The driving duo of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud were unmatched Sunday in the Larry H. Miller Utah Grand Prix, the fourth race on the 2009 American Le Mans Series.
Coming off their first ALMS overall win at Long Beach last month, de Ferran and Pagenaud showed phenomenal speed throughout the weekend with a new qualifying mark Saturday by Pagenaud and a dominating performance Sunday in the No. 66 de Ferran XM Radio Acura ARX-02a sports car.
Adding to the de Ferran Motorsports victory for Acura was a hard-fought LMP2 win for the Lowe's Fernandez pair of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz in the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b. The Utah win was the fourth consecutive LMP2 class title for the Mexican drivers this year.
The victory for de Ferran Motorsports was an anniversary present for the team, as the Brownsburg, Ind.- based squad made its ALMS debut at Utah last year, finishing third overall in an LMP2 Acura ARX-01b.
But Sunday, there was little doubt that de Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 champion, and Pagenaud, coming off a win last week in Spa, Belgium in the Le Mans Series race, were going to be denied. De Ferran started the two- hour and 45-minute contest in impressive fashion, jumping to a 30-second lead in the first 30 laps.
The veteran then passed off the No. 66 machine to the 25-year-old charger Pagenaud, who quickly clicked off the race's best lap times. At the end of the 103-lap race, Pagenaud held a 73-second advantage over the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02A of St. Petersburg winners David Brabham and Scott Sharp.
The 1-2-3 sweep was the second straight for Acura in the American Le Mans Series.
De Ferran was able to slip away from Sharp in the first half hour of competition, as the Patrón Highcroft driver was kept behind slower cars. When Brabham jumped in the Patrón Highcroft Acura for the second half of the race, he made a brief charge at Pagenaud, but the young French driver was undaunted in his drive to the win.
The LMP2 battle with the Lowe's Fernandez Acura team and the Mazda cars from Dyson Racing was an all-out assault to the end.
Early in the race, Diaz had to fight his way through the two Mazdas, as traffic played a key role, and Fernandez used a good pit strategy to hold the lead until the checkered flag. But, one of the Mazdas played blocker on the last couple of laps to give the Dyson team car a shot at Adrian's Acura on the final lap. Fernandez was able to hold a charging Butch Leitzinger to the line.
|Larry Miller Utah Grand Prix Overall Results|
|1. XM RADIO de FERRAN ACURA ARX-02a No. 66|
|Drivers: Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud [1st LMP1]|
|2. PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-02a No. 9|
|Drivers: David Brabham, Scott Sharp|
|3. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01b No. 15|
|Drivers: Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz [1st LMP2]|
GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "I had a good opportunity at the start to open a gap when I came out of turn one in first place and thought 'here's my chance', so I pushed as hard as I knew how to try and open a gap. We managed to build an over-30 second lead by the time we had our first stop. Simon drove extremely well for the rest of the race, and we kept building distance from the second-place car all the way to the end. This is a very meaningful victory for us, our second in a row. This was our debut event last year, and we came so close to winning it then. It's fantastic to come back and achieve the win this year - such a great win. It speaks volumes about the team and the Acura program."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "Gil did all the work. I didn't have much to do. He gave me the car with a massive gap. From there, I kept pushing so as not to lose my focus. I pushed as though there was someone right behind me the entire time. The car was behaving perfectly. The team called the strategy just right. The tires were behaving well. Not much to say, to be honest. Three wins in a row for me. Now I just have to try to keep the streak going."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "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. 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."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "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. I was hoping he was going to be able to get past Gil as well, but he slotted in between us. That was really frustrating and put us at a disadvantage early. Second place points are still good however, when it is not your day."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It was a tough race. It was a little frustrating at the beginning when Luis was losing time to the leaders with the traffic. There were a few P1s that we were quite a bit quicker than and he just couldn't pass them. I give Luis a lot of credit to have the patience because it would have been so easy to throw it away at the beginning knowing that you were losing so much time. We were losing four or five seconds a lap sometimes, to a point that we were almost 50 seconds behind the leader of the P2s. At the end, it was very close. We barely got in front of the No. 20 Mazda, and we finished one or two seconds ahead of them. It was a great victory and very well-deserved by everyone on the team. After our past performance here, it was nice to win especially after such a close race with the Mazdas."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "It was a great day. The whole team did a great job. We knew the disadvantages of being a little bit slower on the straights [than the Mazda cars], but the Acura is a great car and the guys did a tremendous job in the pits. Adrian did a super job at the end under pressure. It was an awesome race. We fought hard for this one."
|UPCOMING ALMS RACE:|
|Event:||Northeast Grand Prix|
|Track:||Lime Rock Park
(1.54 Miles , Eight Turns)
|Date:||Saturday, July 18, 2009
2:05 p.m. (EDT)
|Distance:||2 hours, 45 minutes|
|TV:||SPEED TV, July 18 Live|
|Acura Contacts:||Tom Blattler, 317-525-5692
T.E. McHale, 310-783-3169
(Photos) Simon Pagenaud [upper left] turned in a dominating