With the LMP2 title fight entering a critical stage, Patron Highcroft Racing has announced that 2007 IndyCar Series title winner Dario Franchitti will partner David Brabham and Scott Sharp for the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Brabham and Sharp head into the event on the back of a recent run of strong form that has carried them to within four points of LMP2 points leaders Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, with the Patron Highcroft squad also lying second in the teams' standings to Penske Racing.
Franchitti has previous experience of the Acura ARX-01 having taken part in a number of events for Andretti Green Racing last season and Highcroft team boss Duncan Dayton said the Scot would be a strong addition to his line-up for the event.
"We're really excited about the opportunity to have Dario in the Patron Highcroft Racing Acura for Petit Le Mans," he said. "Clearly he's quick and to have last year's IRL Champion and Indy 500 winner on our team to partner with Scott and David is fantastic. It's a true testament to how far we've come as a team to be able to attract the kind of world-class drivers that we have.
"I want to thank Chip [Ganassi] and his Target team for allowing their driver to join us for Petit. We are looking forward to continuing our battle with the #7 Penske Porsche for the LMP2 Championship at Road Atlanta. Dario further strengthens our line-up and will help us to achieve our goals."
Franchitti, who will return to the IndyCar Series next season with Ganassi after a year in NASCAR, said he was delighted to secure the ALMS drive.
"I'm really excited to be joining Patron Highcroft Racing for Petit Le Mans," he said. "I've been very impressed with David, Scott and the whole team this year so when Duncan approached me it was easy to say yes. To be back in the Acura and to race in such a competitive field, which includes my brother Marino and my new Ganassi team-mate Scott Dixon [who is racing at Petit Le Mans with de Ferran Motorsports] will be great!"
The signing of Franchitti could play a key part in deciding the destiny of the 2008 title with the addition of an extra Penske Porsche set to make the LMP2 battle the one to watch.
With that in mind, Brabham reflected that the strongest driver line-up possible would be needed to keep the championship challenge alive.
"When I heard the news that Dario was joining us, I thought it was perfect timing for both the Patron Highcroft Racing team and for Dario," he said. "As we are closing in on the championship the team needs the strongest driver pairing available and Dario brings this to the team. I also believe that Dario has a point to prove as he will want to end his season on a high and get well prepared for his return to the IRL.
“This year's Petit Le Mans will be the most competitive battle ever and the fans will be on the edge of their seats right up until the last lap. We can't wait."