David Brabham turned in a solid qualifying performance for Patron Highcroft Racing as the Connecticut-based squad fight the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) title in the final round at Petit Le Mans.
The squad are running in the P2 category with their HPD ARX-01c with the running to full Auto Club de l'Ouest (ACO) rules necessitating the re-splitting of the prototype classes which have been combined in America for much of the season. After a consistently quick build-up to the race weekend through the free practice sessions earlier in the week.
The Australian improved his times throughout the 25-minute session – at one point climbing as high as fifth overall, recording the car's fastest time of the week so far and dropping his times into the 1-minute 10 bracket inside of five laps.
Happy with the time Brabham returned the car to pits for the remainder of the session only for Guy Smith to go fastest in class with the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda, pushing the team down to third in class, also behing the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder.
However, both the P2 cars that will start ahead of the HPD – Simon Pagenaud will start the race of Highcroft – ran significantly more laps during the session. The pole-sitter ran 13 laps and the Porsche turned 10 laps with Klaus Graf behind the wheel. Brabham, in contrast only completed eight.
Under ALMS rules teams have to start the race on the same tyres they qualified on, so the Tequila Patron backed squad could have the pace in the early period of the race with the best of their Michelin rubber still to come.
“To only be a 10th of a second behind is closer than we expected. The PatrÃ³n Highcroft team gave me a great car and I had a lot of confidence in it,” said Brabham. “The car is in great shape and we go into the race with a lot of momentum.”
“Under normal circumstances we might have come in for a fuel top up and had another go for pole but our plan was to do a short run and not hurt the car nor the Michelin tires.”
“It demonstrates our eye is on the bigger picture. All three of us are very happy with the car and the guys contributed greatly to the set-up for tomorrow.”
The team hold a 16 point lead going into the 1000 mile/10 hour championship finale meaning Brabham, Pagenaud, Marino Franchitti and the rest of Duncan Dayton's team only need to complete the 70% of race distance necessary to score points.
And it just made a change for the mechanics not to have to rebuild the car overnight!