VP'S STREETBLAZE 100 POWERS AMERICAN LEMANS CHAMPIONS AT LAGUNA SECA
MONTEREY, CA (October 11, 2009) Gil de Ferran rode into the sunset with a victory in his final race Saturday, and Patrón Highcroft Racing had its own special ride as well at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to close the 2009 American Le Mans Series. Powered by VP’s StreetBlaze 100 racing fuel, De Ferran and Simon Pagenaud won the Monterey Sports Car Championships after the retiring Brazilian legend’s thrilling duel with Adrian Fernandez in the final 30 minutes of the four-hour classic.
De Ferran beat his long-time open-wheel competitor by just 0.662 seconds to close his fantastic career. The victory was the fifth of the season for the de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a and by far the toughest. Twice, the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b entry from LMP2 got around the XM Radio Acura P1 on the final corner, only to have de Ferran’s bigger engine give him the lead back on the long frontstretch.
“It certainly wasn’t easy. There wasn’t much time to think about anything else,” de Ferran said. “Coming into the weekend, there were a lot of different thoughts going through my head. But I had a job to do as a driver. It was a tough weekend from that standpoint. In a way, the race was so intense that I never had time to think of anything else.”
The Patrón Highcroft Acura finished second in class and third overall, more than enough to secure the LMP1 driver championship for David Brabham and Scott Sharp, and the team title for Patrón Highcroft. The championships were the first for all.
“When Robert Clarke first selected Highcroft to join the Acura camp,” said team owner Duncan Dayton, “everyone was thinking, ‘Who are these guys and what are they doing here? They’re just vintage guys.’ And that motivated us every single year. We’ve been the best Acura team each and every year. We are the most dedicated, and were it not for the passion we all have, we wouldn’t be here. The guys at de Ferran are friends and teammates because we are all working for Acura. The sportsmanship they exhibit and the respect we all have is phenomenal.”
In LMP2, Diaz and Fernandez closed their championship year in grand style, tying a class record for victories (8) in a season with their Acura ARX-01b, with each win powered by StreetBlaze 100. They combined for seven pole positions and five fastest race laps including one of each for Diaz on the weekend. It made up for a third-place finish two weeks ago at Petit Le Mans.
“After Road Atlanta, the guys at the shop decided we had to come back this weekend and show what we can do,” Diaz said. “We had such a great car. A lot of P1s passed me at the start but we kept going and made no mistakes; it worked itself back out. Adrian had such a good race out there, I don't remember so many times yelling so much at a race. We were pushing so hard at the end and it was exciting to watch.”
The GT2 finish was just as frantic as the overall result. Powered by StreetBlaze 100, Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long won in GT2 for Flying Lizard Motorsports in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a victory enhanced by driver championships for the pair and the second straight team title for the Lizards. It also gave Porsche its 100th Series class victory, a first for any manufacturer.
Bergmeister finished 1.037 seconds ahead of Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen after the two cars banged side-to-side coming out of the final turn. As they beat on each other toward the finish, Magnussen went around hard into the outside wall just before the start-finish line.
“I’m definitely sorry Jan went into the wall,” Bergmeister said. “I didn’t want that to happen. But it was a banging game. I’m glad he’s OK. It was tough racing. The Corvette passed me the first time at the hairpin but he went in way too deep and I was able to get back around him. He was a little quicker I have to say. I wasn’t trying to figure out where he was gaining time on me. I was trying to stay on track and in front.”
It was the last in a number of moments between the two cars in the final hour. The two cars swapped positions numerous times and ran nose-to-tail for much of the final half-hour.
The championships – fourth for Bergmeister and second for Long – were assured when Risi Competizione’s Ferrari F430 GT retired prior to the two-hour mark. Pierre Kaffer made contact with Marc Goossens in the RSR Jaguar XKR, an incident that damaged the Ferrari’s front end including the radiator.
“There is a synergy between us,” said Long, who won his first championship in 2005 driving a Porsche with Bergmeister. “We complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. We know each other and everyone knows us. The Flying Lizards complement us so well. The Risi guys have been a class act this year and given us a lot of challenge. The addition of the Corvettes and BMWs have been phenomenal, and that’s how this class grows. The Porsche’s record of reliability and success is obvious.”
The 2010 American Le Mans Series opens with the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, scheduled for a 10:30 a.m. ET start on Saturday, March 20 from historic Sebring International Raceway.