PATRON HIGHCROFT SCORE STRONG POINTS HAUL DESPITE SALT LAKE CITY SETBACKS TOOELE, UT, Sunday, May 17, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing has retained its American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship lead after finishing second in the latest round of the...
PATRON HIGHCROFT SCORE STRONG POINTS HAUL DESPITE SALT LAKE CITY SETBACKS
TOOELE, UT, Sunday, May 17, 2009: Patron Highcroft Racing has retained its American Le Mans Series LMP1 championship lead after finishing second in the latest round of the series at Salt Lake City's Miller Motorsport Park today.
While the Acura ARX-02a duo of Scott Sharp and David Brabham battled to finish 1 minute, 13.693 seconds adrift of the winning Acura of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud, the team still scored its best ever result at Miller Motorsports Park.
Accident damage and mechanical woes had previously left the Danbury, CT-squad outside the top 20 in previous years.
After four rounds of the 2009 series, Patron Highcroft Racing hold a 17-point lead leading into the traditional mid-season break scheduled for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.
With the Miller Motorsports Park situated more than 3000 feet higher above sea level than any other circuit in the championship, the naturally aspirated engine aboard the Acura ARX-02a was at a disadvantage to any turbo machine.
This proved to be the first hurdle at the start when the turbo-powered machine of Jon Field slipped through into second place. Sharp lost precious seconds behind the privateer entry who enjoyed a significant straight-line speed advantage.
While the team battled understeer that hindered its chances of chasing the de Ferran/Pagenaud entry, problems with the seat belts on the #9 Tequila Patron car cost a further chunk of time.
Sharp was unable to loosen the left hand lap belt on the first pit-stop and David Brabham subsequently had the left shoulder strap come adrift when he returned to the track.
The long pit stop, followed by a very slow opening lap with Brabham trying to re-engage the harness cost the team more than 30 seconds.
In the final stint, the team elected to double-stint the Michelin tires to save time but even this was not enough to make a dent on the race lead.
Today's result however, added a further 314 miles to the team's season tally in its fundraising goal to prevent malaria deaths in Africa.
The team's partnership with Malaria No More has now tallied 1,747 miles - raising more than $18,500. Patron Highcroft Racing and Tequila Patron have pledged $10 for every mile the team races in the 2009 American Le Mans Series.
Race fans can join the race to end malaria by pledging as little as a penny a mile to the cause at www.milestoendmalaria.org
The team's two star drivers will now turn their attention to two of the biggest races in the world. Sharp will contest this week's Indianapolis 500 with a Tequila Patron-sponsored entry fielded by Panther Racing.
Brabham returns to Europe this week to continue his preparations for the 24 Hours of Le Mans on June 13-14 where he will drive with the Peugeot factory team.
"Today wasn't what we hoped for. Congratulations go to the de Ferran team. They seemed to have a little bit on us all weekend but that was compounded by getting stuck behind Jon Field's car early.
"The turbo cars have a really big advantage at this high altitude. He was able to get by me off the start. I was hoping he was going to be able to get past Gil as well, but he slotted in between us.
"The Patron Highcroft car was much faster in the corners but Jon would skip away on the straights by about 10 to 15 car lengths.
"It really cost us around 3-4 seconds a lap. That was really frustrating and put us at a disadvantage early.
"The problem with the seat-belts in the pit stop didn't help - neither me nor Steve Gough who helps on the driver changes could get the left lap belt to budge.
"Second place points are still good however, when it is not your day."
"With no safety car on track today, the time we lost at the start trying to get past the turbo car of Field really cost us.
"That was really the defining moment. The two Acuras are so evenly matched out there that anything like that really hurt us.
"When Scott came in the left lap belt wouldn't loosen - it was broken. That caused a slow stop and when I went back out the left hand shoulder belt wasn't in properly.
"I was trying to find the little slot by feel because you can't see it. I had to slow right down because I didn't want to have to come back into the pits - that really would have killed the race.
"It took half a lap going slowly before I got it back in and that made the gap even bigger. After that I was driving as hard as I could but it was simply too big a gap.
"We got points and that was really important. We've lost a little bit of our lead but there is still a long way to go."