Utah: Acura preview

ACURA SPORTS CAR LINEUP ADDS DE FERRAN FOR UTAH EVENT AND PATRON HIGHCROFT SEEKS SECOND STRAIGHT LMP2 WIN Four Strong Acura Teams Primed For Highly-Competitive Race In Utah Grand Prix TOOLE, Utah -- The Acura sports car teams...

ACURA SPORTS CAR LINEUP ADDS DE FERRAN FOR UTAH EVENT AND PATRON HIGHCROFT SEEKS SECOND STRAIGHT LMP2 WIN
Four Strong Acura Teams Primed For Highly-Competitive Race In Utah Grand Prix

TOOLE, Utah -- The Acura sports car teams have added a legendary driver and a new team to its arsenal as round four of the American Le Mans Series comes to the Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City on May 16-18.

Coming off a win at Long Beach by the Patron Highcroft team, the Acura squads seek another victory lane celebration on the smooth and fast 3.08-mile, 15-turn road course.

And this time, the Acura contingent have added former Indy 500 champion Gil de Ferran's new racing operation, which makes its ALMS debut on Sunday, May 18 at 1 p.m. (MDT). The race will be seen live on SPEED TV at 3 p.m. (EDT).

The state-of-the-art racing facility will host a stellar field of sports cars that includes the Acura teams of de Ferran Motorsports, Lowe's Fernandez Racing, Andretti Green Racing and the Long Beach-winning Patron Highcroft team.

The Patron Highcroft organization, with drivers David Brabham and Scott Sharp, comes to the Utah event following an exciting come-from-behind victory in the streets of Long Beach and a strong second place in the streets of St. Petersburg.

Taking on last year's dominating Penske Porsche team, Brabham fought from behind and past Romain Dumas on the next to last lap with a superb inside move in his No. 9 Acura ARX-01b, the latest version of the Wirth Research-designed Acura chassis.

The victory for Brabham set an ALMS record as the Australian driver became the first racer to win races in all four ALMS classes (LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2) in his career. Last year, the second generation star was the first driver to win pole positions in all four divisions in ALMS.

Sharp, the former IndyCar Series and Trans-Am champion, moved to ALMS this year and has quickly become a factor in the prototype divisions.

The No. 15 Lowe's Acura contingent of Mexican driving stars Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, who drove wheel-to-wheel with winning Porsche throughout the Sebring 12-hour classic, put in a sensational run last year at Utah and recent testing could prove them a contender at Utah.

The Andretti Green Racing pair of Bryan Herta and Christian Fittipaldi, who led overall at Sebring last March before some overheating troubles, bring the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b to Utah in search of the team's first win since Sebring last year. Herta and Fittipaldi are two former open-wheel stars who give the ALMS tour new contenders for the LMP2 class.

De Ferran, the two-time CART champion, makes his return to driving after a four-year layoff. The popular Brazilian star retired in 2003 and, most recently, served as sporting director for the Honda Formula One team. Gil will team with young Frenchman Simon Pagenaud in the No. 66 Panasonic ELS Sound Acura ARX-01b sports car.

ACURA QUOTES:

DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-0ba): "It was good to have a Brabham back in the winner's circle at Long Beach. To win there for Patron in their title race and in the backyard of Acura was big for our team. Winning in four ALMS classes is great for me but it doesn't mean as much as this effort that the team put forth. The Long Beach win was a very exciting for me and the rest of the team. We are ready to go for another win. The Utah circuit is a super facility and great to race."

SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patron Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "To get the first win this year for Acura and Patron, it's a big accomplishment. As strong as the Penske (Porsche) cars have been, we need to keep pushing, The Utah circuit is one of those tracks that just naturally feels good to me. I love the challenges and the high-speed corners. I can't wait to go there."

LUIS DIAZ: (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We are anxious to get to the Utah track. We have had a fast Lowe's Acura in the first three races this year but we haven't finished like we have raced. A few things have cost us podium finishes. After some testing, we believe our Lowe's Acura is in position to win. Hopefully we can do that at Utah. We were very fast at Utah last year and I expect us to be the same this time. Adrian and I are ready for a strong finish."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We have been a little frustrated in the early portion of the 2008 season because we have run very well in all of the races but we haven't finished well. So Luis and I are looking at Utah as a springboard for our season. Last year, we had a great car and I think we can do it again at Miller Motorsports Park. We love the circuit and the facility. Now, we would like to win there and show our car's speed."

BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "The Utah track is a very different race course than the three street courses on the schedule that precede it. That track is wide open and it is much easier to get around the GT cars. It definitely lends itself more to the LMP1 cars. The views are amazing and it's truly a great racing weekend. The people who built the track spared no expense. It's great."

CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "I don't think we have exploited the true potential of the XM Acura yet. So far this season, the competition has shown to be tougher that ever and with an additional Acura team (de Ferran) this weekend, I think it is going to be even tougher."

GIL de FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound de Ferran Motosports Acura ARX-01b): "I'm having a great time driving a race car again. But in addition, I am enjoying the out of the cockpit activities as a team owner. It's been a very fun project. I have to say the Miller Motorsports Park is a world-class facility. I have been to a lot of race tracks in the world, in Europe, Asia and South America, and certainly this race track is one of the best I have ever come across."

SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Sound de Ferran Motosports Acura ARX-01b): "I am thrilled to be a part of de Ferran Motorsports and to drive with a legend like Gil. I can't wait to get to Utah and compete in the American Le Mans Series. This series has some of the most-sophisticated racing cars in the world, and drivers are some of the best in the world too. We are a new team and we are still learning about each other. So we would like to be competitive in our first race. Then move on from there. This is a tough series to win."

-credit: acura motorsports

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Series ALMS
Drivers David Brabham , Scott Sharp , Gil de Ferran , Adrian Fernandez , Bryan Herta , Luis Diaz , Romain Dumas , Simon Pagenaud