Outstanding work from David Brabham, team-mate Simon Pagenaud and Patrón Highcroft Racing turned one of the most challenging rounds of the season into another maximum points haul, repeating the team's winning streak seen at Long Beach and Laguna Seca.
Although running a new low downforce aero kit for the first time at an ALMS round, reigning champion Brabham rightly predicted the round four battle at Salt Lake City would be one of the toughest for Highcroft, with the high altitude track automatically favouring their turbo-powered counterparts.
That much was evident at the start of the 2 hours and 45-minute race as Brabham prepared to defend the pole position expertly gained by Pagenaud in qualifying. With the HPD ARX-01c at a disadvantage in straight-line speed, coupled with the lowest track temperature of the weekend affecting starting tyre temperatures, Brabham did well to hold on to fifth spot into turn 1.
His opening race, however, was hampered by two safety car periods in the first 15 minutes, the first occurring within four minutes of racing action just as Brabham recovered fourth place.
With the field closely bunched at each restart, his sterling efforts to stave off the more powerful competition paid off as the race began to settle. Finally able to run in clear track 30 minutes in, Brabham proved the Highcroft car's potential by clocking up the fastest time on lap 15.
He continued to mix it as one of the quickest cars on the track until traffic intervened and once again favoured the turbos. Regardless, Brabham chipped away at the eight second deficit to the third placed Lola Mazda of Chris Dyson, closing the gap to just over one second by the time the third full course caution presented the perfect opportunity to pit.
Brabham's charge proved to be perfectly timed as the Highcroft crew once again delivered one of their lightening trademark pitstops that saw Pagenaud leapfrog the field and take the lead under the safety car.
“At this altitude our normally aspirated engine was at a disadvantage, so we knew I'd get nailed at the start and that I just had to do my best to salvage the situation,” said Brabham.
“I found the car a bit loose and the front tyres didn't come up to temperature. We didn't anticipate it being as cool as it was today and rain this morning made the track green, so it wasn't ideal conditions. But I was able to feed all that information back to the team so adjustments could be made for Simon in the pitstop.