. . .Leaves Patrón Team Building New Acura Prototype For Saturday’s Petit Le Mans
New Tub Shipped From California For LMP1 Point Leaders
CHESTNUT MOUNTAIN, Ga. (Sept. 24, 2009) — Scott Sharp’s frightening practice crash Thursday at Road Atlanta has left the Patrón Highcroft Racing team scrambling to hold its current American Le Mans Series LMP1 point lead entering Saturday’s prestigious Petit Le Mans sports car race.
Sharp, co-point leader with driving partner David Brabham, amazingly walked away from a horrific Turn One crash Thursday afternoon in ALMS practice when Sharp’s No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a collided with a GT car and rolled violently into a catch fence that left the Patrón Highcroft machine not repairable for Saturday’s 12th annual 1,000-mile endurance classic.
Sharp walked from the wreckage with parts and pieces strewn for hundreds of feet around the 2.54-mile road circuit. A replacement tub was shipped to Atlanta Thursday night from the Honda Performance Development headquarters in Santa Clarita, Calif., and the Patrón Highcroft organization will build a new mount all day Friday in hopes of taking the green flag at 11:20 a.m. Saturday. ALMS qualifying is set for Friday at 2:55 p.m.
The Patrón Highcroft Racing team holds a 17-point lead in the current LMP1 class point standings over the de Ferran Motorsports Acura operation with two races remaining in the 2009 tour. Sharp, Brabham and IndyCar Series star Dario Franchitti are expected to race the new No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a prototype sports car from the back of the field in an effort to maintain the team’s point margin. The final 2009 ALMS race is set for Laguna Seca Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 10.
“I really don’t know what happened,” Sharp said. “I was heading up the hill in sixth gear and felt a hit in the right rear. The wheel arches are very high with the wide front tires on the Acura. I didn’t see a thing, only felt the contact. I knew it was a big one and I am just really grateful to Acura and all the boys at Patrón Highcroft Racing for building such a strong car. I’m shattered for Duncan, all the guys, Brabs and Dario (Franchitti). We went through this last year and I can’t believe it’s happened again. I was just thinking to myself how much I like this place when next thing I’m headed upside down with a mouth full of Georgia clay.”
The Patrón Highcroft Racing team was already preparing a variety of parts — bodywork, suspension, engine and gearbox — to assemble on the new tub when it arrives at the track at 9 a.m. Friday.
“The most important thing is the fact that Scotty was able to walk away,” team owner Duncan Dayton said. “Cars can be rebuilt, but looking at the amount of dirt covering the top of his helmet we are just grateful he is fine. The guys are getting stuck into the car now, and we will do whatever it takes to get the car back together. Unfortunately, we suffered a similar set-back last year but the guys are not getting down. They are ready to work through the night. Our thanks go to all the guys at Acura, HPD and Wirth Research – that crash looked like an airplane accident and it is a credit to the those guys that Scott was able to walk away after that.”
Simon Pagenaud topped the Acura teams in Thursday’s three practice sessions in the No. 66 XM Radio Acura ARX-02a with a speed of 132.072 miles per hour, fourth overall in the 30-car field. Before the crash, Brabham held the seventh fastest overall at 129.923 m.p.h. The Lowe’s LMP2 Acura duo of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz, winners of seven LMP2 class races this year, were second in the LMP2 speeds at 127.046.