Fantastic Finish for Highcroft at Long Beach

April 17, 2010

Fantastic Finish for Highcroft at Long Beach

April 17, 2010

Simon Pagenaud celebrates his win at Long Beach. Photo credit: Rick Dole

Both the LMP and GT battles for the win came down to the final laps of the American Le Mans Series at Long Beach, as Michelin swept the three categories in which the tire manufacturer participates.

Simon Pagenaud made a last lap pass of Adrian Fernandez on the exit of the right-handed turn 5 to take the overall win for Highcroft Racing over Aston Martin Racing.

Fernandez slid wide and Pagenaud dove to the outside in setting up the next turn, the left-handed turn 6, but completed the pass. Pagenaud held off Fernandez by 0.353 of a second.

“What great sports car racing and an unbelievable last lap,” Pagenaud said. “We gained our track position in pits, and the car was beautiful. The Michelin tires didn’t show any signs of weakness. It was the best win of my career.”

Previously, Fernandez took the lead from Pagenaud into turn 1 with five minutes remaining. But Fernandez was unable to hold the position on the final circuit.

Both teams recovered from an incident between the two with the starting drivers. David Brabham for Highcroft contacted Harold Primat in the Aston at turn 8, with Brabham being assessed a stop-go penalty for avoidable contact.

“I tagged him, but we made it up with a great pit stop to get us back out,” Brabham said.

Third after running an uninterrupted race was the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder of Klaus Graf and Greg Pickett. The team also won the prototype division of the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge, as the car that ran the fastest, cleanest and most efficient during the course of the race. The Porsche runs on E10 fuel.

The top three finishers overall and in the prototype division race on MICHELIN® tires.

The No. 45 Flying Lizard Porsche won in GT and the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge. Photo credit: Rick Dole

It was a double dip of victories for the Flying Lizard No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which took both the GT class and GT MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge victories. The Lizard car runs on E85 ethanol.

Like in prototypes, the winning driver had to make a late race pass to capture the victory. The protagonist here was Patrick Long, who passed the Rahal Letterman BMW M3 of Tommy Milner. Long co-drove with Joerg Bergmeister to capture the first win of the season for the Lizards.

“Tommy didn’t take tires,” Long explained. “I would have stayed patient, but you had to go. I got down the inside, and locked up a little bit on exit. There was a little contact but we were fine.”

Milner, who co-drove with Bill Auberlen, fell to third by the checkers — also passed by the lead No. 3 Corvette ZR1 of Jan Magnussen and Johnny O’Connell. The Corvette needed a rebound from a disastrous first race at Sebring, and gained it with the form of a needed second place finish.

The BMW finished third, the marquee’s second straight race with a podium this year after placing both of its cars second and third at Sebring.

The Sebring winners and this race’s pole sitters in GT, Risi Ferrari finished fourth after a slower pit stop than some of its competitors. The Ferrari had a good dice with the No. 17 Porsche for the first half of the race.

Both prototype and GT drivers alike acknowledged it was difficult to pass, but making the maneuvers stick helped for success.

“It was entertaining but with a lot of disruptions,” said Brabham, Pagenaud’s co-driver. He said the speed differential of certain cars made it difficult to pass.

“You could pass, but if (the other driver) defends, it’s virtually impossible,” Long said.

Three cautions, two of them early, slowed the pace in the mad dash of a 100-minute timed race. The third caution, which came 51 minutes into the race, severely shuffled the deck as most of the field came in for their one and only stop.

It was a mix of teams choosing to take or not take tires on the only stop. However, each team did need to refuel the car and change drivers.

Despite the high car count there were not too many major incidents. Three prototypes nosed into the wall, one of them under caution.

The next round of the ALMS season resumes May 22 just 350 miles up the road in California, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Latest Photos

Latest Video

A memorable IMSA season ended with the excitement of Motul Petit Le Mans

Wednesday October 18, 2023