Sebring: Highcroft Racing race report

Fuel Leak Knocks Highcroft Racing Out of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 18 - The Danbury, Conn.-based Highcroft Racing team and drivers Duncan Dayton, Rick Knoop and Gregor Fisken made a valiant effort but they were forced...

Fuel Leak Knocks Highcroft Racing Out of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 18 - The Danbury, Conn.-based Highcroft Racing team and drivers Duncan Dayton, Rick Knoop and Gregor Fisken made a valiant effort but they were forced to retire their Lola EX257 AER No. 9 from the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Saturday at Sebring International Raceway due to a fuel leak that occurred four hours and 45 minutes into the event.

After owner/driver Dayton, also of Danbury, Conn., qualified seventh overall and fifth in class, he and Knoop, of Laguna Beach, Calif., and Fisken, of London, England, ended up fourth in the top class, LMP1, and 29th overall in the race. Several other LMP1 teams had problems about the same time they did and ironically if the Highcroft team could have completed just 46 more laps it would have been on the podium in the seven-car LMP1 class. The stats will show the Highcroft car completed 128 laps around the 3.7-mile road course, running almost five of the 12 hours (4:45.31.837).

Things started just fine for the entry, which is sponsored by Gregor Fisken Fine Historic Automobiles, Stand 21 Racewear, Dunlop Tires, Koni Shocks, Hella Lights, KEEN Shoes and Resole.com.

Dayton was running a very comfortable pace and was just cruising along in sixth place 22 minutes into the race when he spun in oil in Turn 10. That dropped the entry back to 15th place, but the car was no worse for wear so hopes were still high.

Eleven minutes later, however, Dayton reported that the engine had a misfire. Engineer Thomas Knapp had him try a different map number but the problem was persistent, so 36 minutes into the race Dayton pitted for fuel and new spark plugs and an ignition coil. The work took 17 minutes to complete but the car ran fine once again, so the team dug deeper and started to climb back up from 33rd place overall. The track was very greasy at that point in the afternoon Florida sun, but Dayton was dealing with it.

An hour and 42 minutes were complete when Dayton pitted and Fisken took over, and at the beginning of hour two the team was in 32nd place, 12 laps down.

Fisken pitted for fuel only two hours and 35 minutes into the race, but shortly thereafter he complained of a slight cramp in one of his legs so he pitted again 13 minutes later and Knoop took over. The entry was 27th overall and sixth in class when Knoop left the pits.

Knoop was recording very consistent laps but 70 minutes into his stint he reported that he'd just been hit in the right rear by an Aston Martin entering Turn 10, Cunningham Corner. He pitted for fuel only a few minutes later and although the car now had a hole in its bodywork its performance hadn't been compromised, so he soldiered on. At the four-hour mark the car was 21st overall and sixth in class. Knoop completed his double stint 31 minutes later, and Fisken took another turn.

Unfortunately Fisken was back in the pits 14 minutes later with what turned out to be the terminal fuel leak. After some time in the pits he drove the car back to the Highcroft paddock and the crew worked on it for awhile before calling it a day about an hour and a half later.

The race was broadcast live on SPEED. The next American Le Mans Series race will be held May 11-13 in Houston, Texas.

Photos will be available as soon as possible on Highcroft Racing's new Web site at highcroftracing.com.

Post-race quotes follow:

Duncan Dayton: "A fuel leak put us out. I'm disappointed, but trying to do a 12-hour race was probably pretty ambitious for our first race with this car. I'm proud of how the crew handled adversity and worked so hard. The results don't reflect the skill, good nature and diligent work ethic that they showed."

Rick Knoop: "I'm bitterly disappointed but proud of the team at the same time. I did a double stint and the only problem I had was being tapped by one of the Aston Martins. The car was very consistent. Highcroft Racing's high standards of car preparation brought about a reputable effort. I'm just proud to be part of the team."

Gregor Fisken: "We had a minor spin in oil and we lost several laps due to a misfire, but then we climbed up and we were ready to get back into the top 20 overall when we had to drop out.

"Duncan was able to qualify quickest of the non-new generation Prototypes, and he was running fifth or sixth when he spun in oil. We regouped and we were knocking on the door of the top 20; we were going like gangbusters, really.

"We all joined this effort for better or worse and in the end it wasn't our day, but my compliments go to Duncan Dayton and Highcroft Racing. For the first time they've ever run this car, they did pretty damn good."

-hr

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Gregor Fisken , Rick Knoop