Gil de Ferran's storybook retirement win, Patrón Highcroft Racing's LMP1 championship and Lowe's Fernandez Racing's record-tying eighth 2009 win were just some of the stories Saturday at Laguna Seca Raceway in the wild American Le Mans Series finale.
De Ferran, co-driving with young star Simon Pagenaud, hung up his racing helmet in dramatic fashion with a sensational overall win in the four-hour Monterey Sports Car Championships on the famed 2.238-mile road circuit. But it wasn't easy for de Ferran.
The driver of the No. 66 XM Radio Acura ARX-02a prototype sports car was pressured by the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b LMP2 machine of Adrian Fernandez for the last hour in wheel-to-wheel action. De Ferran and Fernandez swapped the lead several times before the Brazilian star held off the Mexican racer by just .662 seconds at the finish.
The win was the fifth of the year for de Ferran Motorsports and gave Gil a spectacular sendoff of a stellar racing career. The de Ferran team also had a season-high seven pole positions.
The Acura 1-2-3 overall sweep was the fifth of the season for the auto manufacturer in the tenrace ALMS campaign that saw Acura become the first car marque to win LMP1 and LMP2 driver, team and manufacturer championships in the same year.
The Lowe's Fernandez team, with drivers Fernandez and Luis Diaz, finished second overall but took its eighth LMP2 class victory in 2009, tying the ALMS LMP2 win record set by Penske Racing in 2007 with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.
Third overall at Laguna Seca was the Patrón Highcroft Racing pair of David Brabham and Scott Sharp in the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a. The finish gave Brabham and Sharp the LMP1 driver crown and Patrón Highcroft Racing the LMP1 team title. Brabham and Scott recorded three overall wins this year in team owner Duncan Dayton's first ALMS point championship year.
The Patrón Highcroft team suffered through a tough two-week span by building a new Acura from scratch at Petit Le Mans after a horrific crash involving Sharp. Then a flu bug hit the team's crew that saw several of the team members on the sidelines entering the Laguna Seca race.
The Lowe's Fernandez team also collected the Michelin Green X Challenge prototype win as well as the Green X series championship.
|Overall Laguna Seca Raceway Results|
|1. XM RADIO DE FERRAN ACURA ARX-02a No. 66 Gil de Ferran , Simon Pagenaud [1st LMP1]|
|2. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA ARX-01a No. 15 Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz [1st LMP2]|
|3. PATRÓN HIGHCROFT ACURA ARX-02a No. 9 David Brabham, Scott Sharp|
ACURA QUOTES: GIL de FERRAN (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX-02a): "It certainly wasn't an easy win today. I was driving hard to hold off Adrian [Fernandez] and trying to save fuel. Coming into the weekend, there were several thoughts going through my head. But once I was in the car, I thought only about winning the race. I had a job to do here. I didn't really think about my last race until I shut off the engine. Then I had a lot of thoughts about my career. Simon drove fantastic today and gave us a big lead. But Adrian wasn't about to give us an easy win. He was tough. I am just glad it is over now. It was a dream weekend for me."
SIMON PAGENAUD (#66 XM Radio de Ferran Acura ARX -02a): "The XM Acura felt so good today. I could drive it fast. I was able to open up a good margin, about a minute. I was nervous at the end, because I knew Gil would be tight on fuel to finish. But the crew did a great job of controlling the fuel management and we won our fifth race this year."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "What a great way to finish a super season. I knew our car would be fast in the race, and we might have a chance for the overall win. I could see Gil was saving fuel, and I was pressuring him. I just came up a bit short. But overall, it feels great to tie the LMP2 win record and score the driver and team championships. It was super."
LUIS DIAZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We have had one of the best seasons in ALMS history with eight wins and two championships. It has been a thrill to drive with my racing hero, Adrian. He gave me an opportunity to race with a great team and a super manufacturer in Acura. I couldn't ask for a better situation. Today was a spectacular way to finish our season."
DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a): "We had a few problems today. But our team's plan was to get to the finish line. If we could do that, we would win the championship. The past two weeks have been very hard on our team with the crash and flu. But they are professional and put together a super effort to bring Patrón, Acura, Michelin and the entire operation a championship season."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX- 02a): "I can't believe it is over. It was tough season racing in the LMP1 class. The de Ferran team is one of the best and, to beat them, really feels good. This team put in long hours and never made a mistake to get us back in action each week. The effort at Petit to built a new car was phenomenal. Then, here at Laguna Seca, the flu bug hit everyone hard. But the team worked together and gave us a title tonight."
|2009 FINAL AMERICAN LE MANS SERIES POINTS
(After 10 Rounds)
LMP1 (Manufacturers Chassis/Engine)
|1. DAVID BRABHAM/SCOTT SHARP||179|
|2. GIL de FERRAN/SIMON PAGENAUD||162|
|3. John Field/Clint Field||118|
LMP2 (Manufacturers Chassis/Engine)
|1. ADRIAN FERNANDEZ/LUIS DIAZ||217|
|2. Marino Franchitti/Butch Leitzinger||155|