Two-time American Le Mans Series champion David Brabham is set to again hit the track in Highcroft Racing colors for next week's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The popular Australian ex-Formula 1 driver and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner is the first of three drivers confirmed for Highcroft for the opening round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
Brabham has played a key role in the development of the new HPD ARX-01e LMP1 machine, completing miles aboard the Wirth Research simulator in the UK in preparation for the Sebring race which doubles as the opening round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Brabham joined Highcroft Racing in 2007 with the launch of the factory Acura LMP2 team and has been the mainstay of the squad – leading the Duncan Dayton-owned organization to 11 class victories and championship wins in 2009 and 2010.
“It will be great to get out there and start running and, from what I have seen so far, the HPD ARX-01e has enormous potential,” Brabham said. “I have driven the car on the simulator and been very impressed, but until we get it out there on the track we really won't know for sure.
“Obviously, we would have preferred to have had more testing miles under our belt prior to the Sebring race but if there is one thing I know about the guys at Highcroft Racing is that they respond to pressure in the best possible way and do an outstanding job.”
The ARX-01e will hit the track at Sebring later this week before completing more testing miles on Monday and Tuesday. Official practice for Sebring begins on Thursday, March 17.
Brabham is eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return to the track to ascertain how the new-for-2011 rules package balances out the competition between the dominant diesel-powered prototypes and the 3.4 liter gasoline-powered HPD package.
“Audi and Peugeot have had their cars out there earlier than anybody so they will be better prepared than anyone,” he said. “Our goal is to fast-track the development of the 01e and Sebring is the perfect environment for that. Sebring is a great place to test a car in what really is a violent environment – it is certainly the toughest race in the world on equipment.
“It has been a real pleasure to be involved with these development programs from the first LMP2 car through to the ARX-02a which we won the championship with in 2009. And now to have a newly designed LMP1 version ready to compete at Sebring is very exciting. I'm really looking forward to continuing that process with the new car.”
Brabham's teammates aboard the Highcroft machine will be unveiled later this week.
Team boss Duncan Dayton said he is looking forward to having Brabham back aboard the Highcroft car with the aim of continuing their great history of success.
“David has been the linchpin of the Highcroft program since we first kicked things off with Acura and HPD in 2007,” Dayton said. “He has been in the car for every one of our 11 victories and helped us to back-to-back championship victories. We're looking forward to adding a few more chapters to the David Brabham/Highcroft Racing story.”
The new HPD ARX-01e is a further development of last year's championship-winning LMP2 car. The revised package has been heavily redesigned over the off-season to bring the car up to LMP1 specifications.
The team announced Wednesday that Marino Franchitti will also be on the team's riving strength for Sebring.