Patrón Highcroft Racing made a stunning late charge for victory at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with Simon Pagenaud just falling short in his attempt to clinch the team’s fourth victory of the season.
Paganaud finished only .506 of a second behind the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith – two late race caution periods hindering the Highcroft squad’s shot at victory
David Brabham started the race and despite losing a place off the start, quickly moved back into third early in the race.
The Australian kept the Mazda and the race leading LMP1 class Lola of Clint Field in sight during the opening hour and headed to the pits during the first yellow flag safety car period after 53 minutes.
Lightning fast work by the Highcroft crew enabled Simon Pagenaud to rejoin in second place, leapfrogging the Dyson Mazda.
Pagenaud did his best to keep the Mazda at bay, but the straight-line speed disadvantage enabled Chris Dyson to push the Frenchman back to third on lap 56 with 90 minutes remaining.
The gap to the race leading Lolas grew to 11 seconds before both cars pitted on lap 82 with 56 minutes remaining. Pagenaud and Highcroft’s plan to run long before pitting was subsequently spoiled by a safety car period one lap later.
Pagenaud’s strategy switched to a fuel and tire stop on lap 85 under yellow and he actually gained a spot as mechanical troubles emerged for the Clint/Jon Field car.
The race went green again on lap 87 with Pagenaud kicking off his chase of Chris Dyson.
The Frenchman brought the gap from well over five seconds to a matter of feet – setting the lap record in the process. He actually got a run on Dyson exiting turn 11 on lap 108 only to have to back off when a stranded GT class Ferrari was stuck in his path in the middle of the road. The incident brought out another yellow flag safety car period.
The race resumed on lap 111 with 10 minutes to go and while Pagenaud could close right on the tail of the Mazda through the turns, he was unable to keep pace on the straights.
While the team may have fallen short in its fight for victory, Highcroft did clinch the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge for the second time this year.
The team also claimed the award at Laguna Seca and now lead the season points championship for the environmental award.
The MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge recognizes the Prototype and GT cars that go farthest and fastest with the smallest environmental impact based upon a comprehensive formula developed by the Argonne National Laboratories.
With three races remaining, Patrón Highcroft Racing now enjoy a 23-point advantage in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón LMP points standings. The team was able to make a significant improvement to its lead after the second-placed CytoSport Porsche was forced to withdraw this weekend after a crash on Thursday.
The team will now tackle back-to-back races with its Honda Performance Development factory-backed ARX-01c at Road America on August 22 and Canada’s Mosport International Raceway on August 29.
The season finale will be the annual Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta on September 2..
“Simon really did a fantastic job at the end of the race.
“At the start the track was changing so much and the gap was coming backwards and forwards all the time.
“We had a great pitstop and jumped the Dyson car and Simon was really on it at the end but they had too much power for us on the straights.
“That made it very difficult to pass around here but Simon and the entire Patrón Highcroft Racing crew really did an outstanding job.
“Second is good for us today because it is a big points haul which will help us a lot in the championship.
“Today was very similar to 2008 when I was chasing down the Penske Porsche at the finish and Simon was right on his tail of the Mazda the whole way.
“It is very difficult to pass here and if you don’t have that little bit of straight line speed it can make it really challenging.
“It has been a good day overall with a strong haul of points.”
“It was a great race overall. We finished the weekend on a very strong note.
“David was superb at the start of the race keeping pace with some of those more powerful cars.
“The crew got me out in second position, but the Mazda was too fast for me in a straight line and he got past.
“I just had to keep pushing. The track started to come to us at the end and I had more grip and the car really was beautiful to drive.
“I thought I had a chance at the end, but there wasn’t enough laps.
“With a bit more time, maybe I could have had a shot.
“Overall there is no disappointment for us today. It is great for the championship and we always knew this weekend was going to be a big challenge for us.
“We have three more races to go and it will be very important to maintain that points gap and keep going as fast as we are now.
“It was a very enjoyable day and I am looking forward to Road America and Mosport.”
© RIF | ALMS