Patr¢n Highcroft Racing ready for LMP1 Sebring debut
DANBURY, CT: When Patr¢n Highcroft Racing hits the track for official practice next Wednesday for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, it will be the culmination of 201 days of intense preparation for the team's debut in the LMP1 class of the American Le Mans Series with the new Acura ARX-02a.
The team was announced on August 29 last year as one of the two squads representing the Acura brand in its graduation to the highest level of international sports car competition. Patr¢n Highcroft Racing earned the honor after claiming four LMP2 victories last year, with Scott Sharp and David Brabham also clinching Acura's first overall victory at Lime Rock Park.
Sharp and Brabham will be joined by 2007 Indy 500 and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti for the season opener at Sebring.
Franchitti is also no stranger to success with the Acura brand. He was part of the winning driving squad which captured the LMP2 class win at Sebring in 2007 and also earned the marque's first overall pole at Long Beach the same year.
The new Acura ARX-02a was officially unveiled at the recent Sebring "Wheels Down" test - revealing the radical design which features the same sized Michelin tires on all four corners of the car.
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing will take part in ALMS testing on Monday and Tuesday of the Sebring week before official practice kicks off on Wednesday, March 19.
The Sebring event will also mark the 50th anniversary of Patr¢n Highcroft Racing's David Brabham's father - Sir Jack Brabham - clinching his first Formula 1 World Championship at the US Formula 1 Grand Prix at the historic Sebring airfield in 1959.
On Thursday of race week, David will reenact the famous finish of the 1959 event when his father ran out of fuel with ½ a mile remaining and had to push the car over the finish line to claim the world title. He will climb aboard the Cooper Climax T51 now owned by Ann Finn and undertake a parade lap on race day, Saturday, March 21 - the first time he will have driven one of his father's cars.
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing will also unveil its new partnership with the Malaria No More organization on Friday, March 20 - launching a unique fundraising campaign to tackle the preventable disease which kills a child in Africa every 30 seconds.
"There is a lot of excitement about the new Acura ARX-02a because it is such a radical design. We are learning more and more every time we run and moving in the right direction as we prepare for the first race of the year.
"The last couple of tests have been very productive. There is an art to winning a 12 hour race in spending as little time as possible in the pits. Our reliability, strategy and consistency of the car and the drivers will certainly be tested. We have learned a great deal in a short space of time and we now enter race week having done the best possible preparation. Completing 12 hours at Sebring is certainly tougher than the 24 Hours at Daytona and probably more difficult than Le Mans. The track is very bumpy and it is quite narrow in places so you have to be really careful in traffic. You have to get through the first 11 hours unscathed - you really can't think about the possibility of winning until then."
"I can't wait for the first race of the year. It has been a long off-season where we have worked very hard and I am really looking forward to Sebring.
"We have a huge challenge in front of us with Audi and Peugeot competing at the 12 hour as well.
"Whoever can still be running strongly at the finish and spend the minimal amount of time in the pits should come out on top.
"We will still be learning a lot about the car, the set-up and the tires throughout the race but I am very much looking forward to it.
"All the guys at Patr¢n Highcroft Racing, Acura, HPD, Wirth Research and Michelin have all worked incredibly hard during the off-season and if we are able to come away with a good result at Sebring that will make it all the more satisfying. Fans see the finished product on the grid, but the amount of effort that goes into making that happen is just incredible. The pressure is on, but our guys are responding to it in the best possible way."
"I always enjoy doing something different from my regular job in IndyCars. I really admire drivers from the past who used to race all sorts of different types of cars - Formula 1, sports cars, touring cars. I've been really lucky to have had the chance to do some of that.
"I am really looking forward to being part of the Patr¢n Highcroft Racing squad again and running with David and Scott.
"I was fortunate to be a part of the winning team in LMP2 at Sebring back in 2007 and also scored Acura's first overall pole. Hopefully I can be a bit of a lucky charm for Acura.
"When I first tested the car it was really at the beginning of its development phase but I was really surprised at the step that we made for the recent endurance test - both in regards to performance and reliability - and I think that is down to the hard work that Robin and all the guys have been putting in.
"Sebring is always a big challenge because it is the longest and most difficult race of the year."
"It has been a brilliant effort from our guys to get the car prepared, to get familiar with the new Acura ARX-02a and to learn what makes the car happy, what makes it fast and reliable.
"It is a new car, new concept, new systems - lots of key aspects to understand.
"We're going into the Twelve Hours of Sebring on a bit of a high after a very successful endurance test but I am under no illusions that success at Sebring won't be easy, it will certainly be a big challenge because of the quality of the opposition in Audi and Peugeot.
"The Peugeot is a well-developed three-year-old car that is very fast and Audi have a tremendous record of bringing out new cars at Sebring and doing very well with them.
"Racing a P1 prototype will be an entirely new experience for ourselves, de Ferran, Acura, HPD and Wirth Research but it is a challenge we are really looking forward to.
"When we started our team the goal was to compete at the highest level and Sebring will be a culmination of that dream. The next step is race wins, championships and success at Le Mans but Sebring will indeed be a very important step for us."
SEBRING BY THE NUMBERS
Fastest Corner: Turn 1
Maximum Corner Speed: >225 kph (140 mph)
Maximum Lateral Gs: >3.2 G in turn 1
Slowest Corner: Turn 7
Minimum Corner Speed: >75 kph (47 mph)
Fastest top speed: 2009 small wing >265 kph (165 mph)
Percentage of lap on full throttle: 70%
Maximum Braking Gs: >3.0 G
Number of Brake Applications: 9
Gear Changes per lap: approx 34
Left Turns: 6
Right Turns: 11 |
Monday, March 16
10:50am - 12:20pm: Testing
4:10pm - 5:40pm: Testing
Tuesday, March 17
1:30pm - 2:20pm: Testing
2:20pm - 3:00pm: Testing
Wednesday, March 18
10:45am - 11:40am: Practice
2:40pm - 3:35pm: Practice
Thursday, March 19
10:20am - 11:15am: Practice
3:15pm - 3:40pm: Qualifying
6:30pm - 6:45pm: David Brabham's 1959 Cooper Climax reenactment
7:15pm - 9:00pm: Practice
Friday, March 20
9:55am - 10:55am: Practice
11:45am: Malaria No More / Patr¢n Highcroft Racing Press Conference
Saturday, March 21
7:50am - 8:15am: Warm up
8:50am - 9:15am: David Brabham parade laps, 1959 Cooper Climax
10:30am - 10:30pm: Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring