The first race after the 24 Hours of Le Mans is the Northeast Grand Prix at beautiful Lime Rock Park. A recent resurfacing and reconfiguration of the track presented a new challenge for the teams, who were taking on the new layout without any pre-race testing. Also the shortest track, Lime Rock presents a much different challenge than Le Mans and requires a different mindset. This has made for exciting and aggressive races the past few seasons, and this year was no different. Follow the jump to see the race results and find how who was the last minute winner.
[Source: American Le Mans Series]
David Brabham did it again. Another late-race pass meant victory in the American Le Mans Series, this time a historic first overall victory for Acura and Patrón Highcroft Racing. Brabham passed Penske Racing's Timo Bernhard with 90 seconds left Saturday to win the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix with Scott Sharp at Lime Rock Park.
Brabham and Bernhard ran 1-2 for the last 50 minutes of the race, one that saw Brabham qualify on the overall pole position. The Patrón Highcroft Acura ran the final 1:26 on one tank of fuel and a set of Michelin tires and coasted to the finish line in an attempt to save precious drops of fuel. The victory came on Patrón Highcroft's home track with its headquarters in Danbury, Conn., 50 miles away.
"It is a real treat," said team owner Duncan Dayton. "We have 300 guests, our shops are 45 miles away and we've been coming here for more than 20 years. This really is the icing on the cake. They say the first one is hard to get, and this was hard."
Brabham won overall for the first time since 2002 in Washington DC with Panoz, and Sharp won an overall race for the first time and the first American to win an overall series race since Butch Leitzinger in 2005. The pairing also won in class at Long Beach earlier this year when Brabham passed Bernhard teammate Romain Dumas on the final lap.
Bernhard ended second with Dumas in their Porsche RS Spyder. The other Penske entry of Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long finished third.
There was doubt early on in the Patrón Highcroft pit. Sharp collided with fellow Acura pilot Simon Pagenaud in the opening stint. The car had cosmetic damage but nothing more.
"It was a great day, a great finish," said Sharp, who grew up racing at Lime Rock. "I felt a little like a bowling pin at the beginning just getting pushed around. Our strategy was just incredible to get our lap back and make some repairs and David did a great job making the pass and getting the win."
Traffic played a role throughout the race and the end was no different. Bernhard led by as much as eight seconds in the final 15 minutes but ran into slower traffic in the waning moments. Brabham kept pushing and was aided by a slower prototype going into the final downhill diving turn. Brabham kept his momentum and drove deep into the first turn, passing the Penske prototype. Bernhard, trying to hold the inside line, spun off track but did not suffer any damage.
"I'm so exhausted. I really had to work hard out there," Brabham said. "Timo juked left and went right and I kept left and ran him down the straight in a long drag race. And then I dove really hard in on him on broke hard to get him. The team kept telling me to save fuel and save fuel and I thought 'You clearly don't know what's going on'. But I've been with a lot of teams, and it's this team's attention to going the extra mile that says a lot of things about the success."
Audi Sport North America's Marco Werner and Lucas Luhr won their fourth straight LMP1 round in their Audi R10 TDI. The pairing ran fourth overall and finished just off the lead lap. On a track that did not agree with Audi's big, powerful V12 diesel, the two had a shot for the overall victory late in the race. After falling behind early, Werner gained a lap back and was making up time even as the race ended.
This despite a penalty early in the race on the Audi crew and minor 'offs' by both drivers.
"The car was great," Luhr said. "It was a shame that in our first stop one of our guys looked up under the car after fueling and took off his goggles. We had a very good chance for another overall victory. But in racing sometimes you are lucky and sometimes unlucky."
Intersport Racing's Jon Field, Clint Field and Richard Berry scored their second runner-up finish of the season. Emanuele Pirro and Dindo Capello were third in class after Pirro dominated early in the pair's Audi. Capello was involved in a crash an hour into the rae that resulted in nearly 45 minutes lost in the paddock to repair the prototype.
"Without a penalty and the late splash and dash, I think we had a chance," Werner said. "There was a little drop in performance late because I was pushing so hard. Ten laps before the end I went from just in front of the winning car to within striking distance. The pace was good so everything was quite OK. We saw today that anything can happen."
Corvette Racing's Johnny O'Connell and Jan Magnussen won in GT1, coming from nearly a full lap back to beat the hard-luck duo of Corvette mates Olivier Beretta and Oliver Gavin. The duo won for the fourth time in five races and third time in a row. Each was victorious at Lime Rock for the first time.
"There was a time at the first caution where we got caught out behind the pace car. But then situations arose where we could get a splash at the end and get close again," O'Connell said. "It was a fun and exciting moment. I know people think we aren't racing anyone, but we are really going hard. We are definitely pushing as hard as we can. Things went our way this weekend."
"I was absolutely on par with the other car," Magnussen added. "When we started to race the other car, traffic played a big role. The tarmac here is very good and the Michelins were just as fast at the beginning as they were at the end."
O'Connell pitted late from the lead for a splash of cellulosic E85 and entered the track side-by-side with Beretta, who went wide and slightly off the track as O'Connell kept the lead.
Beretta eventually had to park his Corvette when the gearbox lost oil. As a result, O'Connell and Magnussen are 12 points up on their teammates for the class championship. It's a stark contrast to last season when the duo won just three times and were second in the title chase.
"In the races last year, something silly always went wrong, just little things," O'Connell said. "The funny thing is that racing always goes in cycles. Our never-say-die attitude kept us in the race. We lost nearly a lap and sometimes you quit before knowing what things can happen. You have to attack every single lap."
Wolf Henzler and Jörg Bergmeister took their second straight GT2 victory and third of the season for Flying Lizard Motorsports and Porsche. Henzler got around teammate Johannes van Overbeek with 37 minutes remaining after Farnbacher Loles Racing's Dirk Werner slammed into van Overbeek's side on a restart.
The collision sent van Overbeek off track and Henzler into first place where he stayed for the remainder.
"I was on the right side of Dirk and I don't know what happened," Henzler said. "I think a prototype came out of the pits and maybe that affected something. I saw later that Johannes was not behind me any more and didn't know what was going on. When we had a one-lap lead, there wasn't much more for me to do except cruise around and bring the car back home. The key was at the beginning when we showed the car was very good. When we lost the position and I gained it back, the main objective was to bring the car back home."
The Lizard Porsche crossed the finish line a lap ahead of class pole-winner Werner and teammate Richard Westbrook. Risi Competizione's Jaime Melo and Mika Salo third in their first race since winning the class championship at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Henzler and Bergmeister increased their lead in the class championship to 11 points over Tafel Racing's Dirk Mueller and Dominik Farnbacher after the duo made a last minute stop for fuel and finished fourth. That's where Bergmeister and Henzler started after a subpar qualifying session Friday.
"We didn't qualify where we wanted to qualify because we had a little issue with the car," said Bergmeister, who won for the third straight year at Lime Rock. "It was very good in the morning warm-up. Not starting up front is not an easy task. I tried to stay out of trouble and not make mistakes. Once I got the lead, I tried to control it. I have tried to stay out of trouble the last two years and Wolf did it this year. I think we were the only car that didn't have a mark on it."
There is little time to rest. The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Acura Sports Car Challenge, scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET on Saturday, July 19 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. NBC Sports will televise the race from noon to 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 20. XM Satellite Radio will air the race from 5 to 8 p.m. ET on Sunday, July 20. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage on americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.