Adrian Fernandez says he is hopeful that the Lowe's Fernandez Racing will kick-start its American Le Mans Series campaign in style at Sebring, despite the Acura squad deciding against bringing in a third driver for the race.
The team had initially intended to run Michel Jourdain Jr as its third driver in the twelve-hour event before electing to remain as a two-driver outfit, with Fernandez joined at the wheel again this season by Luis Diaz.
Having finished on third overall in 2007 on its debut in the race, the team went one better last year only to be excluded for failing a post-event stall test, but with a year of experience under its belt with the LMP2 Acura ARX-01b, Fernandez said he was hopeful of carrying the strong Sebring form into the 2009 event.
“I am really excited to get things underway,” he said. “2007 was our first season in the ALMS and, obviously, a learning year, and last season we came to Sebring with a new equipment package with the ARX chassis. This is the first time that we enter a new season without a learning curve, and we're ready to hit it hard. As for the race, I feel that we are well-prepared. Because of the challenges of Sebring, we spent a considerable amount of time testing here. The lure of endurance racing is the challenge of going the distance and every driver wants to win this race. After the frustrating season we had in 2008, we are more than ready to get this year started and eager to fight for wins.
“We had originally planned on Michel as our third driver at Sebring, and he has done a good job for us in testing. But when we started taking a hard look at strategy and what's at stake in this race points-wise with the extra points, we realised a third driver could complicate things. Luis and I have done this race on our own the last two years and we were very successful. After reviewing different scenarios and even small things like needing a seat insert during driver changes because Michel is bigger than Luis and I, which could cost us time in the pits, we decided to stick to a formula we know works.”
Team-mate Dias said he was pleased with how off-season testing had gone for Acura's lone remaining LMP2 outfit and said he was confident for the season ahead.
“Testing has gone very well,” he said. “We worked on some small changes with our baseline set up for the new rules. Conditions for the race are going to be different from when we tested here, but we have been through that before and know what we need to focus on. I think we will be strong out of the box.
“It is great to start the season with a classic like Sebring, and follow that up with two popular street races at St. Pete and Long Beach all within a span of five weeks. These are events where we have been very competitive in the past. In a way, it has been a long off-season. We had some type of misfortune in four of the last five races last year and that just makes you all the more hungry to get back and show what you really can do. I'm excited.”