There was an element of de ja vu for Highcroft Racing at Lime Rock Park as, like 2009, a late pitstop to a replace a puncture ended the locally based team's chance of a fourth consecutive win the American Le Mans Series.
The 1.5mile Connecticut short track, combined with the multi-class field of the endurance racing series almost ensures contact in racing, with three full course cautions neutralising the field inside the first 60 minutes of the two-hour, 45-minute race.
The contact also led to pieces of debris being scattered around the track, and it was, the team presume one of these pieces that David Brabham ran over in the team HPD powered ARX-01c chassis, producing a slow leak in the right-rear tyre.
The effects of the problem seemed minimal, Brabham himself seemingly admitting that only the team's telemetry showed any sign of the leak as the ALMS veteran pushed towards retaking the overall race lead from the Team Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder.
The Porsche had led since Brabham's teammate Simon Pagenaud came into the pits on lap 93, the Frenchman having taken the lead on lap 22 and holding it for the remainder of his stint. But the driver change had seen Brabham return to the track in second, the gap as large as 21 seconds as the leaders raced towards the checkered flag.
The latter stages of the charge towards the lead saw the slow puncture appear, but Brabham made up the last the deficit to Klaus Graf in the apparently slowing Porsche and mounted a challenge for the lead down the front straight.
Graf's defence was determined, forcing Brabham onto the grass. It was stress the failing right-rear couldn't cope with, the slow leak graduating to a punctures tyre that had to be replaced in the pits while Graf was handed a stop-and-go penalty for blocking.
“It was a fantastic battle. Some of these races do amaze me because in the first part it doesn’t look like it is going to be much of a battle, then all of a sudden it’s game on,” the Highcroft man noted. “We’re racing for a championship out there and we still finished with a strong points haul.”
Despite the pair of delays the pair maintained first and second, though Graf's lead had swollen back up to nearly 30 seconds, and with less than 10 minutes left in the race Highcroft Racing could only watch Cytosport take their maiden overall win the series.
“Congratulations to Greg and Klaus and the Muscle Milk guys – they did a great job today and Klaus drove the wheels off it,” said Brabham. “He has really come on in the past few years and I don’t think he gets enough credit for his talent. I was certainly keen to get past him but it wasn’t to be.”
“We didn’t have the best package at the start of the race and we have to work very hard because the way the regulations are at the moment,” said Simon Pagenaud. “The weight break the Porsche got from Salt Lake onwards makes a big difference around here – especially accelerating out the slow chicanes. There is a lot of time to be made there.”
“It was a great job from the entire team today. We could have won but we’ll be satisfied with second and lets move on to Mid-Ohio and Road America where I think we should be quite strong.”
The team will try to return to winning ways at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on August 7.