The four-hour Generac 500 sports car race at Road America ended up being run in two segments Saturday with a wild rain storm in the middle and David Brabham and Stefan Johansson were happy to survive with their No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a.
The veteran drivers fought through some on-track contacts and pouring rain to collect their third podium finish of the 2007 American Le Mans Series with a solid third place to the two Penske Porsches in the LMP2 class in the eighth race of the 12-event campaign.
Brabham, who qualified his Acura third in class on Friday, looked strong at the drop of the green flag but lost ground when Guy Smith made contact in his Porsche and spun the Australian driver in Turn Eight. Brabham charged back from tenth to fifth before relinquishing the controls to Johansson. The former Formula One and Champ Car star continued the Highcroft Acura assault before the rain brought out the yellow flag for some 50 minutes.
When the racing resumed, Johansson made an impressive charge on the treaded Michelin tires, taking his Acura ARX-01a to fourth. But Johansson's advances were stopped briefly when Ryan Briscoe's Porsche ran into the No. 9 Acura. The Swede came back to third in the LMP2 category before passing the driving chores back to Brabham for the finish.
Brabham had extended the Highcroft team's advantage when the checkered flag flew in darkness. Highcroft Racing has also scored podium placings at St. Petersburg and Lime Rock in 2007.
The Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola B06/40, with drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, came back from a malfunction at the start to run as high as fourth, but had settle for sixth. Diaz was also a victim of contact Saturday when a slower GT sedan hit Diaz' Acura early in the race.
Taking seventh was the XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a of Marino Franchitti and Bryan Herta. Franchitti led the Acura contingent in the first half of the race but the Scotsman's car was also hit by a slower GT car. That contact knocked out the Andretti Green car's suspension alignment and slowed the team's effort Saturday.
|Acura Sports Car Challenge ALMS|
|LMP2 Class (NBC-TV, Aug. 12, 2:30 p.m.)|
|1. Penske Porsche No. 7|
|2. Penske Porsche No. 6|
|3. HIGHCROFT RACING ACURA ARX-01a No. 9|
|6. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA LOLA No. 15|
|7. ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA ARX-01a No. 26|
|ALMS Point Standings (LMP2)|
|1. Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard 150|
|3. Ryan Briscoe, Saasha Maassen 133|
|5. DAVID BRABHAM, STEFAN JOHANSSON 90|
|7. Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger 83|
|9. Chris Dyson, Guy Smith 75|
|11. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, LUIS DIAZ 72|
|12. BRYAN HERTA 69|
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX- 01a): "Guy Smith came to me and apologized after the race and I was happy with that. We had to fight back from that incident with Guy. The Highcroft Acura was good today. I'm not sure we really had anything for the Penske Porsches. But it was a solid result for this young team. We had the pace of everyone else and we kept pushing all day. Both Stefan [Johansson] and I drove hard in all types of conditions including the wet. It was a good burst for Duncan [Dayton, team owner] and the crew. We had a couple of sensors let go at the end of the race and I was nervous that a tire might be going down. But that wasn't the case. So everything worked out well for us. I was lucky, too, as Ben Devlin hit me on the back section of the track and that is very fast. But the car held up great and we continued. There were a lot of incidents out there today."
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "It was kind of a crazy race. But we recovered well to get back on the podium. With everything going on today, that was about the result were hoping for. I could see the rain coming and kept calling in to the team on the radio. They were ready for the rain tires but the timing wasn't really good when we pitted. So I had to go back to tenth and we worked our way back through the grid. It is still good to get back on the podium. We'll work on getting higher on the podium in the near future."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola B06/40): "It was a tough day. It started on the grid with some electronic problem with the dash and we had to start from the back of the grid. We had to run with no dash and no shifting lights the entire race. Then the rain came and basically we were always playing catch-up but the team never gave up. I jumped in for the last hour and by then we had lost the radio as well. But the car was good. I was having a great battle with Bryan Herta but I had some issues with rubber stuck in the fenders and felt like I had a flat tire and I had to catch back up again. In all, it was a day in which we never gave up regardless of the problems and it shows what a strong team we have."
LUIS DIAZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola B06/40): "It was unfortunate that we had problems from the beginning with an electrical issue and we lost the radio also. Then I had a stop-and-go penalty. I was on the inside and the Porsche beside me touched the other Porsche and they hit me. It was not under braking and I didn't even move the steering wheel. I would like to review the video but I didn't try anything. It's a shame we had problems today because the car was running good and it was pretty fast. Unfortunately, we had all this drama at the beginning and I had to start from the back."
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "We timed the tire change just right when I jumped in the car after the rain. The XM Acura wasn't bad at the start of the stint. But the damage to the car from an earlier contact that Marino [Franchitti] had really hurt our race at the end. The car wouldn't turn into the corners and it was handling like a dump truck. Basically I couldn't get around the track at that point. I just did the best I could to bring it home to the finish."
MARINO FRANCHITTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "We were definitely competitive today. But I got hit by a GT car and the XM Satellite Radio Acura never handled the same. It knocked the steering out quite a bit. It was rough on the wear of the front tires. But we held in there and I was able to make some good passes on the Dyson Porsches. After the rain came, I thought we were very fast. The car felt good but, when the track dried out, the XM Acura just wasn't the same. The Acura was working well today but the car just didn't have the proper grip once we had contact. It is disappointing because I thought we had a good chance to get back up on the podium. I am looking forward to going to Mosport [Aug. 26] in Canada. That is one of my favorite tracks in North America."
|Upcoming:||Grand Prix Of Mosport|
|Date:||August 24-26, 2007|
|Location:||Mosport Int'l Raceway,
Bowmanville, Ont., Canada
|2.45-mile, 10-turn road circuit|
|Round 9 of 12 Races, 3 p.m.
American Le Mans Series
|Distance:||2 hour, 45 minutes|