Patron Highcroft Racing trio David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti saw their hopes of LMP2 success in the Sebring Twelve Hours go up in smoke – quite literally – after an electrical issue and small fire cost them victory in the ALMS season opener.
The trio had dominated the event with the HPD ARX-01c and established a lead of five laps over the Team CytoSport Porsche before the incident, but eleven laps lost in the pits resolving the issue left the defending champions to settle for a place on the second step of the podium.
Pagenaud took the start of the race on his Highcroft debut and strong opening stints from the Frenchman and from Franchitti ensured the team led LMP2 from the start, with Brabham starting his first turn behind the wheel on lap 114 – with a one lap lead already.
Brabham worked to extend the lead before handing the car back to Pagenaud, and the advantage over the Porsche was five laps when he came in on lap 254 for a driver change.
The chaffing and welding of two ECU wires in the cockpit sparked a small fire and although quickly extinguished by the crew, repairs to the electrics cost the Highcroft car 24 minutes and the LMP2 lead.
Franchitti rejoined the battle proper fifth overall, after serving a 20 second penalty for too many pit crew members working on the car, and made good work of clawing back track position.
Brabham took the wheel once again as the Florida sun disappeared below the skyline and the fourth full yellow of the race was called, but the sportscar legend was ready to immediately give chase to the leading Porsche and took a lap back from the P2 leaders at the restart.
In another double stint, Brabham pushed lap after lap at a blistering pace to top the lap charts and consistently set some of the fastest times of the field, leaving him ideally positioned at the fifth full course caution to take yet another lap back.
Brabham brought the gap down to under five laps before handing back to Franchitti for the run to the flag, and the Scot brought the car home second in class and fifth overall – giving healthy points from the weekend to carry into the remainder of the season.