De Ferran and Pagenaud finally get win at Long Beach
Gil de Ferran finally got his win at Long Beach, and de Ferran Motorsports took victory in the American Le Mans Series on Saturday as de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud won at the Tequila PatrÂ˘n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. de Ferran and his Acura ARX-02a beat PatrÂ˘n Highcroft Racingâs David Brabham across the finish line on Shoreline Drive under yellow.
There was both joy and relief in the de Ferran camp. In its rookie season in 2008, the team finished on the P2 podium three times including a runner-up finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to close the season. The team jumped up to P1 with PatrÂ˘n Highcroft to start the season.
âTo be here at the top of the podium is a fantastic accomplishment for a team like ours,â de Ferran said. âWeâve been existence for less than a year. It was great to happen here. I came close here a few times so to finally get one is really special. We will probably have some champagne tonight. Itâs a special moment. Since we started work in late February of last year, it has been nonstop work. Itâs a well deserved prize for everyone. It is great that we could accomplish a victory after being so close so many times.â
The raceâs lone caution came out with less than five minutes left when Boris Saidâs LG Motorsports Corvette C6 erupted in flames just past the start-finish line.
de Ferran last won a race in 2003 in his final IndyCar race at Texas. The defining moment Saturday came in pit lane when the PatrÂ˘n Highcroft car was penalized 20 seconds for a pit stop violation.
Pagenaud moved from second to first at the green flag and led 18 laps before Sharp retook the lead while at the same time clipping the back of the young Frenchman (Pagenaud admitted it was his mistake). Sharp held the lead until he pitted to hand the car over the Brabham. Thatâs when officials assessed the penalty.
âI was struggling with pickup and grip for some reason,â said Pagenaud, who pitted two minutes later. âI had a really bad exit at Turn 8 and thatâs where Scott got me back. I decided to move over to get around a GT2 car in the braking zone but he was already here. As soon as I felt the touch, I moved back over. It didnât cause any problem.â
de Ferran re-entered the race with an 18-second lead over Brabham and maintained his gap through traffic and trouble.
âWhen I jumped in the car, I had no idea where I was - in the lead or in second,â de Ferran said. âMy focus was to put in a really good out lap and put myself into a rhythm. I was really happy with it and the team told me I had about an 18-second gap to Brabham. He wasnât really catching me when we were in free air and basically I was managing that gap. Three or four laps before the yellow I saw three and four GT2 cars that looked like they were trying to take each other out and I thought, âOh God, not now.â But I got through and could do 14s pretty easily. I could see far enough ahead that there was no more traffic.â
Brabham and Scott Sharp did maintain their LMP1 championship lead with a runner-up finish that goes along with an overall win two weeks ago at St. Petersburg.
Intersport Racingâs AER-powered Lola B06/10 of Clint Field, Jon Field and Chapman Ducote finished third in class.
Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz earned their third straight LMP2 victory for Loweâs Fernandez Racing as Acura swept the two prototype classes for the second straight race. The Loweâs Fernandez Acura ARX-01b finished five seconds ahead of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith in the first of Dyson Racingâs Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes.
Smith led in class early before the pit stop cycle. That wasnât exactly bad news for Diaz and Fernandez as they were able to go longer on their first tank of E10. Diaz had given the team a comfortable gap when Fernandez got in the car with 40 minutes remaining.
âWe knew the Dyson guys would be faster on the straights, and they were 8 or 9 mph quicker there,â Diaz said. âOur team did a great job though of setting our car up for the race. After Guy passed me, I tried to save as much fuel as I could while staying close to him.â
Fernandez did have a close call when Saidâs Corvette collided with Joey Handâs BMW M3 entering Turn 8, right in front of Fernandez. The Acura came to a stop as the BMW tried to restart. In the end, the incident cost Fernandez 12 seconds but not the lead.
âWhen you see something like that happen, you have to stay calm and not do anything stupid,â Fernandez said. âI actually forgot I had a reverse gear. It was a good thing because it is a very fragile move and I didnât know what was happening behind me. Thankfully the BMW moved on. At that point I was glad I had the advantage. We could have lost the lead there. It was a matter then of keeping our distance to the Dysons.â
The second Dyson car of Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti finished third in class.
Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin will go down in the record books as the winners of the final GT1 race for Corvette Racing in the American Le Mans Series. The duo won at Long Beach for the second time in three years in their Corvette C6.R.
Johnny OâConnell passed class pole-winner Beretta at the start but pitted after just 18 minutes with a left-rear tire puncture. That moved Beretta back into the lead until the teamâs lone pit stop to change over to Gavin. OâConnell still had to make another stop to get Jan Magnussen in the car but it turned into a moot point when an undiagnosed driveline issue brought the car to a halt in Turn 1 at the one-hour mark.
âToday was bizarre,â Gavin said. âIt was a strange race in the way it all played out. Olivier had a tough stint because he was on a soft tire, and it was clear he was going to have trouble with it after Johnny pitted early with a puncture. We went to a medium (compound) and I was reeling in the other car before they had a problem.â
The race marked the end of an era in Corvette Racing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans will mark the final GT1 race for the team, which has won there five times since 2001. August will see the debut of Corvette Racingâs GT2 entry, a mighty challenge that will see the Seriesâ most decorated team face off against Porsche, BMW, Ferrari, Jaguar, Panoz and others.
âWe all are proud to be part of this team,â Beretta said. âIt is very impressive and itâs the best GT1 car in the world. Corvette Racing has been developing this car since 1999. Even if there were 10 GT1 cars here, I think it would be difficult to beat Corvette. Why we are going to switch is that we want to race against competition and face this new challenge. It will be hard at the beginning.â
Flying Lizard Motorsportsâ Patrick Long and JĂśrg Bergmeister won in GT2 for the second straight race with a victory over Risi Competizioneâs Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer. The Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR took victory two weeks ago at St. Petersburg and held off a hard-charging Ferrari, which started from the rear of the grid.
Long drove the opening stint and ran nose-to-tail with leader Wolf Henzler in the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche for the better part of 45 minutes. Long inherited the lead when Henzlerâs car ran into a broken but repairable suspension issue.
âThe objective was to get a gap to the other manufacturers, and I think we achieved that,â Long said. âThe Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had the legs here this week. It was a little tough to be patient. We think we could have run out front but bided our time. I knew I had to keep him under pressure in case something like that happened.â
Bergmeister took over at the 1:05 mark, handing the lead to Kaffer. But Kaffer pitted three minutes later and handed off to Melo, which gave Bergmeister a nearly 40-second lead.
âThe only thing I could do wrong was mess everything up because we had such a big lead,â Bergmeister said. âAt St. Petersburg it was more difficult because we had a two-lap lead. Here it was just 30 seconds so I couldnât just cruise around.â
Dirk MĂźller and Tommy Milner placed third in class for BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team. They put their BMW M3 on the podium for the second straight race.
The winners of the MICHELIN Green X Challenge were the same as the race winners. The de Ferran Acura claimed the prototype trophy while the Flying Lizard Porsche was the winning GT entry. The awards go each race to the prototype and GT entries that go the farthest and the fastest with the least amount of environmental impact.
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix from Miller Motorsports Park. The race is scheduled for 1 p.m. MDT on Sunday, May 17. SPEED will broadcast the race starting at 10 p.m. ET on the same day. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing and Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com. You can also follow the Series on Twitter.
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