Patrón Highcroft Racing went from last – well, nearly last – to first with a thrilling victory in the American Le Mans Series Monterey presented by Patrón.
The HPD ARX-01c of David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti won an epic six-hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the second straight victory for PHR.
Franchitti took the checkered flag in round 3 of the ALMS season having battled hard with Dyson's Guy Smith for the better part of the final two hours before the Dyson Mazda-powered Lola ground to a halt with 24 minutes remaining. The oil filter blew, which shut off the power to the Mazda engine.
“The whole crew did a great job,” said Pagenaud, who drove from 33rd (third-to-last) to the lead in 78 minutes. “The opening laps were pretty exciting. Starting at the back you have to find motivation and that was getting to the front. The Michelin tires were working really, really good. We went through the traffic very quickly.”
Four cars led overall – Patrón Highcroft, Dyson Racing, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport and Intersport Racing. But the back-and-forth battle between Highcroft and Dyson was the most captivating among the LMP class. The two cars ran first and second for almost 2:30 with the Dyson Lola-Mazda battling back from Andy Meyrick's spin on a restart early. The team had to replace the front nose but that was the extent of the damage.
The deciding moment appeared to be Patrón Highcroft's decision for a fuel-only stop with 45 minutes left. Franchitti rejoined the race and led by about 30 seconds over Smith – who took tyres and fuel on his last stop – before the Lola came to a stop.
“I was definitely hanging on for life; it was a bit like drifting or rally driving,” Franchitti said. “Either way I was going to be happy. I knew I'd still have great tires and new tyres were still really good. It was a perfect call because I could drive like I wanted to. Michelin was a big part of the win today.”
Klaus Graf – who led for two stints in the race – placed second with Memo Gidley and Sascha Maassen in Muscle Milk's Porsche RS Spyder.
Flying Lizard Motorsports scored another dramatic GT victory at Mazda Raceway with Patrick Long winning in class by 0.365 seconds with Jörg Bergmeister over BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team's Joey Hand. Long passed Hand's BMW M3 GT on the inside of turn eleven just as the green flag flew on the final restart with eight minutes left, a legal move.