LMP – Highcroft, Michelin conquer heat, double-stint for hat trick

July 11, 2010

LMP – Highcroft, Michelin conquer heat, double-stint for hat trick

July 11, 2010

Fast pit stops, great corner handling and the durability of the tires were vital in Highcroft HPD's third straight ALMS win. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

The last American Le Mans Series race at Monterey and Sunday’s at Utah could not have been more different in terms of temperature and straight line speed. Temperatures neared 90 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and 110 on track on Sunday after ending in the 40’s and 50’s at Monterey. But for Patron Highcroft Racing, the challenge made the triumph all the more satisfying.

Despite trailing the fastest prototypes by an astonishing 30 mph down the more than a half-mile front straight, the Highcroft HPD ARX 01-c driven by David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud scored their third consecutive ALMS win this season. It is also Pagenaud’s second straight at Utah. They atoned for the speed differential on the front straight with great handling through the sweeping 15 turns on the 3.048-mile permanent road course. The team ran the low downforce aerodynamic package they debuted at Le Mans this weekend.

“The Michelin tires kept going quicker and quicker, it was so good,” Pagenaud said. “We were a bit loose from the lack of rear wing but we got it back toward the end. I kept pushing and pushing to make good lap times and I could then take the lead again.”

Michelin technical partners Highcroft, the Drayson Racing Lola Judd Coupe and Muscle Milk Team CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder swept the podium after double-stinting their sets of MICHELIN® tires for the final hour and a half.

Pagenaud’s last stop for fuel only saw the Frenchman exit the pits still 12 seconds clear of Emanuele Pirro in the Drayson Lola. Before that Pagenaud had reeled off a series of fast laps to stay in front before the last stop. The pair had exchanged the lead several times and Pirro led a large chunk of the middle portion of the race for Drayson after taking over from Jonny Cocker. Second still marks the best result for Paul Drayson’s team in ALMS competition after a great drive from both pilots.

Klaus Graf and Greg Pickett took the Muscle Milk Team CytoSport Porsche RS Spyder to its eighth consecutive podium finish, dating to last year, in third place. Graf’s fastest lap was three tenths off the race’s fastest lap, 1:36.291, set by Pirro.

Despite leading early on with another fast start from Jon Field, the Intersport Lola AER finished fourth with Jon and son Clint behind the wheel. The Autocon Lola AER lost a few laps in the pits and the Dyson Racing Lola Mazda Coupe retired with less than a half hour to go, in a near mirror image of what happened last race in Monterey.

Although Drayson came up just shy of their first ALMS win, the team did capture the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge for prototypes, giving a prototype running on Cellulosic E85 (second generation ethanol) its first win of the season. It is the fourth different prototype to win the award in as many races.

This marks a significant achievement for team owner Paul Drayson, who despite not driving this weekend due to a non-racing related injury was very much evident at Salt Lake City as a spectator with his family well in tow. Drayson is a member of the ALMS’ “Green Dream Team” and as a former Minister of Science and Innovation in the British House of Lords, is highly involved in the development of green technologies.

The LMPC race was once again contested between the No. 55 Level 5 Motorsports and No. 99 Green Earth Team Gunnar entries, with the No. 55 taking its third win in four races with drivers Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut.

However, it was an impressive run for both the No. 99 and third-placed No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports cars. Both cars ran the entire two hour, 45-minute race without changing their set of hard compound MICHELIN® tires, and Gunnar Jeannette in the No. 99 set his personal fastest lap of the race on lap 63, a lap before his second and final stop. The PR1/Mathiasen car of Alex Figge and Max Hyatt scored the team’s first podium finish in ALMS.

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