Patr¢n Highcroft squad begin on-track Petit assault
After several days of drenching rain, Road Atlanta provided the American Le Mans Series with a dry track and as Patr¢n Highcroft Racing kicked off it's assault at Petit Le Mans in testing today at Road Atlanta.
David Brabham and Dario Franchitti both took to the track - Brabham undertaking initial set-up work and IndyCar ace Franchitti re-acclimatizing himself with the Acura ARX-02a in the 90 minute session.
Brabham's fellow LMP1 championship leader Scott Sharp will join them in the cockpit tomorrow for three official practice sessions at 10:05am, 3:20pm and 7:20pm.
The Patr¢n Highcroft Racing Acura was sixth fastest in today's on-track action - Brabham stopping the clocks at 1 minute, 10.127 seconds.
Weather forecasts feature the possibility of additional rain in the next few days - conditions which the team has taken into consideration in its exhaustive preparations for Saturday's 1000 mile/10 hour Petit Le Mans event.
Team boss Duncan Dayton will again lead the team into battle this weekend as the Connecticut-based squad look to extend its 17-point lead in the LMP1 championship.
Q: How much work has gone into preparing the Patr¢n Highcroft Racing Acura for Petit Le Mans?
DD: "The amount of work that has gone into preparing for this race has been incredible. The guys have left no stone unturned to make sure the car is as well prepared as it could be.
"We elected not to come and test so we could spend those extra few days in the shop to make sure that everything was perfectly prepared.
"With rain predicted, we have gone to the trouble of getting purpose-built rubber boots for the electrical connectors and a whole host of other rain proofing ideas to ensure that doesn't cause us any problems."
Q: How will Scott, David and Dario prepare for the race if it ends up wet on race day?
DD: "The one thing you have to remember is that it is the same for everybody.
"If you are comfortable in the rain, you probably have a bit of an advantage because there are plenty of people who aren't.
"You have to have a positive and confident frame of mind knowing your car handles well in the wet and that you enjoy it as you search for an advantage for when your opposition is a little unsure of the conditions.
"It is a delicate balancing act, but our car with the larger front Michelin tires and the higher level of downforce is quite good in the rain so wet weather actually suits us."
Q: The team had a troubled weekend at Petit Le Mans last year, does that give you added motivation for this year to do well?
DD: "Racing memory is short and you are only as good as your last race. We are coming into Atlanta on a high after having won two in a row and our eye is firmly on the championship prize.
"Last year we had a frustrating weekend at Petit, but it is not about making amends, we are totally focused on ensuring we continue our strong form.
"We feel we have done a great job racing against the de Ferran guys and it was really only at Salt Lake City that we felt like we were at a significant disadvantage.
"Everywhere else we have been very strong on pace and strategy and that has given us the championship lead. Nobody is thinking about last year, the championship is the only thing on our mind."
Q: How much pressure does the team feel as the championship leaders in the LMP1 class?
DD: "The entire championship is a bit like one long endurance race. There are ups and downs along the way and there are times when you think you are gaining, and times when you think you are falling behind.
"You have to keep plugging away no matter what happens. One of the things I learned from watching Michael Schumacher in Formula 1 was that no matter what was happening in the race, he just never gave up and keep pushing and pushing.
"Sometimes at the beginning of the race you would think he had no chance of getting on the podium but we would pull out a victory through perseverance and pressure on his opponents.
"That is what we are looking to do in the American Le Mans Series - we have to keep executing to the best of our ability and leave no stone unturned in doing the best possible job we know how to do.
"We're really not competing against the Audi or the Peugeot this weekend when it comes to outright pace. What matters to us is where we are in relation to the de Ferran car."
Q: Your not focused on the overall race victory, but could damp weather help your cause?
DD: "Rain could play to our favor if it is wet in the race. Large amounts of torque, more weight and high polar moment makes it very challenging to apply the throttle in wet conditions for the diesels.
"If that is the case, they are going to have to crank up their traction control which won't given them as much drive off the corner in dry conditions.
"That will affect their top speed on the straights which is where they really have the advantage over us.
"Our Acura corners very well, but we don't have the same straight line speed as the diesels so if the rain takes away some of that advantage, that should help us overall."