On a disappointing weekend for Acura, de Ferran Motorsport was able to provide one plus point with a top ten finish on its debut in the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.
Gil de Ferran, Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon came home eighth overall and fifth in LMP2 in the team's longest race to date since moving into the ALMS earlier this year.
de Ferran, who was first behind the wheel of the Panasonic-sponsored Acura ARX-01b, had to handle a car that was lacking downforce and the #66 machine also suffered some damage to the rear, making it oversteer and causing de Ferran to spin on lap 58 while he was running in sixth place. With the yellow flag out, de Ferran made his way to the pits for repairs.
After the pit stop, the owner/driver of the de Ferran Motorsports car had fallen to 14th place overall and eighth in class, two laps down. By lap 126, de Ferran had made his way up to 12th overall when he handed the car over to IndyCar ace Dixon.
With the reigning Indy 500 champion behind the wheel, the team gained another two spots but due to problems restarting the car during pit stops, they lost another couple of laps to the leaders. Despite excellent lap times that were on par with the front-runners, Dixon was unable to get his laps back and following his three-hour stint, he handed the car to Pagenaud on lap 263 in tenth overall and seventh in class.
Pagenaud also had to deal with problems restarting the car after pit stops and was lucky to avoid the accident that forced fellow Acura team AGR into retirement late on. However, he was able to bring the car home inside the top ten despite the problems encountered.
“We had a very difficult first stint due to two issues,” he said. “We started the race with not quite enough downforce and the car was very, very difficult to drive early in the race. We also sustained some damage to the rear. I'm not sure where that came from because I don't recall hitting anything, but that really affected the balance of the car giving it too much oversteer. Eventually that caused me to spin. We lost two laps on that incident which is unfortunate. We repaired the car, changed the back end, and put some more downforce on the car and it was handling pretty well after that.
“I think, even if we had a lot of little problems, we leave this race with a good taste in our mouth. We had the pace later on in the race and we were running similar lap times to the leaders. However, we lost some more time because we were having issues starting the car in the pits. It wasn't a perfect race but the guys did a great job. This is our very first, true endurance race and we got to the end. I'm also very pleased to have had Scott on board for this race. He did a fantastic middle stint and so did Simon at the end.”