The Patrón Highcroft Racing team suffered a problematic final outing in the LMP2 category of the American Le Mans Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with pole position failing to produce the farewell victory all had hoped for.
David Brabham led from the front in the opening laps, but the Acura ARX-01b suffered its only technical failure of the season, affecting the power steering and, despite a characteristic Brabham charge to the finish, the Highcroft team had to settle for ninth in class.
With second secured in the LMP2 class driver standings, hopes were high that Brabham and team-mate Scott Sharp could polish off an impressive 2008 campaign with victory before Highcroft moves up to the LMP1 arena with Acura next year.
A slick start ensured that the Australian led before the first full-course caution was triggered on lap six. A familiar pattern soon emerged, with a second safety car appearing before 30 minutes of the race had run, and no fewer than twelve cautions peppering the four-hour round before the chequered flag.
With the tyre pressures set a bit too low, Brabham suffered at each restart and lost valuable ground, before handing over to Sharp at the fourth caution while running third on the road, and second in class, after 50 minutes.
Halfway through Sharp's stint, however, the #9 machine began to suffer steering problems and, by lap 68, the American was forced to pit under the green flag, having run eleventh overall and ninth in class. Despite swift work from the Highcroft crew, which replaced an failed electronic connector in the power steering, five laps were lost, putting any chance of victory firmly out of reach.
As the final 45 minutes of the race approached, Brabham joined the fray once again, with the Patrón Acura now 20th overall and ninth in class. Immediately setting about the task in hand, the veteran put in the car's best lap time - and the third fastest lap of the entire field - but his progress was impeded by two further caution periods, limiting his recovery to 15th overall.
“After clinching pole position yesterday, everything was looking good for the race, but we suffered our single technical failure of the season,” 'Brabs' sighed, “It was a real shame that we didn't get the results we deserved, but having one technical issue in eleven rounds can't be bad.
"I had a good start, but our tyre pressures were set a little too low and I was losing a lot on the restarts, We tweaked the pressures all the way through the race, and the Michelin tyres just got better and better. We lost everything in the pits, but the team did a fantastic job of getting us back out on the track.