we went to Le Mans, I've always felt that Sebring is tough on machinery and tough on the guys driving it as well. So it's a hard one.

SIMON PAGENAUD: It's a very difficult track for the cars. Mechanically, it's one of the roughest tracks in the world where you can break the gearbox, break everything, basically, because it's so rough. So you want to make sure you can finish the race by having a good preparation, making sure the car is reliable and strong. I would say Sebring is one of the toughest races in the world.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think the most challenging thing is just the beating that the driver and the car take. It's the toughest track. It's tougher than any 24 I've ever raced. You're constantly in corners, there's very few straights. It's very bumpy, many different surfaces. And a lot of contact goes on. As the race goes on, you get a lot more debris on the track.

I would say the toughest thing is just the car and the driver putting up with the beating that they take over 12 hours. It's definitely a really tough test of man and machine.

Q. What's the secret to a good lap at Sebring?

DAVID BRABHAM: The secret to a good lap at Sebring, that's definitely to have a really good setup there, because it's very easy to get outside the window on setup at that track because of the bumps.

You need a fairly stable car, but you need a soft car as well because of the bumps. So you need to be precise. You need to hustle the car at that particular track.

SIMON PAGENAUD: Just put everything together, but it's very difficult to do. The track is very bumpy and there are many different surfaces on the track, so you need to adapt yourself.

It's a little bit like rally driving and it makes it very difficult.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: No traffic. The secret to a good lap at Sebring is definitely having the car working on all those different surfaces and working in the smooth corners, the bumpy corners, on the concrete, on the tarmac. You really need everything to come together because it's very easy to lose a lot of time in a small area on the track.

So you just really need a car that isn't perfect in one place but does all of those different corners well.

Q. How do you expect the Patron Highcroft car to go against the opposition at Sebring?

DAVID BRABHAM: Well, we'll have to wait and see, to be honest. You know, the rules are still trying to be set at this point.

The car will definitely be very fast in the corner. How quick it is in relation to everyone else on the straights we won't really know until we actually get there and start racing.

SIMON PAGENAUD:  Well, as we know, it's going to be a P1 and P2 at
Sebring as it was in the past.  I think the P2 class we need to focus on
our championship and our own race.  It's important for us to win the
class and score points.  As we know, Sebring is very important in the
points for the championship.  So it is an important race for us.

The P1 cars, we don't know who's going to be there yet. We know Peugeot is going to be there, but I think we need to focus on our main target. MARINO FRANCHITTI: I expect the Peugeots to be very fast and probably out ahead of the rest of the field. I believe that the Patron Highcroft car has the capability to be right there behind them. And any errors at all from anybody, and I think we could be in a really good position, not only in the P2 class, but overall in the final results.

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

DAVID BRABHAM: Sebring's quite a unique track. In terms of what would I like to change on that track, probably the bumps in 17 and 1, if they were a little bit better that would be great. It doesn't have to be perfect, but if they were a little bit more smoother, I think it would be more enjoyable.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't think you should change it. It's the way it has been for years. It's a legendary track. I think it should be the way it is.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I don't think there's much of a change at Sebring. Maybe there's a couple of places where you could work on the runoff a little bit.

But I think that's part of the challenge of Sebring is any error is punished quite severely. So it's a good challenge as a driver to get the car right up to the edge without stepping over it. So I like it. I like it as it was, you know, back in the day.

Q. What's your favorite Sebring memory?

DAVID BRABHAM: I suppose my Favorite Sebring memory would be winning in the Aston Martin. When we first came back out of racing for Aston, it was a new program and we had a terrible test there. Everything went wrong. Everything broke.

And then we had a titanic battle with Corvette in the race and we won the race and it was an historical moment. I went across the finish line, which was a great experience.

SIMON PAGENAUD: I don't have very good memories yet, so I hope it's going to be this year for a win.

MARINO FRANCHITTI: I think my favorite Sebring memory has to be finishing 2nd overall there in 2008. We had a fuel rig failure at Dyson early in the race, and for the first two stops we barely got any fuel. We battled back from I think two or three laps down onto the lead lap, and we only lost the race by less than a minute. And without those fuel rig problems, we could have won it overall.

But just to be on the overall podium second overall was one of the highlights of my career. It would be nice just to win it now.

-source: patron highcroft racing

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Phil Hill , Dan Gurney , Mario Andretti , Bruce McLaren , Jacky Ickx , Juan Manuel Fangio , Marino Franchitti , Stirling Moss , Lloyd Ruby , John Surtees , Simon Pagenaud