Andretti Green Racing added an ironic twist to the American Le Mans Series weekend in Detroit by claiming its first victory of the year just 24 hours after not officially being included in Acura's plans for 2009.
Despite a relatively slow start to the event, Franck Montagny brought AGR into prime position as he beat the field back on to the track after a mass pit-stop and then resisted pressure, first from Timo Bernhard and, later, from polewinner David Brabham to beat the Australian to the flag by a comfortable four seconds.
Montagny benefited from two key moments in the run to the flag, with Bernhard being called for a stop-go penalty that removed him from under the rear wing of the AGR Acura, and then surviving an investigation into a possible pace car infraction of his own.
Cleared of any suggestion that he had passed the retiring Corvette at the end of the final full course caution, the former Super Aguri F1 racer made full use of his lightning restart to maintain a healthy gap back to Brabham as the leaders negotiated traffic around the tight Belle Isle course.
LMP2 points leaders Bernhard and Dumas should have extended their dwindling advantage over Brabham and Highcroft co-driver Scott Sharp by finishing, at worst, second to Montagny and James Rossiter, but Bernhard's determination to try and overhaul the Frenchman eventually led to his downfall.
Having made a couple of optimistic attempts to pass the AGR car, the German tried to follow it past GT2 leader Johannes van Overbeek, but caught the American unawares and ended up spinning his Porsche into the wall. Although van Overbeek was willing to accpt his share of the blame for the contact, ALMS officials decided that Bernhard was the guilty party and called him for a costly penalty that dropped him, and Penske Porsche, out of contention.
Bernhard's afternoon got worse when he clipped a wall on his first lap after being released from the penalty box, damaging the left front corner and requiring another precautionary pit-stop for a tyre change. Dropping to seventh in class, and promoting Brabham and Highcroft to second on the road as a consequence, Bernhard pressed hard to make up lost ground, but had to rely on a strategic late tyre change for the #6 sister car to gain sufficient points to remain at the head of the P2 points race.
With Brabham claiming second spot, and closing the P2 gap to just four points, the final two races take on greater significance, particularly as Acura now appears more than a match for the Porsches. AGR's victory - its first sinc giving Acura a winning debut at Sebring last year - took the marque ahead of its German rival in the manufacturer standings, while de Ferran Motorsports' third place gave Acura a clean sweep of the class podium for the first time.
Rossiter and Montagny were joined as first time winners by Audi's Marcel Fassler, who partnered veteran Emanuele Pirro to LMP1 success for Audi.