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Brabham Wins At Mosport

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2009

By Jonathan Ingram | Senior Writer

almsBowmanville, Ont. – On a cool August day at Mosport, the Patron Highcroft Racing team completed a flawless weekend with a victory by Scott Sharp and David Brabham that brought the Acura drivers one step closer to icing an LMP1 championship.

In an uncharacteristically choppy performance during the eighth round of the American Le Mans Series, the de Ferran Motorsports team suffered problems throughout the weekend with the XM Radio Acura ARX-02a. A broken gearbox had to be replaced on Saturday prior to qualifying, then a leaky gearbox spelled doom in the race. A radio snafu also contributed to Highcroft’s final winning margin of one lap.

In the end, Simon Pagenaud set the fastest race lap, but it was too little too late for him and teammate Gil de Ferran after an extra pit stop to add oil to the leaky transmission.

“We’ve had 100 percent reliability since Sebring and that’s what it takes to win championships,” said Brabham, who won the pole in his ARX-02a. “It’s unfortunate that the de Ferran team had problems. It could have been a great battle.”

The Petit Le Mans now looms as decisive for the de Ferran team in the championship. The 1,000-mile contest at Road Atlanta pays bonus points due to its distance. But the de Ferran team will have to count on a poor finish by Highcroft to get back into the hunt. Both teams will also face the factory entries of Audi and Peugeot in the Petit at Road Atlanta, which could take many of the points off the table.

“I was very happy with the car,” said Pagenaud of the oil-streaked Acura’s performance. “But we had to make a final stop just to be sure.”

Dyson Racing was en route to also turning in a winning weekend with its No. 20 Lola-Dyson when a blown engine cost it the lead in the LMP2 category with 12 minutes remaining. Marino Franchitti won his second straight pole before the remarkable Scotsman took the over-all lead in traffic for Dyson at the 30-minute mark against the more powerful LMP1 leader Sharp’s ARX-02a. Franchitti then held the lead for 10 minutes, opening a 3.6-second margin at one point.

Co-driver Butch Leitzinger retained the class lead for Dyson after the final round of pit stops over the rival Lowe’s Fernandez Racing team’s LMP2-class Acura. But an effort to save fuel and then the engine problem for Leitzinger enabled Adrian Fernandez to close up to his rear wing just before the blow-up. The class victory clinched the championship for the Mexican duo in LMP2.

A long caution midway in the race for the spin and crash by Dyson’s Chris Dyson, ironically, enabled the No. 20 Dyson entry to apparently gain the fuel mileage it needed for its thirsty turbocharged engine versus the V-8 in the Acura ARX-01b of Fernandez.

Driver Dyson had lost two dive planes from the nose of his Lola and after altering his line to pass a GT2 entry the car “got wobbly,” he said. “Once that happens you’re not going to get it back.” He was not injured after backing into the tire barrier.

In the breezy, cloudy day’s most hotly contested class contest, the factory teams of BMW, Corvette and Ferrari traded the lead throughout the two hour, 45-minute event before Jan Magnussen emerged in front after the final round of stops aboard the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. But not before the Danish driver went door-to-door on his cold tires with the Ferrari of Pierre Kaffer in Turn 3. Both drivers had changed Michelin tires on their final pit stops.

“It was fair and proper racing,” said Kaffer, whose outside position at Turn 3 left him hung out for the ensuing Moss Curves. Since the Corvette’s final stop came with 25 minutes remaining, there was not enough laps to bring the Ferrari’s consistency on its Michelin tires into play. Jaime Melo started the Ferrari at the back after a crash in practice took him out of qualifying, but the Risi crew had the 430 Berlinetta race ready again before midnight.

It was the first victory in the GT2 category since Corvette Racing elected to change to the production-based class after the Le Mans 24-hour to race head-to-head with GM’s market rivals . It took three races to find victory lane for the formerly dominant team in GT1.

The Ferrari duo of Melo and Kaffer gained points on the Flying Lizards pair of Jorg Borgmeister and Patrick Long in the championship race, which now stands at 137 points to 107. The Lizards’ Porsche suffered front end damage when Long had unavoidable contact with the BMW M3 of Bill Auberlen early in the event when both were balked by a prototype driver. The ensuing pit stop stop to repair the problems to the GT3 RSR’s front end left the Lizards a lap down.

After Dirk Mueller won the pole for Rahal Letterman Racing in a Dunlop-shod BMW, starting driver Tom Milner Jr. reported inconsistent handling on his tires throughout his first stint. An early pit stop cost a lap the team never made up. The contact to Auberlen’s right rear quarterpanel put him several laps down for repairs.

Corvette’s Oliver Gavin and Olivier Beretta, drivers of the No. 4 entry, were in the mix all day. But when Beretta had to alter his line at the high-speed brow of Turn 2 for an LMP1 car near the two-hour mark, the Frenchman lost the lead with a trip through the grass that nearly ended at the tire wall. That broke up a 20-minute, nose-to-tail duel between Beretta, Kaffer and Magnussen.

Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jingram@racintoday.com.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, August 30 2009
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