Patron Highcroft Racing has confirmed that it will return to the American Le Mans to defend its title in 2010 and will extend its relationship with Acura into the new season.
Highcroft clinched the LMP1 title this season after a year long fight with fellow Acura outfit de Ferran Motorsports, with David Brabham and Scott Sharp seeing off the challenge of Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud to secure the crown in the final round of the year at Laguna Seca.
For 2010, the ALMS will introduce a new class structure which will see the LMP1 and LMP2 classes combined, with Highcroft electing not to continue with the ARX-02a it used to win the crown this year.
Instead, the team will field a new version of the ARX-01 it used in the LMP2 class and which was campaigned by Fernandez Racing this year. Performance balancing is set to take place to ensure a level playing field in the new class.
"We are delighted to continue our relationship with Honda Performance Development," team owner Duncan Dayton said. "We will have the #1 on our car for 2010 and firmly believe the ARX-01c will give us the best opportunity to defend that championship. We are very much looking forward to continuing our working relationship with the team at HPD - they have played an integral role in our championship success.
"We are awaiting full details from the ALMS, but we expect the LMP1 cars to be slowed and the LMP2 machines to be offered more performance freedoms. Everyone saw the performance of the ARX-01b at this year's ALMS race at Laguna Seca, and we think this car will be a very wise weapon of choice for 2010.
"The combined prototype class is going to provide some extremely fierce competition and our team is very much looking forward to the fight.”
While Sharp will move on to his own Extreme Speed Motorsports team for 2010, Brabham will return for a fourth season at Highcroft with the team set to announce his new partner in the near future.
Indeed, there could be a number of team-mates for the Australian, with Dayton revealing that the team was looking into the possibility of expanding beyond a single car.
"In fact, we are extremely keen to investigate expanding our operation to put the budget in place to run a second car,” he said. “We're talking to a number of potential new marketing partners to add to our sponsorship portfolio - partners the team has been negotiating with and others who might be supporting a specific driver.
"The fact we were the top performing Acura squad in each of the past three seasons is a great achievement and a source of pride at Patron Highcroft Racing and we are looking forward to working with HPD again next season."