Banner day for Acura at Mosport
After starting from pole aboard the Acura ARX-02a, Scott Sharp initially lost two positions off the start while bringing the Michelin tires up to temperature.
Once up to speed, Sharp began to chase down Gil de Ferran and Jon Field, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 10.
The battle continued through traffic before de Ferran was forced to make his first pit stop on lap 27 after 32 minutes. Patr¢n Highcroft's advantage was helped further when the #66 Acura ran off the road on its out lap in turn 2.
On lap 35, Sharp regained the overall lead from Mario Franchitti's LMP2 class Mazda - a lead which the Patr¢n Highcroft team would maintain for the remaining 96 laps. David Brabham climbed aboard the #9 machine on lap 47 under yellow after Sharp had opened up a lead in excess of 20 seconds.
The de Ferran team was able to get a lap back with a wave by under the safety car, and Brabham held a 9.9 second lead when the race went green on lap 57.
Both cars quickly entered traffic and Brabham's lead shrunk to as little as 1.5 seconds after 20 laps before Simon Pagenaud was forced to bring the #66 car back to pit lane for another unscheduled stop.
For the remaining 54 laps, the Patr¢n Highcroft squad had an untroubled run to the checkered flag with a lead of more than a lap.
Along with the overall victory, the team also took its first Michelin® Green X® Challenge title - the award rewards all Series manufacturers and teams on their overall performance, fuel efficiency and environmental impact at each event.
Fernandez and Diaz grabbed the class driver championship after a fantastic battle with Dyson Racing’s Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger. The Dyson Lola B09/86-Mazda coupe led by less than a second with 12 minutes left before the engine let go and forced Leitzinger to pull the car off track and to a stop at Turn 2.
Franchitti had led the race overall early in his stint. The Lola-Mazda and the Acura went back and forth in the last hour, battling through slower - and faster - traffic. The victory (and championship) appeared in doubt after Fernandez was penalized for speeding in pit lane at the 2:10 running mark.
“We knew that the Dyson car was very fast. We couldn’t stay with them,” said team owner Fernandez. “The traffic was the difference. With no traffic I could stay kind of close. When the penalty happened…the first thing I did was trying to regain my focus. We were 15 seconds back and at that point I didn’t know what was going on with the Mazda but we were catching them quite quickly. I think they turned the motor down a little bit until the point I was right behind him. I could start to smell burning and thought maybe something was wrong.”
Both the Dyson cars led in class during the opening stint. Chris Dyson pitted from the lead at the 48-minute mark but crashed hard at Turn 1 a couple laps later. That put the focus on the remaining Dyson coupe and the Acura.
“For me, I think it was a matter of being patient,” Diaz said. “We know we can’t fight against these guys in the first part. It’s a matter of patience and having good pace. I have to thank Adrian because he is a great boss, a great teammate and great friend. It has been a great three years with him and I think this is great that we have this together. When I was growing up racing, he was my idol. Winning this championship with him means a lot to me and it means a lot to people in Mexico. We can compete against anybody. We have a great team all around.”
Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen scored a historic victory for Corvette Racing with the team’s first in GT2. Magnussen crossed the finish line in his Corvette C6.R 0.331 seconds ahead of Risi Competizione’s Pierre Kaffer, who teamed with Jaime Melo but began the race from the rear of the grid after the car missed qualifying Saturday.
The win at Mosport was the third straight for the O’Connell-Magnussen pairing and fourth in their careers. O’Connell won for the seventh time at the circuit, the most of any driver at any venue in the American Le Mans Series. He made his 100th start Sunday.
“This was all about Jan and the crew guys,” said O’Connell, who also set a Series record with his seventh Mosport victory in the Series. “They had a great stop to just get him out ahead of the Ferrari and he did what he needed to do to keep us in front. It was just an awesome drive. Jan and I teamed together at Panoz to win here in 1999- and we were teamed again a couple of years ago with Corvette - and that was the finest drives I’ve seen. Knowing what he needed to do and not make a mistake…it was great.”
The GT2 battle was the most hotly contested on the day. BMW, Corvette and Ferrari each led with the top four cars circling the track in a line for the better part of 20 minutes. Corvette’s quick final pit stop with slightly less than 30 minutes to go allowed Magnussen to re-enter the track just in front of Kaffer, who had pitted four minutes earlier. The two cars were side-by-side for one-third of the lap and even touched going through the Turn 5 hairpin before Magnussen pulled ahead for good.
The new Corvette GT2 car won in just its third race start, having debuted earlier this month at Mid-Ohio.
“On cold tires, and as cool as it was, having a good out-lap was key,” said Magnussen, who won at Mosport for the fourth time - all with O’Connell. “I made it through Turn 2 and kept him on the outside, and we did bump a little. The car has been fantastic from the word ‘go’. To see that we have been able to turn this into a victory is phenomenal. This was so much fun and was real racing. I asked on the radio how many laps were left - I thought there were two or three and there were 24. On the last stop, the windshield was completely covered. The guys told me we weren’t going to do anything about it, which was a good thing.”
The second Corvette C6.R of Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin placed third in class. The entry did win the GT trophy for the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge.
The next round of the 2009 American Le Mans Series is the 12th annual Petit Le Mans powered by MAZDA6 on Saturday, September 26. The Series’ cornerstone event at Road Atlanta in Braselton Ga., is a 1,000-mile/10-hour endurance classic. The green flag is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. ET with SPEED airing live television coverage starting at 11 a.m. ET. American Le Mans Radio presented by Porsche and Living Timing & Scoring will be available on Racehub at americanlemans.com. Live coverage also can be heard on Sirius 126 and XM 242. You can follow the Series on Twitter (almsnotes).
The race will also mark the ninth round of the 2009 MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge. Tickets are available at americanlemans.com and roadatlanta.com.
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