David Brabham picked up from where he left off a year ago to sit at the top of the results as the American Le Mans Series returned to Long Beach for the Tequila Patron-backed third round of 2009.
Driving the event sponsor's colours on his Patron Highcroft Acura ARX-02a, Brabham revived memories of last year's last-lap pass for LMP2 victory in southern California by posting the quickest time of Thursday's official pre-race test.
Now LMP1 mounted, the Australian clocked 1min 14.226secs in the second of the day's two sessions, knocking de Ferran Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud from top spot.
"The track was very slippery in the early stages, but we found a good direction with the Acura's set-up in the second round<" Brabham reported, "We made some pretty good improvements during the session - we don't have a lot of time here, so you have to be sure you get it right. We have some direction for tomorrow, and that is the main thing that we really needed to achieve today."
Thursday proved to be an all-Acura affair, with the marque's two new LMP1 models leading the way, followed by the remaining LMP2 of Lowe's Fernandez Racing. Coming off a 1-2 finish two weeks ago in St Petersburg, the Acura contingent will start Saturday's race as favourite to battle for overall honours as the opening day saw Mexico's Luis Diaz - fresh from consecutive LMP2 wins at Sebring and St Pete, sitting just behind Brabham, with Pagenaud demoted to third overall.
"We had a little electrical glitch in the first practice, but the car is really handling well," Diaz said of the LMP2 machine, "I was pleased with the team's set-up, and Adrian [Fernandez] was fast in second practice too, so I think we have a great shot at another win."
Intersport Racing's Lola B06/10-AER was third fastest in LMP1, while Dyson Racing again provided the leading opposition to Lowe's Fernandez with its pair of Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes. The Butch Leitzinger/Marino Franchitti car was quicker on this occasion than the sister machine of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.
Olivier Beretta was quickest in GT1 as Corvette Racing prepare for its final ALMS race in the class, putting the entry he will share with Oliver Gavin some 0.341secs ahead of the sister car of defending race winners Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen.
Jaime Melo, meanwhile, proved to be the fastest GT2 runner, pushing the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT that he will drive with Pierre Kaffer to the top of the class times. Melo, who won at the Beach two years ago with Mika Salo, only just had the measure of the rival Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Dirk Werner, while Flying Lizard Motorsports' Porsche, driven by Patrick Long and Jörg Bergmeister, was third in class, having topped the first session.
“It was good," Kaffer commented, "but, when you only have a small amount of practice time, you have to compromise on some things. It worked very well though, I have to say."