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Pagenaud Wins With Late Pass

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 17 2010

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

Simon Pagenaud took the lead from a sliding Adrian Fernandez on the last lap to win the American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach. The driver of the Acura ARX-01C chassis lost the lead to the Lola-Aston Martin of Fernandez six minutes before the finish of the one hour and forty-minute race, but when the Mexican driver hit a bump at Turn 5 on the final circuit, Pagenaud pounced.

With the aid of slower traffic at the end of the back straight and on the front straight, the Acura, officially known as an HPD (for Honda Performance Development), was able to hold off the Aston in the short run from the Hairpin to the checkers to win by 0.353 seconds.

“I keep telling Adrian he’s too old for this,” said Pagenaud. “I just kept putting pressure on him to see if something might happen and on the last lap it did.”

The No. 007 Aston began losing its brakes during Primat’s opening stint and that finally caught out Fernandez. “I almost spun and I almost hit the wall,” he said. “I was lucky to keep going.”

It was not the first battle between the entries of Highcroft Racing and Aston Martin Racing. At the one-hour mark, David Brabham dove inside the Aston of Harold Primat at Turn 8, knocking the Aston askew and into a tire wall. The Aston continued with left rear bodywork torn off and Brabham was brought into the pits for a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact, but maintained the lead lap.

When a full-course caution flew ten minutes later, the Highcroft team and Pagenaud got out of the pits first by not changing Michelin tires.The Frenchman held the lead until Fernandez, who had re-started third, was able to use the Aston’s superior speed on the Shoreline Drive straight to get back into the lead scant minutes before the finish.

The race was the first where sanctioning body IMSA brought the LMP2 category cars into comparable specifications to the larger displacement LMP1’s, which had their air restrictors reduced after the season-opening Sebring 12-hour. The 12-hour race was run under the official Le Mans 24-hour rules. The lighter LMP2 entries were also able to add 10 liters of fuel to their tanks to make pit strategy similar.

After a spectacular crash at Sebring, the Intersport Racing team of John Field rebounded to take a 20-second lead in the first hour after the incident between Brabham and Primat. But the team needed fresh Dunlops on its pit stop and later had to withdraw after a fuel leak. The Porsche RS Spyder of Greg Pickett and Klaus Graf took third, nine seconds behind the leaders, followed by the Lola-Mazda entry of Dyson Racing’s Chris Dyson and Guy Smith, one second further back.

In the GT class, tires told the tale in a victory by Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long. The Rahal Letterman Racing team brought its No. 92 BMW M3 into the pits early on lap 24, switched drivers and took fuel but no fresh Dunlop tires. That put Tom Milner Jr. into the lead when the other GT contenders pitted at the one-hour mark under caution at lap 36.

Restarting third in class, Long was the first out of the pits on fresh tires in the Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. He quickly passed the BMW of Joey Hand, then Long went to work on Milner. “He didn’t take tires and we did,” said Long, “so we had the better car. After I let him block me for six laps, I had to make something happen.”

Long got underneath at the end of the back straight as Milner slid wide at the apex after defending the corner. The Corvette of Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen, which also took tires, got by to finish second, four seconds behind the winning Porsche.

In the LMPC class for spec Oreca FLM09 chassis, Elton Julian and Gunnar Jeannette took top honors. In the GTC class for Porsche GT3 Cup entries, Sebring winners Roberto Gonzalez and Butch Leitzinger again won in an Alex Job Racing entry.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 17 2010
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