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Acura drivers talk about Petit LeMans
Never before has the American Le Mans Series seen such a star-studded field as the one assembled for its cornerstone event: Petit Le Mans powered by the Totally New MAZDA6. Adding to the luster of the greatest sports car drivers in the world are champions from the world of open-wheel. Past Indy 500 and open-wheel champions Gil de Ferran, Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti are part of the world-class lineup. They recently shared their thoughts on the upcoming 1,000-mile/10-hour classic at Road Atlanta.

Gil De Ferran
De Ferran Motorsports

“I think the biggest thing I’m looking forward to is meeting the competition. It’s probably some of the finest competition you could get if you went around the world hand-picking drivers and teams to participate. I think for us, as a team, and certainly for me as a driver, to be part of such an elite group is really a great honor. Also when you’re in a situation like this, whenever you do well, it means that much more. So we’ll be trying to do everything we can to have a good race. I mean certainly for me and I know Scott has more experience than I do actually, in the long distance races, but we’ll be doing a lot of learning on the job here as we do our first, I guess, real long-distance race of the year.”

Practicing patience
“I think of the old racing motto: ‘To finish first, first you have to finish.’ Certainly the longer the race, the more obstacles you find to get to the end in a clean fashion. So to exercise patience in traffic is going to be crucial, and I mean to some extent, that has been the case even in the shorter races too. Then it’s probably even more important on this type of race.”

Adding Scott Dixon
“I think Scott is certainly one of the best drivers in the world today. So when we were thinking about it, sort of who will be the greatest guys to have on the car. And his name was certainly on the top of the list and obviously we know each other from other years in the IndyCar Series. I was glad to find fertile ground when we spoke.”

Looking ahead to LMP1
“Well all I can tell you is that there won’t be much of an off season for us. It’s very much to finish Laguna and off into the new program. Hopefully we’ll be able to get out on the track before the year is over with the LMP1 Acura, but I think it’s a little bit too early for me to be confirming dates. It’s something that we’ve been planning for quite some time. We had the one eye on certainly the job we had to accomplish this season, but also what else we had to do next year. So we are looking into the different equipment and so on and so forth, and particularly trying to get a lot more sophisticated.”

Dario Franchitti
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing
“I think that there’s not two different cars on the planet from a big stock car … to the Acura. We were joking before we came online for the teleconference that I ran 19 seconds a lap faster in the Acura the other day. So it really took me a while, probably five to 10 laps to get my brain back up to speed with the car, and another 10 laps to get on the pace. Then from then on, it was just working on my consistency. But really, it’s amazing when you get into something of that level of downforce, that level of grip again. It’s just how fast everything happens, so I think it’s going to be a challenge for me the next weekend at Road Atlanta. I’m lucky that you know with the Patr¢n Highcroft team, they’re really on top of their game right now. They’re challenging for the championship. Hopefully I’ll be in there and doing my part to help them achieve what they want which is to beat the Penske guys.”

Doing double-duty in the future on joint weekends with the American Le Mans Series and IndyCar
“I think there’s a chance I can do Sebring and Petit again next year, but I mean that’s probably getting a wee bit ahead of ourselves. I would say there’s no chance of doing the double duty on those weekends. Even when I was driving for Andretti Green and it was the same team, we decided against doing that. There’s no way. There’s no way Chip (Ganassi) would let me do it and it just wouldn’t be practical either. I think you got to focus on one thing so I don’t see that happening.”

Racing against younger brother Marino
“This will be the first time we’ve ever raced against each other. We’ve always competed with him, and any race we’ve done together has been in the same team as teammates, whether it was Daytona or wherever. So this race is will be the first time. Now if we end up racing against each other, believe me, I’ll be very aware that it’s him in the other car.”

Practicing patience
“I was actually thinking about that. I was testing the other day. It is so easy to get stuck behind someone and to maybe try and do something that could get you into a lot of trouble. So definitely patience is going to be a key and that’s something that I think at Daytona this year that Chip really preached to us is about patience. You might lose a second or two stuck behind someone, but if you take the nose of the car off or stick a thing in the tires, you’re going to lose laps. So definitely, patience will be the order of the day.”

The attraction of Petit Le Mans
“I love sports car racing. I love driving all different types of cars and it’s something I’ve been fortunate enough to do over the past three or four years. It was really a goal of mine this year to do this race, so when Duncan Dayton invited me to come and drive for his team, it was a no-brainer - getting a very competitive car, the Acura, with a great team, great teammates and go out there and do what I love to do.

Scott Dixon
De Ferran Motorsports

“I definitely can’t wait. It’s going to be a lot of fun. Obviously we want to go out there and try and win as well and help out Acura and the point title. Things like that but I’m looking forward to the racing with Gil’s team. Gil is definitely a guy I looked up to when I was younger and he achieved a lot. I’m looking forward to partnering up with him and Simon. So I can’t wait to get there. In 1999, I was just on my first year in America, and I’d been racing in Indy Lights and then I drove the Ferrari 333 SP with Stefan [Johansson] and Jim Matthews. I was definitely jumping into a pretty quick car. But this year I’m definitely looking forward to it. I hope we can do extremely well. I think we’ve got a great chance of being at the top. I’m looking forward to sort of staying in one spot for a least a week, so I’m looking forward to going to Road Atlanta.”

The attraction of Petit Le Mans
“I am going with a good team (and that) definitely makes it a lot easier. Motor racing these days, outside of sports car racing, you’re not really in the car too often. You only have very short practices. We have short races and as far as for a driver, I think I still love just doing laps and I just want to be out there. I think sports car racing is the only kind of place that you can find that apart from maybe going into karting and things like that. So for me, it’s fantastic track time. And it has the alliance with Honda and Acura and the cars are very similar (to Indy cars) and you’ve got a ton of cars out there that you’re constantly passing people. It’s just fun. It’s interesting and it’s definitely separate and different from what we typically do.”

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