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Acura Battles With Porsche At Lime Rock

Sep 1, 2007

What Goes On In Soichiro's Name

Htup_0709_01_z+le_mans+front_view Photo 1/13   |   Shakedown Alms

The Acura-powered LMP2 cars put up a good fight at the sixth round of the American Le Mans Series. The 2-hour and 45-minute race was held on July 7 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. While the venue is one of the most beautiful in the country, the track is one of the shortest and tightest. The 1.5-mile circuit has always been difficult to pass on and with mixed-class racing like the ALMS, the drivers of the wicked-fast prototype cars really had their hands full.

The battle up front was a blur of Porsche and Acura-powered LMP2 prototypes. The Penske and Dyson teams brought out a total of four Porsche RS Spyders. But the Acura-powered Takata/Highcroft, Andretti/Green and Lowe's/Fernandez teams weren't holding back. The lead pack fought hard right from the start. Porsche GT3 911 RSRs and Ferrari F430 GTs quickly turned into backmarkers as the prototypes sliced through them.

Htup_0709_02_z+le_mans+front_view Photo 2/13   |   Shakedown Alms

The Lowe's/Fernandez Lola dropped out only 45 minutes into the race. Luis Diaz was right in the mix, running sixth when the team noticed smoke coming from the car. He brought the car in and the crew noticed that a pushrod mounting stud for the suspension had pulled out of the bellhousing casing. "This was a terminal problem," said team owner and co-driver Adrian Fernandez. "We couldn't fix it properly. We had a lot of fan support for the race and it was unfortunate that we couldn't put on a show for the fans and Lowe's and Acura. We will be back strong for Mid-Ohio."

The fight for the lead went on for two more hours. With only four laps to go Bryan Herta in the XM Satellite Radio sponsored Andretti/Green car slid off the track from third place while trying to get around lapped traffic. The car was unable to continue but still took seventh, five laps ahead of the eighth place Corvette C6R that won the GT1 class.

Htup_0709_03_z+le_mans+far_view Photo 3/13   |   Shakedown Alms

This left David Brabham in the last remaining Acura with the task of running down the two lead Penske Porsches. He pulled some smoking times through heavy traffic but couldn't quite get it done. The Takata-sponsored Highcroft ARX01a finished third, just 16 seconds behind First Place finisher Ryan Briscoe.

Brabham, "That is the nature of the track. It is just narrow. I have driven in all of the classes here at Lime Rock. I much prefer the faster cars like the Acura. You don't have to look in your mirrors as much with these cars. We have learned a lot about the car, and the team is really improved since the beginning of the year. We are giving the Porsches a good run."

Htup_0709_04_z+le_mans+Side_race_view Photo 4/13   |   Shakedown Alms

Super GT Round
Raybrig Nsx Comes In Second At Sepang Circuit MalaysiaThings started out looking good for the Honda GT500 teams in Malaysia. During qualifying, Takashi Kogure put the Takata Dome NSX on the pole for the third consecutive event. Ralph Firman in the Arta NSX joined him on the front row, just tenths of a second behind. Both cars beat the standing GT500 lap record set by the Arta team in '05 by over three seconds. The record-breaking times were largely due to the new track surface, which had a lot of grip but cost in tire wear.

The main event was held the following afternoon. Despite a rainy forecast, the race took place in the sweltering, tropical heat without any cloud cover. This not only took its toll on the teams and spectators, but also on equipment-especially the tires. Many teams switched to an unusual two-stop strategy, while others stuck with a traditional single mandatory stop but at a conservative pace.

Not even the blazing sun could dissipate the dark cloud, which has been hovering over the Takata Dome NSX team all year. Poised to win the previous two rounds, they were knocked off the track at Okayama and struck with a late race transmission failure at Fuji. This time the pole sitting team was taken out of the race by a drivetrain glitch on the formation lap.

Htup_0709_05_z+le_mans+grand_stands Photo 5/13   |   Shakedown Alms

Firman in the Arta NSX assumed the first position and led the field at the green. Further back in the pack Dominik Schwager had an amazing start in the Raybrig NSX. However, the officials gave him a drive-through penalty for allegedly passing cars before crossing the start/finish. The field rapidly spread out with each team using its own strategy for tire conservation.

In the end the Woodone Advan Z finished first after making just one pit stop. It was the first GT500 win for ADVAN tires in over two years. Apparently, they were more durable than the dominating Bridgestones. The Z was closely followed by the Raybrig NSX, which was running at a faster pace. The win would've been almost a sure thing had it not been for the penalty at the start. The next highest finishing Honda was the Arta NSX. The team finished sixth after crashing off the track on the final lap by a severely dehydrated Masataka Yanagida in the Yellow Hat Tomca Z. The next round will be at Sportsland Sugo where we'll once again be pulling for those monster GT500 NSXs.

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