Patrón Highcroft Racing’s 2010 championship defense enters a crucial phase next week with Salt Lake City’s Miller Motorsport Park event kicking off five races in eight weeks.
After three rounds of the 2010 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, the Highcroft squad leads the combined Le Mans Prototype championship after finishing second in the LMP2 class at Sebring and taking consecutive victories at Long Beach and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Honda Performance Development factory-backed squad turn to ALMS competition after the team’s debut at last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
While the team recorded a race finish on debut in France, a cooling problem took David Brabham, Marino Franchitti and Marco Werner out of podium contention with four hours remaining.
Brabham is reunited with his regular teammate Simon Pagenaud for the Salt Lake City event.
While the Miller Motorsports Park circuit hasn’t been kind to the Highcroft squad in previous years, the team is hoping the addition of Pagenaud could provide a change in fortunes.
The Frenchman made a stunning ALMS debut in 2008 in Utah, recording the fastest LMP2 lap of 1 minute, 32.816 seconds for an average speed of 118.221mph.
Pagenaud returned in 2009 in LMP1 to take the overall victory, this time improving on that fastest lap time by the smallest possible margin – stopping the clocks at 1:32.815 – 118.222mph.
After three races this season, Highcroft hold a four-point advantage over the CytoSport Porsche Spyder driver Klaus Graf.
The Danbury, CT-based Highcroft squad will be looking to extend that advantage from Salt Lake through to Lime Rock Park (July 24), Mid-Ohio (August 7), Road America (August 22) and Canada’s Mosport International Raceway on August 29.
The American Le Mans Series teams will then have a five week preparation window prior to battling for the extra points on offer at Petit Le Mans on October 2.
While the team continues the race to retain its ALMS title crown in 2010, the team will also continue its race to defeat an even bigger rival – malaria deaths in Africa.
Patrón Highcroft Racing has again teamed up with Malaria No More to raise funds and awareness for this disease which kills a child every 30 seconds in Africa. The team also ran a special Malaria No More livery at the 24 Hours of Le Mans to promote the cause.
With the purchase of a simple $10 mosquito bed net, fans can help combat this disease – either by visiting http://www.milestoendmalaria.org or just texting the word “MILES” to 85944 on their cell phone.
Fans can also bid for exclusive autographed souvenirs and unique at-track experiences at http://www.milestoendmalaria.org/auction.
On track action at Miller Motorsports Park kicks off on Friday, July 9, with a test session for the prototype entries from 2:00pm to 3:30pm (MST).
One hour practice sessions are scheduled at 9:30am and 1:45pm (MST) on Saturday prior to qualifying at 3:25pm.
Sunday’s Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix goes green at 2:35pm (MST).
“I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car at Salt Lake City despite the fact that Miller Motorsports Park hasn’t been the kindest of places to us in the past.
“That gives us that extra motivation to raise our game and continue what we have been doing over the past two races which is execute perfectly as a team.
“The last race at Laguna Seca was an outstanding effort by the entire team. There are still areas where we can improve further but the guys did a brilliant job.
“We will be out to get maximum points at Salt Lake City and try to improve on our championship lead.
“We’ll be at a slight disadvantage to the turbocharged cars because of the altitude, but that just makes us work that much harder to make sure we maximize our own package to put pressure on the opposition.
“I’m not expecting to be the fastest but we’ll be fast enough to put pressure on people and that will be our aim to get a strong result.
“Physically, this place is challenging from a drivers perspective and you have to be very precise here because there are so few reference points out on track.
“It is also hard on the equipment – the driveshaft and transmission take a real beating because the grip level is so high.”
“Salt Lake City is a beautiful place that I really love. I actually went there during the winter in the off-season as part of my fitness training.
“I know the place really well and I love the track. It is one of my favorites in America.
“The track is very fast and you carry a lot of speed into the corners which I really enjoy.
“The race won’t be easy for us because of the long straights and our straight line speed disadvantage that we have at the moment compared to the other LMP cars.
“Our car is tremendous in the sweeping corners so that will help and I think we will see very close lap times in qualifying.
“We are going to have to be very smart in the race with our strategy like we have in recent races.
