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De Ferran Acura Claims ALMS Victory in Long Beach

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 18 2009

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Correspondent 

almsLong Beach, Calif. – The Acura ARX-02a of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud claimed victory in the American Le Mans Series sprint in the streets of Long Beach. The de Ferran Motorsports entry was leading the Highcroft Racing Acura of David Brabham by 9.5 seconds when a full-course caution for a fire in the Corvette driven by Boris Said forced the event to end under caution.

The pole-winning Highcroft entry was leading when Scott Sharp pitted at the 59-minute mark of the one hour, 40-minute race. But because a fueler did not have his goggles in place, a 20-second penalty handed the lead to de Ferran. Brabham closed the gap from 17 seconds over the course of the next 35 minutes of green, but was not in position to strike when the race’s only full-course caution flew with five minutes remaining.

The de Ferran team won two poles last year in the LMP2 category Acura ARX-01b, but failed to win a race after its launch midway in the season. Owner/driver de Ferran scored his first victory since his IRL triumph at the Texas Motor Speedway in 2003.

The Lou Giliotti-owned Corvette erupted into flames from a blown engine as Said drove it down the escape road at Turn 1. With flames erupting all around him, Said managed to open the door to his GT2 entry and roll out over the driver side door bars. After catching his breath, the driver walked unassisted to a medical vehicle.

Officials of IMSA, which sanctions the ALMS, elected not to run one final lap of green as the pace car led the pack past the flagstand with scant seconds remaining. The Highcroft Acura was third in line behind leader de Ferran, which closed the final official margin of victory to 1.9 seconds behind the pace vehicle.

It was a double victory for Acura. In LMP2, Lowe’s Ferandez Racing driver Luis Diaz gave up the lead to the Dyson Racing BP Lola-Mazda driven by Guy Smith at the start. But Diaz was the last to pit and regained the lead by establishing a gap for co-driver Adrian Fernandez, who emerged in front of runners-up Chris Dyson and Smith.

In the final North American appearance by the Corvette C6.R in the GT1 category, pole winner Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin had no competition after the sister Corvette of Johnny O’Connell retired with an axle problem before the halfway mark.

The Risi Competizione Ferrari team lost the pole in GT2 on Friday when it failed the ride height inspection after qualifying. The team paid the price on Saturday. Pierre Kaffer was able to bring the Ferrari 430 GT up to second place at the 53-minute mark by diving inside Tom Milner Jr.’s BMW M3.

But the Porsche GT3 RSR of Flying Lizard driven by Patrick Long had a big enough gap to keep co-driver Jorg Bergmeister in the lead after the team’s pit stop. The pole-winning Porsche of Farnbacher Loles was in the lead in the hands of Wolf Henzler when it was forced to pit at the 45-minute mark with a broken right front suspension.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, April 18 2009
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