Gil de Ferran ended an emotional weekend Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course by sitting on the side of his Acura prototype in tears.
The popular Brazilian racing star won the pole position Friday in qualifying for the Acura Sports Car Challenge and immediately announced he is retiring from driving at the end of the 2009 American Le Mans Series season to concentrate on the management of his de Ferran Motorsports organization.
On Saturday, de Ferran teamed with young French star Simon Pagenaud in driving the No. 66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a sports car to a fourth consecutive overall victory in the hotly contested, two-hour, 45-minute feature on the tough 2.25-mile road circuit.
The de Ferran team led the fourth Acura 1-2-3 finish of the year.
Adding to the emotional victory was the team's return to the venue that saw crewman Keith Jones critically burned during a pit fire in last year's ALMS race. Jones endured third-degree burns and several skin grafts before returning to the de Ferran team in March. As de Ferran crossed the finish line some 8.3 seconds ahead of David Brabham's Patrón Highcroft Acura, the former Indy 500 winner yelled on the team's radio, "Jonesie, this win is for you." Few members of the de Ferran team could keep a dry eye when Gil jumped from his car's cockpit and Jones hugged de Ferran in victory lane.
Early in the race, Pagenaud held a six-second margin over Scott Sharp in the Patrón Acura ARX-02a. But he extended his advantage when Sharp's car was hit by a slower GT car. The bodywork of the Patrón machine was damaged, forcing Sharp to slow before Brabham took over the driving chores. The de Ferran team never lost the lead after de Ferran began his driving stint on Lap 52.
De Ferran's team also captured the Michelin Green X Challenge for the best fuel economy for a prototype car in the race.
The Lowe's Fernandez Acura team rounded out the top three overall spots Saturday with a sensational LMP2 victory for drivers Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. Scoring their fifth 2009 class win, the Lowe's team used tremendous pit stop strategy to take the lead and extend its class point lead.
The American Le Mans Series returns to Road America on Aug. 16 for the next ALMS event.
|Acura Sports Car Challenge Overall Results|
|1.|| XM RADIO de FERRAN ACURA ARX-02a No. 66
Drivers: Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud [1st in LMP1]
|2.|| PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-02a No. 9
Drivers: David Brabham, Scott Sharp
|7.|| LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01b No. 15
Drivers: Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz [1nd LMP2]
|UPCOMING ALMS RACE:|
|Event:||Time Warner Road Showcase|
Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin
(4 Miles , 15 Turns)
|Date:||Sunday, August 16, 2009
2 p.m. (CDT)
|Distance:||2 hours, 45 minutes|
|TV:||SPEED-TV, Aug. 16, 3 p.m. (EDT)|
|Acura Contacts:||Tom Blattler, 317-525-5692
T.E. McHale, 310-783-3169
(Photos) Simon Pagenaud (top) teamed with Gil de Ferran to score the pair's fourth straight overall ALMS win Saturday at Mid-Ohio, while Scott Sharp (middle) placed second overall with 24 Hours of Le Mans winner David Brabham in the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura. Luis Diaz (below) and Adrian Fernandez captured their fifth LMP2 class victory in the No. 15 Lowe's Acura in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.
GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "The final few laps were very emotional for me, knowing it was my final race at Mid-Ohio as a driver and taking the win. Then after last year's pit fire, and thinking of 'Jonesie' [crewman Keith Jones] it was difficult for me to keep everything together. That's why I had the reaction when I got out of the car. I have loved racing here at Mid -Ohio and I wanted to win badly. My mentor, Sir Jackie Stewart, always said to have mind management in the race car. And I had to do it late in the race today. The whole weekend has been emotional with my retirement speech and then winning the pole and the race here. The whole de Ferran Acura team did a tremendous job, including Simon's great drive early in the race."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX- 02a): "Our entire team wanted to win this race. After last year's pit incident, we wanted to bring home a win for Jonesie. The weekend went just as planned and the race was outstanding. The XM Radio Acura felt so good to drive and it feels great to take our fourth win in a row. This is a superb team and we are set for many wins now."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "Boy, I was driving as hard I could from the time I jumped in the car. Unfortunately, the Patrón Acura wasn't handling like we wanted after Scott got hit by the Porsche earlier in the race. I knew Gil had a good race car today. We worked hard over the weekend to get our car very competitive. I think we made a lot of progress in the handling of the car. Things just didn't fall our way today. But I know we'll have a strong machine for Road America next weekend."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "We had a very good early in the race. I got caught in a little bit of traffic but we were in position to race for the lead. But I was following one of the Corvettes in a corner and one of the Flying Lizard Porsches didn't see me. It ran right into the left side of our Patrón Highcroft Acura and ripped up the bodywork badly. The car never was the same and it was tough to stay with the de Ferran car after that. We need a win at Road America next week."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "Our Lowe's team did a super job with the pit strategy today. They know when to pit to get our Acura back into the lead. Those Mazdas are very fast on the straights. We were faster in the turns with the Acura, but we needed to have a good plan to beat them today. It is exciting to win our fifth race this year. We are hoping to continue winning at Road America, but it won't be easy. "
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX- 01b): "This was a great win for our team. The crew did a terrific job in making that late call on the final pit stop to get Adrian into the lead. This place is very tough to drive with all of the slower traffic and the difficult turns. But we came through with our fifth win in six races. This is a great performance today."