“Highcroft is very strong in this perspective and that plays a very big part in our overall results.
“At Laguna we were far from being the fastest car but we executed in the race perfectly with the least number of visits to the pits and the least amount of time in the pits.
“Our crew are awesome in the pits and that combined with our reliability record is a big plus for David and myself. That is so important now because the level of competition is so high.”
HIGHCROFT RACING AT MILLER MOTORSPORTS PARK
2009 Acura ARX-02a Brabham/Sharp (3.048 mile circuit)
Qual: 2nd 1:31.381
Race: 2nd 103 laps
2008 Acura ARX-01B Brabham/Sharp (3.048 mile circuit)
Qual: 4th 1:31.3352
Race: 24th (9th in P2) 70 laps
2007 Acura ARX-01a Brabham/Johansson (4.486 mile circuit)
Qual: 5th 2:20.389
Race: 21st (6th in P2) 47 laps
2006 Lola EX257/AER Dayton/Wallace (4.486 mile circuit)
Qual: 7th 2:25.866
Race: 6th (5th in P1) 62 laps
DRIVER’S EYE – MILLER MOTORSPORTS PARK
Q. Salt Lake City, what is your favorite corner and why?
DAVID BRABHAM: My favorite turn at Salt Lake City is probably Turn 19. You come out of the chicane, which is fun as well, but it’s a very tricky left hand corner. You’ve got to take a lot of curb on the inside, and if you go too hard, too much over the curb, you run out of road on the exit.
It’s a tricky corner, but it’s actually quite enjoyable when the car’s really hooked up.
SIMON PAGENAUD: The last corner is very intriguing. It’s banked and when you go into that corner, you think you should brake, and braking is not always the right thing to do there. So you can carry a lot of speed through that corner, using a different line depending on how your car is balanced. And that makes you think a little bit in the car. That’s something I like.
Q. What’s the most challenging aspect of the Salt Lake race?
DAVID BRABHAM: The most challenging aspect for Salt Lake City for me is actually the car because it’s actually very tough on the transmission there. A couple of years ago when we first went there with the Acuras, we actually broke the transmission. You get a lot of loading in the low speed corners because there’s quite a lot of grip.
And you get on the throttle very hard very early and it puts a lot of stress through the car, so certainly you’ve got to have a good, strong gearbox and differential and drive shafts for that type of corner.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s very fast. Some corners are blind. You need to be very focused on the way you turn and how much you’re going to turn when you go into the corner at 150 miles an hour. It’s a very challenging track and very interesting.
Q. What’s the secret to a good lap at Salt Lake City?
DAVID BRABHAM: It’s got some strange corners to it. The grip level varies a lot between each corner, more so than probably most other circuits.
So you go into Turn 1, 2, 3 one lap, the next time you go there it will be completely different. And that’s a lot to do with the sand that gets blown across the circuit as well. It’s not an easy track to learn because there’s no reference points.
SIMON PAGENAUD: You need to be very precise with braking that is very important. There are some corners you need to brake very lightly and some others where on you need to brake very strongly.
It’s just important to adapt yourself to every corner there.
Q. How do you expect the Patrón Highcroft car to go against the opposition in Salt Lake?
DAVID BRABHAM: Well, because it’s high altitude anything with a turbo is going to have a slight advantage in terms of power. I think our car will be as strong, if not stronger than the rest through the corners.
So it will be an interesting mix. We’ll have to wait and see when we get there.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think the long straight is obviously a challenge for us. But the corners are brilliant for our car. Again, we’ve got a lot of downforce, and our light weight should help us through the sweepy section. It’s all going to be about building a good gap straightaway so we don’t have any worries in a straight line.
Q. If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?
DAVID BRABHAM: Put some trees around, make it a bit greener.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I don’t think I would change anything again. It’s just the way it is is good.
Q. What’s your favorite Salt Lake City memory?
DAVID BRABHAM: I haven’t had a lot of great memories there. We haven’t performed as well as we should have done at Salt Lake City, so I’m hoping my best memory is going to be this year.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I would say every year I had good memories there. I’ve been successful there from the first year I’ve been racing in Salt Lake in 2008. I hope I can get another win with David this year over there.
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