The yellow Porsches entered Saturday's two-hour, 45-minute American Le Mans Series sports car race with four consecutive LMP2 class wins on the ALMS circuit, but the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola B06/40 machine gave them all they could handle before surrendering the lead late in the event. Fernandez, a two-time Mid- Ohio winner in sports cars and Indy cars, took the overall lead on Lap 89 and battled series point leader Romain Dumas in a spirited fight to the finish.
However, fresh tires on the Penske cars proved to be the difference as the two Porsches repeated their 2006 Mid-Ohio performance with a 1-2 finish. Timo Bernhard and Dumas won for Porsche. The No. 15 Lowe's Acura placed third in the LMP2 category and fourth overall in the seventh of 12 ALMS races.
After starting third, Diaz drove an impressive opening stint in the Lowe's machine before passing off his mount to Fernandez, who came from fifth after the pit stop. Adrian's aggressive drive saw him pass three Porsches and a more-powerful Audi to take the overall top position on the 2.25-mile road circuit.
On the final stop, the Lowe's team gambled by taking on fuel only and Fernandez held the lead before the Penske cars, on fresh Michelin tires, were able to track him down in the last 20 minutes of the race.
The No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a, with veterans Stefan Johansson and David Brabham at the controls, hoped for another podium finish Saturday but the charge was halted quickly when Johansson was hit from behind in the opening lap of the race by the Audi of Rinaldo Capello. Johansson was able to return to the track but lost two laps as a result. Brabham drove the final half of the race and finished sixth in LMP2.
The duo of Marino Franchitti and Bryan Herta brought the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a in seventh in the class after a myriad of troubles Saturday. The Andretti Green squad ran as high as fourth before being knocked off the track in the latter stages of the event by a slower car.
The Acura Sports Car Challenge saw a large spectator turnout Saturday with many associates in attendance from the Honda of America Manufacturing facility at Mid-Ohio for the first time.
The next ALMS event will be Saturday, August 11 at the legendary four-mile Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. in the Generac 500.
|Acura Sports Car Challenge ALMS|
|LMP2 Class (TV, CBS-TV, July 22, 1-3 p.m.)|
|1. Penske Porsche No. 7|
|2. Penske Porsche No. 6|
|3. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA LOLA No. 15|
|6. HIGHCROFT RACING ACURA ARX-01a No. 9|
|7. ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA ARX-01a No. 26|
|ALMS Point Standings (LMP2)|
|1.Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard 127|
|3. Ryan Briscoe, Saasha Maassen 114|
|5. DAVID BRABHAM, STEFAN JOHANSSON 74|
|7. Andy Wallace, Butch Leitzinger 72|
|9. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ, LUIS DIAZ 63|
|11. BRYAN HERTA, C. Dyson, G. Smith 62|
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura Lola B06/40: "We were strong all weekend and gave our all to get the Porsches but in the end we didn't make it. Luis had a good first stint. I jumped in and had a great battle with [Ryan] Briscoe. I passed him then he passed me. Traffic really was a factor in this race. We decided to not take tires on our last pit stop to try and win the race and it just didn't play out in our favor. We bounced back well from the last race [Lime Rock where the team retired with its first mechanical problem of the season] and I am very proud of the guys. We just have to keep working hard to try to get to the front."
LUIS DIAZ: (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura Lola B06/40): "The Lowe's Acura was very good out there today. I was patient though. There were several times where I could have forced my way in for a pass, but I waited. We have had a good car all weekend here at Mid-Ohio. The Lola seems to fit well with this track. I was racing with the Porsches and the Audi for a long time. We got caught up with some traffic from the other classes and we just had to go single file through a lot of areas. But I think Adrian had a good car to finish."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "With this type of racing and track it always opens the door for close action. Obviously we got delayed to begin with Stefan [Johansson] and Dindo [Capello] getting tangled up, then we got pulled in for oil, of which there was none - so that completely killed our race - that call. It's disappointing. When I went out there, I think we demonstrated how fast the car was, I went past the leader and I cranked out the fastest lap. It's a shame because we had a very strong car. We were struggling a little bit throughout the practice days but the guys, as usual, came up with a great race set up."
STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): "I don't know what happened [with Rinaldo Capello in the Audi] on the start. I got down to the bottom trying to turn right and the car just turned left, I thought something had broken on the car. I had no idea what Dindo was thinking, I mean there was clearly no chance to get past. Nothing happened to the car. The car was fine afterwards. Then likewise, they called us over because of the liquid, I think it was a bit harsh to be called in. Overall, the Acura was very good. It is a shame that we were two laps down so early because we had a podium car today. I know David said that the car was superb. Just bad luck for the Highcroft gang today. "
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "I'm really disappointed for everyone involved with the XM Satellite Radio Acura program. We just didn't have a very good weekend. The balance of the XM Acura wasn't too bad today but we're just struggling for overall pace relative to some of our competitors right now. On the incident late in the race, I came up on the orange car (No. 12) that was doing 20 miles per hour in the corner and as we came off the corner I pulled beside him. Guy Smith had a good run so he pulled on the inside of me and the guy in the orange car just kept coming over until he hit me."
MARINO FRANCHITTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): "The start was pretty crazy. We got a good jump but just had nowhere to go. People were banging wheels and I was just trying to keep the XM Satellite Radio Acura out of trouble. We were able to hold the gap with the group that was second, third and fourth but as the stint went on they seemed to slow down a little and we still had good pace. We caught them up and got fourth before we got into the pits and we were still maintaining places. Bryan's pace was great and unfortunately we got hit by somebody at the end. It's disappointing not to get a good result for Andretti Green Racing at the Acura Sports Car Challenge. The Acura engine and chassis were very good this weekend. But the result wasn't as good as the car. We just have to look forward to a four-hour race at Road America."
|Upcoming: Generac 500 at Road America|
|Date: August 10-11, 2007|
|Location: Road America, Elkhart Lake, WI|
|Track Type: 4-mile, 14-turn road circuit|
|Race: Round 8 of 12 Races, 4 p.m.|
|American Le Mans Series|
|Distance: 2 hour, 45 minutes|