Just a year after making their American Le Mans Series debut, Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud have taken Acura to their second consecutive victory after dominating proceedings at Miller Motorsports Park.
Pagenaud took the chequered flag in the team's Acura ARX-02a by a comfortable 73.693 seconds over Patrón Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and Scott Sharp.
The winning duo led all but two laps as Pagenaud qualified on pole position and posted the fastest race lap for the second year in a row. The Frenchman and his Brazilian mentor also won the previous round at Long Beach.
Flash back to 2008 when the de Ferran crew rolled out on the track for the first time in LMP2. It raced the final eight events of the year and just missed its maiden victory on several occasions.
“The most important thing is the fact it's the one-year anniversary for the team,” Pagenaud said. “A year ago in March we didn't have a car in the show. It's remarkable the difference between the team last season and this season. The fact that this prototype is revolutionary with the same size front tire and rear tire. It's great to be a part of that with the team and the success.”
It may have looked like a leisurely Sunday drive but it was anything but. De Ferran jumped out to an early six-second lead after two laps as Sharp battled Jon Field in the Intersport Racing AER-powered Lola. By the time the Patrón Highcroft Acura was clear, de Ferran was starting to lap the slower GT cars on the fifth lap.
“We knew we had to limit their strategy options; when you get that far behind you are limited in what you can do,” de Ferran said. “We made a good change for qualifying for Simon and the car was really good. We made a slight change after the morning warm-up and the car was really good. It was one of the best cars I've driven in a long time and I had a really good time driving. I really enjoyed it.
“We're getting to learn the car more and more,” he added. “This car is a very new concept, so understanding the car and knowing what works and what doesn't is tough. We made a couple of bad decisions Saturday morning, but by going the wrong way it was so clear that we knew exactly which way to go after that. We are always seeking perfection, and the process I enjoy very much is how to make the car go faster, and Simon and I are having a great time on this program because it is very interesting. We are always working with the Acura engineers to work on making the car quicker.”
Brabham and Sharp still hold a comfortable lead in the P1 championship. Brabham was the only other driver to lead the race aside from Pagenaud and de Ferran. The Intersport Lola was third in class; Field teamed with son Clint and Chapman Ducote in the race.