Simon Pagenaud scored a brilliant victory for Patron Highcroft Acura by taking the lead in dramatic fashion from Adrian Fernandez's factory AMR Lola coupe he shared with David Brabham on the last lap of a 100-minute American Le Mans Series thriller at Long Beach.
Showing off the series' new regulations to equalize LMP1 and LMP2 to perfection, the Aston and the Acura crews put on a race-long battle that was only settled in the last 45 seconds of the race when Fernandez made a mistake and allowed the more nimble but less powerful HPD ARX-01c through to win.
Harold Primat took advantage of Aston Martin's pole position and built an early lead from a fast-starting Jon Field, with Brabham dropping to third. But within minutes of the green flag the first caution was raised after Tom Papadopoulos crashed his LMPC ORECA. This was followed by another caution almost immediately as Chris Dyson skated his Lola into the wall at Turn 1.
All of Primat's hard work already undone, his misery was then compounded at the restart as Field powered by into the lead.
At was at this point that the Aston began to encounter brake problems and, for all its power, held up Brabham. The Australian got frustrated, as he later admitted, and went for an opportunistic pop down the inside of Primat just after the 30 minute mark. The pair made contact, damaging the back of the Aston and instigating a stop in the penalty box for Brabham.
The significant build up of debris also prompted the third, and race-changing caution period, around half distance.
Highcroft's excellent stop vaulted the team into the lead, recovering all of the time it had lost to Brabham's penalty, while the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder also got ahead of both Field's Intersport Lola and Fernandez (now installed in the Aston). Fernandez put on a charge and quickly dispensed of the Intersport car, though it took him longer to get by Klaus Graf in the Muscle Milk Porsche.
All the while, Pagenaud maintained around 4sec gap to the race behind him, but once into second, the Mexican closed the Acura down fast. With around 10 laps to go, Fernandez got past Pagenaud on the back straight. Once in the lead however, he couldn't pull away as his rear brakes faded further and lapping traffic became a problem. In the end it all culminated in that last lap error at Turn 5, and once ahead again Pagenaud ensured he stayed there.
Graf and Tom Pickett took a well-deserved third ahead of Guy Smith, who forged the Dyson Lola back up to fourth following its earlier off.
The GT battle was just as exciting and also pivoted on that crucial third caution. The Rahal Letterman BMWs pitted early and the team chose to gamble on running the cars on one set of tires through the race. This gave Tommy Milner and Joey Hand track position and moved them ahead of early leader Wolf Henzler's Falken Tires Porsche through this phase of the race.
Patrick Long (Flying Lizard Porsche) and Gianmaria Bruni (Risi Ferrari) also moved up to third and fourth in the stops.
But as the tires on the M3s faded, so Long, always one for a street fight, began to force his way through, trailed by the Ferrari and a hard-charging Jan Magnussen in the Corvette.
Long made short work of Hand and quickly closed up behind Milner. As Hand dropped further back, Long looked for ways past Milner and eventually dummied him from left to right on the backstretch. Magnussen, who had scrabbled his way to front of the pursuing pack, also got past Milner before the race's end.
Gunner Jeanette and Elton Julian took the Le Mans Prototype Challenge class win, finishing fifth overall in an excellent drive while the GT Challenge honours went to Butch Leitzinger in the Alex Job Porsche.
Pos Driver Class Car Result
1. Brabham/Pagenaud LMP HPD ARX-01c 67 laps
2. Primat/Fernandez LMP Aston Martin Lola + 0.353s
3. Pickett/Graf LMP Porsche RS Spyder + 9.472s
4. Dyson/Smith LMP Lola B09 86 Mazda + 10.903s
5. Julian/Jeannette LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 1 lap
6. Tucker/Bouchut LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 2 laps
7. Hildebrand/Sutherland LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 2 laps
8. Bergmeister/Long GT Porsche 911 RSR + 2 laps
9. Drissi/Davis LMP Lola B06 10 + 2 laps
10. Magnussen/O'Connell GT Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 + 2 laps
11. Auberlen/Milner GT BMW M3 GT + 2 laps
12. Melo/Bruni GT Ferrari 430 GT + 2 laps
13. Mueller/Hand GT BMW M3 GT + 2 laps
14. Sellers/Henzler GT Porsche 911 RSR + 2 laps
15. Sharp/van Overbeek GT Ferrari 430 GT + 2 laps
16. Brown)/Cosmo GT Ferrari 430 GT + 3 laps
17. Pagerey/Wong LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 4 laps
18. Beretta/Gavin GT Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 + 4 laps
19. Gonzalez/Leitzinger GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps
20. Curtis/Sofronas GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps
21. Sweedler)/Kapudija GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps
22. Bonilla/Marcelli LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 5 laps
23. Robertson/Murry GT Doran Ford GT-R + 5 laps
24. Lewis/Vento GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 5 laps
25. Drayson/Cocker LMP Lola B09 60 + 5 laps
26. Miller/McMullen GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 6 laps
27. Rodriguez)/Bieker GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 6 laps
28. Gonzalez/Diaz GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 7 laps
29. Pappas/Bleekemolen GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 7 laps
30. Field/Field LMP Lola B06 10 + 19 laps
31. Richard)/Lally GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 19 laps
32. Gentilozzi/Dalziel GT Jaguar XKRS + 22 laps
33. Law/Neiman GT Porsche 911 RSR + 39 laps
34. Beggs/Baron GTC Porsche 911 GT3 + 61 laps
35. Mowlem/Papadopoulos LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 64 laps