David Brabham secured yet another podium finish and second overall for Patrón Highcroft Racing at the team's home Lime Rock Park track near Lakeville, Connecticut, but a late puncture ruined the Australian's ambition of taking another race win with team-mate Simon Pagenaud. The result was Brabham's 56th top three finish in the ALMS, and ensured that he holds a seven-point advantage over Klaus Graf as the LMP title fight moves into the second half of the season.
Brabham's blinding performance in qualifying yesterday secured pole position in style for the team's home race, but the Highcroft car's straight-line speed disadvantage was once again evident when Pagenaud slipped back to fourth at the race start. Thirty minutes and two full-course cautions later, however, Pagenaud was back at the front, where he remained until the end of his strong session.
With Klaus Graf inheriting the lead as the Highcroft car pitted, Brabham joined the battle with just over an hour remaining in second place and quickly got to grips with the blistering hot conditions that couldn't have been more of a contrast to the heavy rain of the previous day.
Trailing the leading Porsche by over 25 seconds with 43 minutes to go, Brabham was careful to bide his time before mounting his charge against a car some 25-kilos lighter and with more downforce than his HPD ARX-01C machine.
Timing his challenge to perfection approaching the final 30 minutes, Brabham sliced into Graf's advantage by setting the fastest lap of the race in a time of 50.056secs on lap 135 and, continuing his charge at a relentless pace, the reigning champion clocked up consistent times in the 50-second margin to destroy the deficit to just 2.2secs with 15 minutes remaining.
Consistently the quicker car, mere tenths of a second separated the leading pair before Brabham made his move off the final turn on lap 157. Despite pulling alongside, however, the Australian was pushed wide and on to the grass heading down the main straight.
A slow right rear puncture that had been developing subsequently deflated the following lap, causing bodywork damage and forcing Brabham to limp back to the pits. Although Graf served a stop-go penalty for blocking, the Porsche rejoined the fray 30 seconds ahead and, with just eight minutes left on the clock, Brabham settled for a solid second place and another healthy haul of championship points.
“At this stage of the season, it's vitally important to keep putting points on the board and that's what we've done today,” he said, “I knew I had developed a puncture when I was chasing Klaus down. Whatever was in the tyre was dislodged when I was pushed on to the grass and the tyre went down the following lap.
“I could see Klaus was going to get held up, so I backed off, got a good run and went to go up the inside. I was alongside when he moved right and I was pushed wide with almost all four wheels off the track. I kept my foot in, but it's been pretty wet around here in recent days so I couldn't get enough speed to pass him.