A year after helping Patrón Highcroft Racing score a landmark class victory on the streets of Long Beach, David Brabham claimed the overall pole for the 2009 running of the Tequila Patrón-backed event.
Driving the Highcroft Racing Acura bearing the event sponsor's colours, Brabham produced a lap of 1min 11.627secs to out-pace de Ferran Motorsports' Gil de Ferran by just 0.072secs and claim his and the team's first LMP1 pole, bettering Lucas Luhr's class record by 0.138secs in the process.
“It was the best the car has been handling this year,” Brabham reported, “but I was very surprised we were quicker than the Audi's [record]. The track really gripped up a lot. It made it much more fun because you could really stick the car deep in the corners.
Brabham took a dramatic LMP2 class victory in 2008 by pulling off a daring last-lap pass of Penske Racing's Romain Dumas, but knows that, with passing tough around the tight Long Beach course, starting at the front is a better proposition for overall success.
"Gil was getting closer and closer to my time and really hanging it out - it was good to watch on TV," the Australian reflected, "He got really close, but I am delighted for the team and Patrón, who are sponsoring the race this weekend, that we were able to grab the pole. It is our first pole for the year so that is a great start to the weekend.
"On the final lap, when Gil spun, I was actually on a faster lap that would have been pretty close, but the team told me to back off to save the tyres for the race tomorrow. Today's result shows the competitiveness between the two teams, but it is great for an all-Acura front row in their home town. I felt like I had laid down a good time, so we sat and waited to see if anybody was going to get close at the end and made sure we were on track in case that happened. I got pretty close last year to getting pole but made a mistake when I was three-tenths of a second up. It's great to come back and get the job done this year."
de Ferran, a three-time pole winner at Long Beach in his CART days, appeared to have a good shot at knocking Brabham off pole before a late-session spin that caused rear bodywork damage to the back of the navy blue Acura.
“Frankly I'm quite pleased with the way qualifying went," the Brazilian owner-driver admitted, "We made a choice on the set-up of the car and tyres that we knew would be tough for qualifying, but would hopefully help us for the race tomorrow. The fact that we were only a few hundredths of a second away from pole is a good thing.
"Obviously, it would have been nice to be on the pole again - we came up a little short, but we're looking forward to a good race tomorrow.”