After a hugely successful 2008 season for the Patron Highcroft Acura team, the 2009 American Le Mans Series campaign will throw up new challenges as the team moves up to the premier LMP1 class.

Ahead of the new season, Crash.net sat down with Brabham to discuss what 2009 may hold...

Crash.net:
Only fair to look back on a strong 2008 before we talk about 2009. You must be thrilled with how it panned out?

David Brabham:
It was a mega year really. Going into the 2008 season, we were quite optimistic that we could do well and as the year turned out, we did very well really - winning four races and I think we had seven podiums.

It was a fantastic battle with Penske Porsche all the way to the end and it was some of the best racing I've ever been involved with through my entire career; from how close the racing was to dicing in and out of traffic - it was a special year and one I will look back on with a lot of great memories. Winning Le Mans again with Aston Martin was again a great thing and gives us a lot of momentum for this year.

Crash.net:
Mid-way through 2008 we go the anticipated news that Acura will step up from LMP2 to LMP1. Highcroft are one of the teams who will make that switch so how excited are you by the new programme?

David Brabham:
How excited am I? Well it's been a while since I've been in a P1 car so I am really looking forward to it and being further involved in the Acura programme. It's the right time for our team to move up to LMP1 and we tested the car before Christmas. I go out on Sunday [11 Jan] for more testing and we are really geared up for it.

We are looking forward to the first challenge at Sebring which is a race we are going there to win. We aren't just looking to finish, we have high expectations and have set our goals. Winning Sebring is one of them.

Crash.net:
What have been your first impressions of the P1 car?

David Brabham:
The car straight from the box showed it has a lot of pace. When you drive it, it gives you a smile on your face as the thing is really good. There are still areas we need to improve on and reliability is an area we have needed to work on as it's a brand new car and a new concept to the P2 car.

There is a lot for us to learn but we have a fantastically talented group of people there with Wirth Research involved and HPD, so by the time we get to Sebring, we should be strong.

Crash.net:
The layman would look at a prototype car and not really be able to differentiate between the two classes, so what are the main differences between the two cars?

David Brabham:
Visually, there isn't a lot of difference. The LMP2 car is lighter and has less power but at some circuits, the P2 car showed to be nimble and fast and capable of winning overall. It's not just a given that a P1 car will every race.

The rules have changed - again - to try and slow the cars down but also to give a bigger gap between P1 and P2, so we'll have to see. When they've made these regulations to slow things down, it only works for a little while because people catch back up with their development and are then ahead of where they were the year before. I anticipate that happening again.

Crash.net:
Is there any disappointment that the anticipated battle with Audi won't happen with the R15 not racing in the ALMS n 2009?

David Brabham:
Obviously, after the success and battles we had in 2008, 2009 is going to be very different. However, 2009 will be different everywhere, not just in racing. As a series, we will still have a strong field, but Audi not being there for all the races isn't something I would say is disappointed - its just the way it is.

They have made their decisions because of their policies but they aren't walking away from racing and that is why we are looking forward to Sebring with Peugeot being there and Audi with the R15. With our new car as well, it should be pretty good.

Crash.net:
Looking at the season as a whole, with Audi out of the equation, who do you see as being the big rivals and the main contenders?

David Brabham:
That's a very good question as everyone is developing their programmes over the winter. There are some LMP2 cars that will still be competitive but if you look at it on paper, Acura should dominate. However, you never know and we'll have to wait and see.

Crash.net:
Any ideas on whether or not you'll be at Le Mans this year with Aston Martin still to confirm their plans?

David Brabham:
I've not really had a lot of thought about it to be honest as we have been busy with this P1 programme. I would obviously like to do Le Mans in a competitive car but the priority for me is the LMP1 Acura programme. If I can fit in a race with a competitive package at Le Mans then I'd be happy to do it.

Crash.net:
How is the MSA Race Elite programme developing towards 2009?

David Brabham:
Very well actually. I think we have had a good first two years with the programme and are going into the third year. When you get involved in a programme like this, you get to this stage and then you start to understand what it needs and how you need to move forward. We've had two years of experience and we have seen what we have done, which I think has been a pretty good programme, but you can always improve.

We'll be looking to do that in 2009 and the applicants can now apply online at www.msabritishraceelite.co.uk for the programme and the applications will close at the end of February - which gives enough time for people to get their programmes sorted. We will then choose some new people to bring into the programme.

Crash.net:
How successful do you think it's been for the drivers involved so far?

David Brabham:
I think that's a question for the drivers really. We've seen them grow and develop and the response we have had from other people, they have all benefitted from the programme. That should happen because the way the programme has been put together helps them in what you need to be a successful racing driver, whether it's technical, media training, fitness and all those sort of things.

We've had some guys who have stayed with us for two years and they are definitely better drivers than they were when they came into it. They all want to stay on because they can see it is a benefit.

Crash.net:
As a more experienced figure, does it give you a sense of pride to help shape the career of these younger drivers?

David Brabham:
Absolutely. Working with young drivers is something I have done for a while now, even outside this programme. When you are working with them and discussing where they can improve, and you see the progress they have made, you get a lot of satisfaction back from it.

That is part of the reason I love doing the programme because I enjoy doing it and I have set my targets for what I will do when I stop racing. I need to be doing something that I love with a passion, and this is something I love with a passion and will be able to continue when I stop driving myself.