Gil de Ferran brought his professional racing career to an end with victory in the American Le Mans Series finale at Laguna Seca, but de Ferran and teammate Simon Pagenaud's race win was not enough to prevent Highcroft's David Brabham and Scott Sharp clinching the LMP1 title.
De Ferran had to resist huge pressure from the LMP2 Fernandez Acura, which came agonizingly close to its first outright win in what could be the team's last race.
While de Ferran and Pagenaud led the majority of the four-hour race, Highcroft had a series of scares. Brabham immediately fell away from Pagenaud at the start – the Frenchman leading by 3.5sec after just two laps – and then lost second to Jon Field's Intersport Lola at the restart from an early yellow caused by the Cytosport Porsche tangling with the Drayson Lola.
Brabham spent 13 laps stuck behind Field, by which time Pagenaud was over 40sec clear in the lead. Another yellow wiped out that advantage, but the restart saw more trouble for Highcroft as its Acura was caught up in a multi-car tangle triggered by Corvette GT2 driver Oliver Gavin. An extra pit stop was required to attend to rear bodywork damage, and Brabham was back in again soon afterwards so a gearbox glitch could be fixed, leaving him two laps down before half distance.
Everything ran smoothly after that though, with Sharp and Brabham cruising home in third place, having secured the title once they reached the 70 percent distance required to be classified as a points finisher.
De Ferran's toughest rival in the first half of the race was the bio-butanol Dyson Lola-Mazda LMP2, which had to miss qualifying and was not permitted to score due to its experimental fuel. The car tore through the field from the back of the grid and mid-race yellows allowed Guy Smith to hassle de Ferran for a while – until contact with Olivier Beretta's GT2 Corvette damaged the Dyson Lola's suspension.
Then in the final stint Adrian Fernandez charged onto de Ferran's tail as the Brazilian tried to stretch his fuel mileage and double-stint his final set of tires. The LMP2 car squeezed ahead into the last corner with 24 minutes to go, but lost out to the LMP1 Acura's horsepower on the pits straight. Fernandez tried his utmost, but ultimately had to be content with second and another class win. Their LMP2 rivals Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti (Dyson) retired early.
Corsa's hybrid Ginetta-Zytek had a promising afternoon, running as high as second, but was delayed by a wiring loom issue and a puncture and fell to fifth behind the Autocon Lola.
Flying Lizard Porsche duo Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long became GT2 champions early in the race when the rival Risi Ferrari had to retire. Risi's Pierre Kaffer had run third behind the Corvettes at first, but got ahead in the pits and thanks to the Gavin accident. A win was the least Risi required as Flying Lizard could clinch the title with a top-10 finish, and in the end the Ferrari squad conceded defeat early after its car was damaged in a collision with the new RSR Jaguar.
Bergmeister went on to win the class in a ferocious battle with Jan Magnussen's Corvette. The Dane was ordered to relinquish the lead on the final lap having overtaken using part of the pitlane, then barged back ahead with an aggressive last corner move, only to end up hitting the wall when Bergmeister fought back on the run to the line.
The Farnbacher Loles Porsche beat the PTG Panoz to third in a similarly close – but less violent – fight, as one BMW suffered an early failure and the other was delayed in the Gavin tangle.
Shane Lewis and Mitchell Pageray claimed GT Challenge class victory by just 0.6sec over Guy Cosmo and John Baker.