David Brabham and Scott Sharp stood in Victory Lane for the fourth time in the 2008 American Le Mans Series Sunday, but both drivers had to feel for fellow Acura pilots Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud following the Grand Prix of Mosport, northeast of Toronto.
Brabham made another remarkable charge on the legendary 2.54-mile road circuit to capture the LMP2 class title with the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car. The victory for Brabham and Sharp closed them to within 10 points of LMP2 point leaders Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas with three races remaining in the season.
Brabham and Sharp's win was coupled with a second-place finish by Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura for the manufacturer's first 1-2 American Le Mans Series finish since Acura joined the road-racing tour last year. It was Fernandez and Diaz' top finishing position in 2008.
The two-hour, 45-minute contest saw some of the most sensational wheel-to-wheel action ever seen in the 10-year history of the American Le Mans Series. But it was the performance of former Indy 500 winner de Ferran that stunned the large Canadian crowd Sunday.
The personable Brazilian, who retired from the cockpit in 2003, drove a spectacular event to hold a 12-second advantage with just 10 minutes remaining. His No. 66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura looked to be headed to a first ALMS win for the newly-formed de Ferran Motorsports squad. De Ferran played a fuel-strategy game against the likes of Brabham, Fernandez and the pair of Penske Porsches, and he drove brilliantly.
At the end, the overall-leading Audi of Lucas Luhr crossed the start/finish line just one second prior to the scheduled minimum race time of two hours, 45 minutes, necessitating the completion of another lap prior to the checkered flag. De Ferran's car ran out of fuel on the back straightaway on that final circuit and was relegated to a fifth-place finish in the LMP2 division.
Brabham and Fernandez then battled to the finish line, completing Acura's 1-2 placing.
Franck Montagny, co-driving with Englishman James Rossiter in the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Andretti Green Acura ARX-01b, actually led the overall standings before a late-race pit stop consigned him to fourth in the LMP2 class. Early contact between Rossiter's XM Acura and a GT car hurt the aerodynamics of the AGR machine, but the French star wheeled the injured machine to a strong finish.
The American Le Mans Series moves to the streets of Detroit for the ninth of 11 races, the Belle Isle Grand Prix, on Saturday, Aug. 30. The race will be seen live on Speed-TV.
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "What a phenomenal race today! The wheel-to-wheel action was as good as it gets. There was really world-class competition out there today. The racing with Romain [Dumas] was incredible as we passed back and forth. I guess they ran out of fuel like Gil. I feel bad for Gil's team. They were so close to winning. But we'll take this fourth win and close in on the point lead. Very exciting for us!"
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "The last two races have been about fuel, and our staff, led by Duncan [Dayton] and Rob Hill, did another great job of calling the right shot at the end. Our car was fast all weekend, but I got caught some bad traffic and that hurt us. David did his usual great charge to get the Patrón Highcroft Acura to Victory Lane. This place is like a throwback to older racing with such fast turns. It's great for a driver."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We were very close to winning the race today. Our Lowe's Acura team had a great strategy and my car felt good. We had some great racing in the P2 class. Each race, we'll continue to learn about the Acura chassis on these fast tracks. We had the Lola last year, and the new chassis is very good. We think we can get better with each race."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We had some problems with the battery and that hurt us a little. But the Lowe's Acura was fast today. We play a fuel game and I felt Luis had a good momentum. So he stayed in longer than some of the other Acura drivers, who switched [positions] after 45 minutes. I decided to save a little more fuel than Gil and David, or we might have had a shot for the win. Without the suspension problem at Road America, we should have three straight podium finishes. Second feels good."
FRANCK MONTAGNY (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b): "The XM car was not as fast as I would have liked due to the contact James had in the beginning of the race. We lost the front wing. We were able to race with anyone in our class until we had to pit late for fuel and tires. Our strategy came close at the end, but the race was one lap shorter than we would have liked. Another bad break."
JAMES ROSSITER (#26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b): "The XM car was good in my stint today. Unfortunately, I was racing with Sharp and we were passing a Ferrari in Turn Eight. I don't know if he didn't see me, but he ran into my car's left front. We lost a dive plane that hurt the aerodynamics a little bit. Overall, we just missed a bit on our fuel strategy and we had to settle for fourth."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "It shows how much racing can get you sometimes. We will take a lot from this weekend. We learned a lot the whole week. We had some problems, but team had a great strategy and the car was very good in the race. I thought Gil was outstanding today too."
GIL de FERRAN (#66 Panasonic ELS Surround Acura ARX-01b): "It was particularly cruel when you consider that we missed the checkered flag by just about a second. That made us take another lap and we ran out of fuel. It was always going to be tight for us on fuel. But the team did a very good job working the numbers. I tried to keep the proper fuel reading that they wanted. And we ran great laps and saved fuel. We thought the race would end one lap sooner. Unfortunately, that didn't happen today. Our guys did great in calling all the right moves, including getting us back on the lead lap in the early portion of the race. We have been struggling all weekend with the car, but, in the race, it felt good. And our lap times were very good. I was feeling very comfortable in the lead and I had a good rhythm in the cockpit. It felt good to run up front again. I think we can do more of that in the future. It is a tough way to lose."