David Brabham did it again. Another late-race pass meant victory in the American Le Mans Series, this time a historic first overall victory for Acura and Patrón Highcroft Racing.
Brabham passed Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard with just 90 seconds left Saturday to win the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix with Scott Sharp at Lime Rock Park.
Brabham and Bernhard ran 1-2 for the last 50 minutes of the race, one that saw Brabham qualify on the overall pole position.
The Patrón Highcroft Acura ran the final 1:26 on one tank of fuel and a set of Michelin tyres and coasted to the finish line in an attempt to save precious drops of fuel. The victory came on Patrón Highcroft's home track with its headquarters in Danbury 50 miles away.
"It is a real treat," said team owner Duncan Dayton. "We have 300 guests, our shops are 45 miles away and we've been coming here for more than 20 years. This really is the icing on the cake. They say the first one is hard to get, and this was hard."
Brabham won overall for the first time since 2002 in Washington DC with Panoz, and Sharp won an overall race for the first time and the first American to win an overall series race since Butch Leitzinger in 2005. The pairing also won in class at Long Beach earlier this year when Brabham passed Bernhard's team-mate Romain Dumas on the final lap.
Bernhard ended second with Dumas in their Porsche RS Spyder. The other Penske entry of Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long finished third.
There was doubt early on in the Patrón Highcroft pit. Sharp collided with fellow Acura pilot Simon Pagenaud in the opening stint. The car had cosmetic damage but nothing more.
"It was a great day, a great finish," said Sharp, who grew up racing at Lime Rock. "I felt a little like a bowling pin at the beginning just getting pushed around. Our strategy was just incredible to get our lap back and make some repairs and David did a great job making the pass and getting the win."
Traffic played a role throughout the race and the end was no different. Bernhard led by as much as eight seconds in the final 15 minutes but ran into slower traffic in the waning moments. Brabham kept pushing and was aided by a slower prototype going into the final downhill diving turn. Brabham kept his momentum and drove deep into the first turn, passing the Penske prototype. Bernhard, trying to hold the inside line, spun off track but did not suffer any damage.