Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and Scott Sharp took the new Acura LMP1's first victory in round two of the American Le Mans Series at St Petersburg.
With the Acuras by far the fastest cars in the disappointing 17-car entry -- an all-time low for the championship -- it was always likely that either Highcroft or De Ferran Motorsports would give the company its maiden LMP1 win at the Florida street track.
At first it looked like De Ferran would have that honor, as owner/driver Gil de Ferran stormed away from Sharp at up to one second per lap in the opening stint. Sharp was then further delayed with a trip off the road, briefly dropping him behind the LMP2 Fernandez Acura, although he narrowed the gap back to under 10 seconds as the leaders hit traffic.
Highcroft then benefited from the timing of the race's only caution. Although Duncan Dayton's team had a slow stop and fell back behind the Fernandez car, it was able to make its driver change under yellow, whereas De Ferran had stopped just before the pace car came out.
When racing resumed with 47 minutes to go, Adrian Fernandez briefly led overall before Brabham put the LMP1 Acura back in front. De Ferran's victory hopes ended soon afterward when the car developed recurring electrical problems and tumbled down the order.
While Brabham and Fernandez cruised home to clinch first and second overall, and both prototype class victories, the two Dyson Lola-Mazdas made it to the finish in third and fourth, despite a warm-up crash for Chris Dyson and an early spin by Marino Franchitti.
The early GT2 leaders all hit trouble before half-distance. Pierre Kaffer led from pole at first in the Risi Ferrari, but after briefly falling behind Bill Auberlen's BMW, Farnbacher Loles Porsche driver Wolf Henzler hunted down and passed the Sebring class winner within 11 laps.
However none of the trio made it much further. Kaffer suffered a suspension failure, the BMW failed to restart after its pitstop, and Henzler lost 12 laps due to damage from a severe puncture.
That allowed the Flying Lizard Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long to take a comfortable victory. Dirk Muller and Tom Milner fought through to a distant second in the new Rahal Letterman BMW, battling past the PTG Panoz and the LG Riley Corvette after losing ground during the stops.
St. Petersburg American Le Mans Series results
1. 9 P1 1. D.Brabham, S.Sharp Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a 93
2. 15 P2 1. A.Fernandez, L.Diaz Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b 93 -32.150
3. 16 P2 2. C.Dyson, G.Smith Dyson Racing Mazda Lola B09 86 92 -1 laps
4. 20 P2 3. B.Leitzinger, M.Franchitti Dyson Racing Mazda Lola B09 86 91 -2 laps
5. 45 GT2 1. J.Bergmeister, P.Long Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 88 -5 laps
6. 37 P1 2. J.Field, C.Field, C.Ducote Intersport Racing Lola B06/10 AER 88 -5 laps
7. 92 GT2 2. D.Mueller, T.Milner BMW Rahal Letterman Racing BMW E92 M3 86 -7 laps
8. 21 GT2 3. D.Farnbacher, I.James Panoz Team PTG Panoz Esperante 86 -7 laps
9. 28 GT2 4. L.Gigliotti, E.Curran LG Motorsports Riley Corvette C6 85 -8 laps
10. 44 GT2 5. S.Neiman, D.Law Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 84 -9 laps
11. 40 GT2 6. A.Robertson, D.Murry Robertson Racing Doran Ford GT MK 7 83 -10 laps
12. 87 GT2 7. D.Werner, W.Henzler Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR 74 -19 laps
13. 66 P1 3. G.de Ferran, S.Pagenaud de Ferran Motorsports Acura ARX-02a 66 -27 laps
14. 11 GT2 8. J.Feingerg, C.Hall Primetime Race Group Dodge Viper Comp Coupe 38 -55 laps
15. 22 GT2 9. T.Sutherland, R.Phinney Panoz Team PTG Panoz Esperante 38 -55 laps
16. 90 GT2 10. B.Auberlen, J.Hand BMW Rahal Letterman Racing BMW E92 M3 28 -65 laps
17. 62 GT2 11. J.Melo, P.Kaffer Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT 27 -66 laps