David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Patrón Highcroft Racing won a titanic battle with Aston Martin Racing's Adrian Fernandez to win the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach with a last-lap pass.
Two years ago, Brabham made a pass on the second-to-last-lap to give Patrón Highcroft Racing a class victory at the historic street circuit. This time, he watched team-mate Pagenaud do the same thing – this time for an overall victory on the final lap. The young Frenchman beat Fernandez across the line by 0.353secs.
“That pass was quite hairy, but I could see Adrian was having some issues,” Pagenaud said, “He was driving differently for the last few laps. I figured if I played it smart and took second, I could get as many points for finishing first [as the highest-finishing full-season entry]. But I'm a racer and thought, if I push him, maybe I could get him to make a mistake, so I waited for the opportunity.”
Pagenaud and Brabham won despite an early penalty for avoidable contact with Harold Primat in the Lola-Aston Martin. Pagenaud had ceded the lead to Fernandez with six minutes remaining, but the Mexican ran wide at turn five on the final lap. That was all the opening Pagenaud needed for the team's first overall victory at Long Beach, and first win since Mosport last season.
“It's nice to be on the other side and watch someone like Simon chase people down,” Brabham admitted, “This team always amazes me and they did a fantastic job with the pit-stop. It was a fight for Simon all the way to the end and, with Adrian's mistake, he capitalised on it.”
Pagenaud had led Fernandez by as much as eight seconds before the Mexican legend and race polesitter fought back to retake the lead. The V12 power gave the Lola-Aston Martin a decided advantage in the high-speed straights, but the nimbleness of the Patrón Highcroft entry through traffic and the corners proved to be the difference.
“Long Beach is very special for me,” Pagenaud said, “As I said over the weekend, this is where I started racing in America in 2006. I've been successful here and, yesterday in qualifying, you could see I love this track. The Patrón Highcroft car was just doing so well. This was our best win ever because it wasn't just my win. We are a team but, certainly, it is my favorite finish.”
Muscle Milk Team CytoSport's duo of Greg Pickett and Klaus Graf placed third in LMP with their Porsche RS Spyder. Pickett and Graf also won the prototype portion of the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge for being the fastest and most energy-efficient LMP entry.
Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long won in GT for Flying Lizard Motorsports, their second straight Long Beach victory. Long, driving the duo's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, finished four seconds ahead of Corvette Racing's Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell.