In his own words: Duncan Dayton Patr¢n Highcroft Racing celebrated the team's 2009 LMP1 championship victory in grand style in Monterey, CA tonight - collecting a host of silverware at the American Le Mans Series Night of Champions.
Not only did Scott Sharp, David Brabham and team owner Duncan Dayton collect the driver's and team's championship awards - the Danbury, CT-based squad also scored the IMSA Cup trophy - presented to Team Manager, Robin Hill and Technical Director, David Luckett.
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing mechanic Raffi Aroyan was also awarded the American Le Mans Series LMP1 Mechanic of the Year Award.
Team partners Acura and Michelin also scored their respective awards for car manufacturer and tire supplier. Tequila Patr¢n's Ed Brown was also awarded the Promoter's Award for his contribution to the sport.
Patr¢n Highcroft Racing wrapped up the 2009 LMP1 championship on Saturday night after Scott Sharp and David Brabham finished second in class at Mazda Raceway Laguna in the final round of the series - clinching the title by 17 points.
Q: What does it feel like for a team from Danbury, Connecticut to take on and beat some of the biggest teams in North American motorsport?
A: "It was Roger Penske that said 'the harder you work, the luckier you become' and we very firmly believe in that mantra.
"I don't think there is a harder working group of guys in the paddock. We have been working on building a winning culture in our organization and the team really started to believe in ourselves from when we won our first race in Long Beach last year.
"We've discussed teams like the Yankees that have a tradition of winning - it is just part of their culture. They are down in New York, not far away from our base in Danbury, Connecticut.
"We consider ourselves to be like a major league sports franchise that has a loyal following of supporters - not at the same level as the Yankees, Manchester United or whatever your favorite sporting team is - but we have fans right around the world that like the way we do things and we're also delighted to be able to clinch this championship for them."
"What I have tried to instill in the guys is the same sense of pride that Derek Jeter has in pulling on the Yankees pin stripes. It is important to remember every day that this is an entertainment business and we have to do make sure the fans are entertained by the show we put on.
"We are away from some of the big centers of motorsport like Indianapolis or Charlotte and for us to go up against some of these guys and be so successful is tremendously rewarding."
Q: How does it feel to clinch this championship as an owner?
A: "When I first started at this endeavor I looked at the ALMS championship winning Audis with great awe and reverence, but I have always had an incredibly high degree of self confidence and believed that if one applies oneself thoughtfully and carefully at the task at hand, one can succeed.
"Audi didn't start straight out of the box by winning their first race. It was a carefully crafted and constructed campaign for them to become the powerhouse that they are.
"We have approached our growth in the sport in a very measured, thoughtful and crafted way. On one hand we have great respect for what they had done, but on the other hand there is a feeling that we really do belong considering the amount of effort we have put in.
"Throughout the course of the past couple of years in the ALMS we have gained the respect of our competitors on merit, not on anything else."
Q: Does the championship feel like a "David vs. Goliath" battle for the team considering the big names you have been up against in the Acura program?
A: "We have been the underdog from the very start from when Robert Clarke and HPD first announced that we were going to be one of the teams to represent the Acura brand.
"A lot of people were shocked at the decision. The motivation I feel every day to vindicate Robert's decision has been a driving force behind this team and I am just thrilled we have been able to reward his faith in us.
"We certainly don't have the resources of somebody like Audi even though we have had amazing support from Tequila Patr¢n and other sponsors, and of course Acura, but the idea taking on somebody like Penske last year was a great challenge and we took the fight to them and earned their respect. It is the same this year doing battle against an icon of the sport like Gil de Ferran. He has proved to be just as successful as an owner as he is as a driver and we have thoroughly enjoyed the battle we have had this year.
"The championship win is an incredibly gratifying feeling for everyone. When you visit us, we certainly feel like a smaller type organization with a real family feel. We have a great deal of camaraderie and friendship amongst the guys and it is great for them to share in this."
Q: How does this championship rank compared to your own on-track successes?
A: "My personal victories at Monaco in historics have been tremendously rewarding on an amateur level and a lot of fun, and winning the P2 class with the Fields at Sebring a few years ago was an amazing personal result as well.
"But for my team to win the LMP1 championship in the American Le Mans Series would have to rank as the ultimate achievement of my sporting career.
"I've played sports my whole life and I have never wanted to be a big fish in a small pond, I always wanted to go up against the best competition out there."
Q: Is this just the first step towards more success for Patr¢n Highcroft Racing?
A: "We were in the hunt in the championship in 2007 and finished third overall when the checkered flag fell at 8:00am on a Saturday night in Laguna. The 2008 season started the next day at 8:00am. "This year, we really started our 2010 season quite some time ago. Championship success is a great reward, but it is also about the journey towards that success.
"Some of our guys have many championships to their name and they will also say what their favorite is - the next one.
"There will be no rest for us. Planning for 2010 and even 2011 is already well underway."
Q: How big a role have Scott Sharp and David Brabham played in the development of this team?
A: "Their personalities are certainly very different. Scott has made tremendous progress as a sports car driver after years of action in IndyCar. It was a very big challenge for him at first, but he has worked incredibly hard and formed a fantastic partnership with David.
"Sports car racing is an incredibly different challenge for a driver, but Scott has tackled this with incredible enthusiasm which has really rubbed off throughout this team.
"For David, I don't think there is a driver in the sport that takes his job more seriously. I have never seen a driver that looks so closely at every aspect of his craft and is never satisfied with his performance; the ultimate professional.
"I am really thrilled for both of the guys. Everybody that wears the Patr¢n Highcroft Racing uniform has an incredible passion for this sport and to see that hard work and passion rewarded is amazing. One of the best aspects of winning this championship was to see the sheer joy and delight on my guys' faces - it really means a lot to all of us."
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