David Brabham and Scott Sharp ended de Ferran Motorsports' four-race win streak with a close, tense victory in the Time Warner Cable Road Race Showcase at Road America, the Patr?n Highcroft Racing Acura beating its rival to the flag by just 0.461secs.

It was a first victory for Brabham and Sharp's ARX-02a since St. Petersburg in early April, and was enough to add a further four points to the recently diminishing margin they hold over Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud in the LMP1 standings.

"I think we handled the car the best we have this year," said Brabham, who now leads the title hunt with Sharp by 13 points, "The left front was starting to push a little too much toward the end. I had reasonable heat on the right side tyres and could maintain that gap to Gil. He was breathing down my neck; he is a great competitor."

Brabham and Sharp won for the second straight season at Road America, having claimed LMP2 class success last season by 0.867secs. It was just as, if not more, tense Sunday.

"We felt a little in a rut watching de Ferran win four in a row," admitted Sharp, "It has been a little rough watching them close our points gap. Coming here, we knew we had to dig deep. It was a challenge though to get the car where we wanted it, but we made changes last night and this morning. The yellows were in our favour, and the team did a great strategy call. Then David did a great job at the end to hold Gil off - it was very exciting."

The de Ferran and Patr?n Highcroft Acuras swapped the lead four times in the first 55 laps, mostly on pit strategies, but the final change with seven minutes remaining set up the duel between close friends and even closer competitors.

"I had very little go through my mind because I wasn't about to choke and let that lead go," Brabham said, "The best thing for me to do was not to think and just drive. When you start looking in the mirrors, you think 'don't screw up' - and then you end up where you were looking. So I tried not to look."

"Our guys are pretty good at strategy," Sharp added, "I thought they had it very well thought out. We were off a little bit [with de Ferran] after they did that stop. They didn't explain too much on the radio - but I think they wanted that so we would hammer down and just race."

In LMP2, Lowe's Fernandez Racing's Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz won for the sixth time in seven races, after taking their Acura ARX-01b with a 6.742secs victory over Dyson Racing's Butch Leitzinger and Marino Franchitti. The win was secured when the Lowe's Fernandez crew elected not to change tyres on its final pit stop with approximately 30 minutes left.

Fernandez and Diaz extended their championship lead to 55 points with three events - and 75 points - remaining on the season. Fernandez also led the race overall late on but didn't have enough muscle to hold off the two P1 Acuras.

"I think the whole team did a great job today," Diaz said, "Before the first caution, our top speed wasn't good but, fortunately, I realised, when behind the Mazda, that our car was very good - very quick. From that point, I started playing with the fuel strategy and the guys did a great job guiding me and making sure we were in front of the competition. After that, I tried to stay close and save fuel."

The strategy worked Sunday just like it did in Utah and last week at Mid-Ohio. The call for no tyres came at the same time as Leitzinger's crew put four fresh Michelins on the Lola-Mazda, thinking the decision and new rubber would allow Leitzinger to run down the Acura.

"We wanted to stay ahead of the Dyson," said Fernandez, who had pitted from the lead. "When I got into the car, I was already ahead of them. From there, I had to drive fast and stay ahead of them. Then I saw we had a long gap and I realised we could keep the tyres if we needed to. We really didn't know the pace they were going to have in the race. They were very fast in qualifying and in the race. We didn't know their consistency. That is where we excelled - consistency. In that respect, they didn't have the pace. Luis managed to stay with them and that was the key in the end."

The Lowe's Fernandez Acura also won its first Michelin Green X Challenge prototype trophy since St Petersburg, a triumph that is awarded for overall performance, energy efficiency and environmental impact.

"We win races by being more efficient and with fuel consumption," Fernandez confirmed, "We always try to save as much fuel as we can and save the tyres as much as possible. In racing, we try to push cars to the max, but we still try to conserve tyres and fuel. This gave us a nice advantage to stay in front."

The Franchitti/Leitzinger Lola was second in class, and fourth overall, but there was frustration for the sister Dyson entry. Running short of fuel, Guy Smith pitted during the early phase of a full-course caution on 62 minutes but, as the pits were 'closed', co-driver Chris Dyson had to serve a stop-go penalty when he took over, dropping the car from second to fourth in LMP2. With 42 minutes remaining, Dyson pitted with a misfire following contact with a spinning backmarker, and did not resume having completed enough laps to be classified fourth in class.

The BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team scored its first victory in its first year of the partnership, as Joey Hand and Bill Auberlen lead a 1-2 GT2 finish for the new BMW M3. Auberlen and Hand gained nearly a full lap on the rest of the field on an early-race wave-by when John Baker in one of ORBIT Racing's Challenge class Porsches went off at turn twelve.

That was all they needed for BMW's first victory in the American Le Mans Series since Petit Le Mans in 2001.

"I can hardly remember that far back," said Auberlen, who was part of that line-up with Hans Stuck and Boris Said, "We have a new group of people that are so skilled. You give them enough time to develop the car and they'll make it happen. Dunlop, our tyre partner, has been working so hard. We were fast at Mid-Ohio and it didn't go our way.

"There are three gigantic straightaways here, and the BMWs are known not to have such great straight-line speed, but, on the long radius corners and with 50-50 weight distribution, the car is so balanced and really dances through. The Porsches and Corvettes seemed to be struggling through some of those corners."

Dirk Muller and Tommy Milner placed second in their BMW M3, while Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen claimed third in the 'new' Corvette C6.R. The E85-powered car also won the GT portion of the Michelin Green X Challenge for the second straight event.

The weekend, however, belonged to BMW, as the M3s were quickest in all four testing and practice sessions, qualified on pole and posted the fastest GT2 race lap.

"Bill and I called this one to ourselves," said Hand, a first-time winner who also earned his first pole position on Saturday, "We've been talking it up pretty well here. We were really good at Lime Rock, and felt like we had a good chance to win at Mid-Ohio, but got hit by a prototype. It all starts when the car gets off the truck. I can't say enough about the guys at BMW Rahal Letterman Racing. It came exactly as we thought it would. Once I got in the car, we basically had a lap in hand, and my job was not to get hit and not fall too far behind."

Martin and Melanie Snow scored their second straight Challenge class victory and third in four races with their Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry. They beat the Gruppe Orange Porsche of Nick Parker and Donald Pickering by one lap. The race wasn't that easy though. Just as it did in other classes, the yellow flag stops and a long opening stint by Pickering put Melanie Snow on the attack throughout her stint.

"I started in the car and did what I could to get ahead," said Melanie Snow, who won the first American Le Mans Series race at Sebring in 1999 with her husband along with Patrick Huisman, "We would pull out, but then have to stop for fuel and then repass the rest of the guys. It was a big challenge this weekend running the Patr?n GT3 Challenge by Yokohama."

Pickering finally pitted just shy of the two-hour mark for a driver change, and Martin Snow gained the lap advantage in that period. One of the bigger challenges for Snow in his final stint was watching for the faster cars in the braking zones while yet being nearly as quick in a straight-line as the GT2 runners.

"Our car was really good," he said, "I was able to maintain some pretty quick laps without being on the edge. When I caught up to someone, it was relatively easy. But when you get behind one of the GT2 cars and lose the clean air, you have to move over to gain the downforce back. They are also much quicker off the corners than we are. The traffic wasn't too bad out there but when you get five or six of the GT2 cars around you, it's almost as bad as being around one or two prototypes."

Gruppe Orange's second entry of Bob Faieta and Wesley Hoaglund, winners at Lime Rock in July, were third in the class.


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