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Highcroft Acura Team Comes Back To Take Fourth Saturday In 1st Long Beach American

Dario Franchitti and the No. 26 XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01a were the class of the American Le Mans Series field Saturday in the series’ debut at the famed Long Beach Grand Prix. Unfortunately, the Andretti Green Racing driving pair of Franchitti and Bryan Herta didn’t end up in Victory Lane.

Franchitti, the first pole winner for the new Acura sports car program, drove away from the 25-car field and held a 30-second advantage when he pitted under the green flag on lap 46. Herta jumped in the Acura with a full fuel tank and four fresh Michelin tires but trailed the first five cars when he exited pit lane.

At the finish of one-hour, 40-minute race on the 1.9-mile street circuit in downtown Long Beach, the two Penske Porsches topped the charts with a solid race strategy and their second straight victory in the ALMS tour. Third went to the Dyson Porsche, followed by the No. 9 Highcroft Acura ARX-01a codriven by Stefan Johansson and David Brabham.

The Highcroft crew did an excellent job in the pits with Johansson handing off the driving chores to Brabham under the only yellow flag period of the 73-lap race. Brabham battled for a leading position right out of pit lane and spun his mount in a runoff area. The Aussie drove back hard from 11th to fourth and was the top Acura finisher.

The Franchitti-Herta pair had to make a late fuel stop and came home both sixth overall and in the LMP2 division, as the top six finishers all came from the smaller engine prototype class. Seventh was the first LMP1 Audi, followed by the No. 15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura Lola B06/40 co-driven by Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. Fernandez was in position to place his car on the podium at Long Beach when he was force to pit for fuel on the final lap.

The American Le Mans Series travels to Houston next weekend for the Lone Star Grand Prix near Reliant Stadium and the famed Astrodome on Saturday, April 21, at 5:30 p.m. (CDT).

LMP2 Class
1. Penske Porsche No. 7
2. Penske Porsche No. 6
Upcoming: Lone Star Grand Prix
Date: April 20-21, 2007
Location: Grand Prix of Houston street course
Track Type: 1.69-mile, 10-turn street circuit
Race: Round 4 of 12 Races, 5:30 p.m.
American Le Mans Series
Distance: 2 hour, 45 minutes


DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): “We played the yellow flag strategy just right today. I tried to push it on the first lap out of the pits and I spun. I didn’t hit anything but I lost some ground to the leaders. Once the tires were hot I thought the car was very good. At the end, I had to save a lot of fuel so we slowed the pace of our Acura tremendously. But we brought home the top Acura finish today and that is good for this young Highcroft team. We are learning more with each race.”

STEFAN JOHANSSON (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01a): “Our Acura was pretty good in the early part of the race. I drove the first 30 minutes and we pitted just right for the yellow. I had to blip the engine a bunch of times to time entering the pits just right. But we had a pretty good car today. I was
proud of this team’s strategy throughout the race. They are learning how to race up front.”

LUIS DIAZ: (#15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura Lola 06/40): “I was pushing the car pretty hard at the start of the race and trying to get by Stefan [Johansson]. The car felt a little too loose and I was sliding the car a lot. We had some tough luck today with Adrian’s run but we had a good pace today. We just didn’t have enough fuel to get to the end.”

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura Lola 06/40): “Our Lowe’s Acura was fast today. I think if we had a late-race yellow we could have challenged the Porsches. We really had to save fuel at the end to get to the finish and we ran out on the last lap. I think our strategy was pretty good today but we didn’t get that full-course yellow flag to race for the win. Overall, I am pleased with the car’s setup and I think we have a car to win right now. We just didn’t get the breaks we needed. I feel good about going to Houston next week.”

DARIO FRANCHITTI (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): “Well, I think we showed we had the car to beat today. We sealed our fate when we pitted under green. We were looking for a second yellow-flag period. As long as I have raced here at Long Beach, I would have bet you that there would be more than one full-course yellow. But it didn’t happen and we were set in the middle of the field. You learn those things in sports-car racing. AGR is a tremendous operation and we’ll come back and race for the win again. As a driver, you just don’t have many opportunities like this one today. We had a great car. But we didn’t win.”

BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01a): “It’s disappointing because we had the best car. We just didn’t win the race. Luckily, we have a race next week we will concentrate on [in Houston] and forget about this race. I had a good battle with one of the Audis…they are fast on the straights and we are fast in the corners. Unfortunately, you can pass on the straights and you really can’t pass in the corners here. I was ready to go on the full course yellow. I had my helmet on and I was up on the wall. We just didn’t pit then. Hey, this is a good team and we’ll be ready to race for the win at Houston.”

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