After taking the LMP2 victory on the Long Beach streets in 2008, Patrón Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and Scott Sharp return to the USA's oldest street circuit next week in a winning frame of mind in the new LMP1 Acura.
While the 2008 win was a fitting result for the Patrón Highcroft team in the Tequila Patrón-sponsored American Le Mans Series event, the Danbury CT-based squad will be out to add to its 2009 season win tally after claiming victory in St Petersburg at the previous round.
Last year David Brabham grabbed the lead on the next-to-last lap to score the team's first ever American Le Mans Series class victory with a dramatic pass on the Porsche Spyder of Romain Dumas.
Now armed with the new Acura ARX-02a LMP1 car, Brabham and Sharp enjoy a handy 25-point gap over fellow Acura factory squad, de Ferran Motorsports after two races.
The current 1.968 mile Long Beach course began life as a Formula 5000 race back in 1975. It hosted eight Formula 1 events from 1976 to 1983 before CART/Champ Car took over as the headline event.
The American Le Mans Series made its Long Beach debut in 2007. The premier sportscar series will be joined by the IndyCar Championship at Long Beach for the first time this year.
The Long Beach week will be a busy time for Sharp and Brabham. Not only will the American/Australian combination be busy with the team's sponsor also the naming rights sponsor for the ALMS event, Sharp will head for Hollywood on the Tuesday before the race for a gallery reception at the Mikimoto store at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. He will also take part in the official Long Beach event Media Luncheon at the Laugh Factory on Pine Street on Wednesday.
Post-event, David Brabham will headline the team's off-track activities at a key Brit Week fundraiser for the team's Miles to End Malaria program.
With two races now completed, Patrón Highcroft Racing has raised $13,238 to combat malaria deaths in Africa. Patrón Highcroft Racing and Tequila Patrón are pledging $10 for every mile the team races in 2009. Fans join the race to beat malaria by pledging as little as a penny per mile at http://www.milestoendmalaria.org
On track action kicks off next Thursday with two test sessions scheduled for the Long Beach streets at 3:00pm and 5:00pm. Official practice kicks off at 9:00am on Friday morning with qualifying scheduled for 4:30pm.
The 100-minute Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series race starts at 4:15pm on Saturday.
SCOTT SHARP"I love Long Beach, it is definitely one of my most favorite tracks."I remember scoring the pole there many years ago in Trans Am and also had a great race one year in CART for PacWest before having a transmission problem."It has always been a great track for me, but I hadn't been back for quite a while before last year and it was brilliant to return with Brabs and Patrón Highcroft Racing and take the win."It certainly cemented great memories for me."We are still in the very early stages of development with the new Acura and there are going to be some ups and downs until the car gets fully developed - probably towards the end of the year."After the win at St Pete we have some great momentum. Our engineering staff is doing a great job in working out the best setup and they gave us a great car at the last race."It is excellent to be in the position we are in now with a bit of a points gap but it is only the third race of ten. We still have a long way to go and there are a lot of points on the table."We have to keep doing what we are doing and above all - we have to finish races."
DAVID BRABHAM"St Pete was a fantastic result for us and when you win your first race of the year it really gives you a lot of confidence."You go from thinking you can win, to knowing you can win and last year that made a huge difference for Patrón Highcroft Racing."Tequila Patrón is the title sponsor for the Long Beach event and last year was one of those races where you couldn't have written the script better - it was a fantastic finish."We are going there with a lot of confidence, we really like the track and the overall event is brilliant."The track at Long Beach is a little different to St Pete. The Michelin tires behave differently and it is a tricky circuit. I really enjoy racing at Long Beach and the place has a great history. That gives the entire event that special something."Despite having a points lead, we have to be very careful the way we think. We have to go into every race weekend going for the win. A points cushion is very handy because anything can happen in this type of racing but we can't rely on that. We are going to every race to win it."
LONG BEACH BY THE NUMBERSFastest Corner: Turn 7Maximum Corner Speed: > 135 kph (84 mph)Maximum Lateral Gs: > 2.1 G in turn 10Slowest Corner: Turn 11Minimum Corner Speed: > 45 kph (28 mph) Fastest top speed: > 265 kph (165 mph) (+10 kph)Percentage of lap on full throttle: 60%Maximum Braking Gs: > 3.0 GNumber of Brake Applications: 9Gear Changes per lap: 30Left Turns: 6Right Turns: 5
LONG BEACH TIMETABLEThursday, April 16
12:30pm - 2:00pm: Patrón Media Lunch/Happy Hour3:00pm - 4:00am: Testing (all classes)5:00pm - 5:45pm: Testing (all classes)
Friday, April 17
9:00am - 9:40am: Practice (all classes)4:30pm - 4:55pm: Qualifying (LMP1/LMP2)
Saturday, April 18
7:30am - 7:45am: Warm-up4:10pm - 5:55pm: Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach
HIGHCROFT RACING AT LONG BEACH
2008 Acura ARX-01B Brabham/SharpQual: 3rd 1:11.330Race: 3rd (1st in P2) 71 laps
2007 Acura ARX-01a Brabham/JohanssonQual: 5th 1:12.844Race: 4th (4th in P2) 74 laps
DAVID BRABHAM AT LONG BEACH
What is your favorite corner and why?"There are two corners that are really challenging. Turns three and four - the two right-handers after the roundabout with the fountain are really technical and to get through those corners quickly is where I was able to make up a lot of time last year."If you can get those two corners right you are on a good lap."
What is the most challenging aspect of the Long Beach street circuit?"The most challenging aspect of Long Beach is the hairpin leading on to the straight. It is a very tight line and it is quite easy to be overtaken there if there is a bit of a line-up."In the race you have to be very careful. Last year I came up on a slower class car on the final lap and I had to either wait or go around the outside and I almost got pinched against the wall. I did the latter and luckily Dumas in the Porsche couldn't get past me.""You are on full lock there. You have to get the line right otherwise you can completely mess the corner up. Getting it right on the way in is critical and it is also important to get the power down well on exit with a long straight ahead."
What is the secret to a good lap at Long Beach?"Commitment is the key. Massive commitment is required because it is such a short race and tire strategy also plays a key role. We managed to get that right last year. We dropped places early but I had the grip at the end to get past people."
If you could make a change to the circuit, what would it be?"I don't think I would change this circuit either. It is a track that I really enjoy. There is really nothing about the track that I particularly dislike."
What is your favorite memory of Long Beach?"Winning the first race for Patrón Highcroft Racing was really something special. Having worked for the team for more than a year made it very satisfying."Getting my first LMP2 victory also capped off a clean sweep for myself personally with wins in LMP1, LMP2, GT1 and GT2.""Patrón sponsored the event, it was in Acura's backyard so it was a very special time."
LONG BEACH ON TV
USAABCSunday April 19 (Tape Delayed)
12:30pm-2:30pm - Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach
EUROPEMotors TVSunday April 19 (Tape Delayed)
6:05pm-7:20pm - Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach
UNITED KINGDOMMotors TVSunday April 19 (Tape Delayed)
5:00pm-6:30pm - Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach