Brabham Beats the Porsches at ALMS Lime Rock Grand Prix

July 14, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
The Brabham/Sharp Hightower Acura (shown here leading the Long/Massen Penske Porsche out of Turn One at St. Petersburg) took the overall and P2 win at Lime Rock. (Sherwood Liu/The Epoch Times)
The Brabham/Sharp Hightower Acura (shown here leading the Long/Massen Penske Porsche out of Turn One at St. Petersburg) took the overall and P2 win at Lime Rock. (Sherwood Liu/The Epoch Times)

David Brabham and Scott Sharp, the only team ever to take a class win from the P2 Porsches, did it again, winning overall at Lime Rock with a brilliant late-race pass, using patience and lapped traffic to get past the Penske Porsche of Timo Bernhardt.

The race started as the customary Porsche/Audi battle, but the Audis ran into problems, and the Acuras ran down the Porsches.

The Acuras came into their own at Lime Rock, taking the first two spots on the starting grid, and three of the top five. The David Brabham/Scott Sharp Acura took the pole, with the DeFerran/Pagenaud Acura in second. This was only the second ALMS outing for the DeFerran team, and they certainly made a grand entrance, with a third-place finish at Salt Lake.

The New Lime Rock—Smoother, Longer, Slicker

Lime Rock is a short (1.5-mile), narrow course and has recently been repaved, leaving the course off the racing line very slippery. The track has also been expanded with a new section added, which has created more passing zones.

However, some of the new sections seem to be a bit too narrow for the P1 and P2 cars to negotiate, particularly the entrance to the Optional Uphill section; even the GT cars were plowing through the grass at this turn.

The tightness of the course might have favored the P2 cars, being lighter and more nimble, but the P1 Audis expected to dominate by dint of their tremendous torque. At Lime Rock, cars are always in traffic, and the ability to accelerate quickly is invaluable in getting back up to speed after slowing for traffic.

The Audis didn’t qualify well, sitting seventh and eighth on the grid, but were not worried.

Dangerous Curves

The race started as most ALMS races have this season—a Porsche/Audi battle. Audi held the lead with Emanuele Pirro in the #1 Audi in first place, with Roman Dumas in the #7 Penske Porsche in second.

Cars were running over the edges of the track on all the tight corners, kicking up dust, and in quite a few cases causing spins. Particularly at the uphill entrance to the new section, cars were running straight through the S-bends, sending up clouds of dust and debris.

The Luhr/Werner Audi damaged its front bodywork in an off-road excursion, which further compromised its grip on the already slippery track.

Shortly after making a driver change the leading Audi, now driven by Rinaldo Capello was pushed into the barrier by the GT1 Aston Martin Terry Borcheller. The Audi was heavily damaged—it’s front bodywork was torn off completely, and the was significant damage in the rear also.

Capello in the Audi had passed the two GT cars on the inside coming into the uphill chicane and cut over sharply in front of the Aston to get back on the racing line. Capello didn’t leave enough room and Borcheller had nowhere to go.

Borscheller did hit the Audi, but it looked to be Capello’s fault. Borscheller eventually had to withdraw because of the damage.

This accident brought out the first yellow of the race. Roman Dumas in the Dumas/Bernhard Penske Porsche, which inherited the lead after the Audi crashed, was not told when the pit opened, and missed its chance to pit. When the car did come in, it had lost a lot of time, and rejoined the field in third instead of first, now with Timo Bernhard at the wheel.

On the restart, Timo Bernhard in the #7 Porsche took the lead, followed by the two Dyson Porsches. David Brabham in the Patron Acura, in fifth, hotly contested fourth, held by Patrick Long in the #6 Penske Porsche. Long made an error somewhere on the track and dropped back two places; Brabham then attacked Guy Smith in the Dyson Porsche.

Guy Smith in the Dyson Porsche made exactly the same mistake as Capello in exactly the same place on the track. in the Audi in exactly the same place. Smith passed Darren Law in the #44 GT Flying Lizard Porsche on the right at the end of the straight coming into the sharp right-hand bend entering the uphill section. Smith pulled sharply left to set up for corner, but didn’t give the Porsche driver any room.

It seems the prototype drivers forget that GT cars can’t brake as fast as the prototypes, and simply misjudge how much room they need to leave.

Smith’s accident benefited Dindo Capello, at least, as the Audi crew managed to repair the damage during the yellow, and got the car back in the race.

The Lime Rock management might have to rethink the shape and size of the entrance to the Optional Uphill section—apparently it is too narrow for high-speed racing cars to negotiate. The section lies at the end of a short straight, so cars are entering with a fair head of speed but when they hit the brakes hard, the cars lose downforce and therefore traction. Also, the section is extremely narrow for the tightness of the bends, and with dirt on the track making braking dicey, many cars simply were not able to get through the section cleanly.

Porsche Meets Its Match

After the restart the order again was Porsche–Porsche–Acura, with Bernhard in the Penske Porsche, Butch Leitzinger in the Dyson Porsche, and pole winner David Brabham glued to Leitzinger’s rear wing.

At this point fuel strategy became an issue; with less than an hour to go, cars that could reach the finish line without a stop would have a huge advantage.

Brabham passed Leizinger under braking at the end of the straight, entering Turn One and took off after Bernhard, who had eight-and-a–half second lead. Shortly after, a full-course yellow slowed the field, as the track crew had to clean the track—there was dirt, accident debris, and bits of landscaping everywhere from the numerous off-road incidents.

Right after the restart, Dirk Werner in a GT2 Porsche slammed into the side of GT2 leader Overbeck in the Flying lizard Porsche. Overbeck headed for the pits, and Werner was given a penalty and followed Overbeck in. Wolf Henzler in the #45 Flying Lizard GT2 Porsche took over the GT2 class lead. Overbeck soldiered on, but eventually blew the engine due to coolant loss from radiator damage form the coliision.

With half-an-hour to go, Bernhard had a three-second lead over Brabham, with Sacscha Maassen in the other Penske Porsche in third. Adrian Fernandez in the Loews Acura was all over Maassen, challenging at every opportunity. Unfortunately for the Loews team, the car developed electrical problems and dropped back to fifth, then spun and dropped to sixth.

Brabham also went off-track, but did no damage and made up the time he lost rapidly, closing the gap to one-and-a-half seconds as Bernhard fought through lapped traffic.

The Brabham had the edge in braking and downforce, but the Porsche had the speed. After negotiating traffic, Bernhard opened the gap to three seconds again.

Through the final ten minutes, Bernhard was balancing fuel economy and the need to stay ahead of the charging Brabham. The gap shrunk and swelled as the crew chiefs calculated and recalculated fuel consumption and range.

Brabham appeared to be going more quickly as the race progressed. When traffic let him, Brabham could catch up to Bernhard. Both drivers got increasingly aggressive getting through traffic.

With three minutes to go, Sascha Maassen pushed Butch Leitzinger into tires barrier. Leitzinger managed to get the Porsche running again, but he lost a lot of time. Maassen was given a stop-and-go penalty, but that didn’t help leitzinger, who dropped from third to seventh, while Maasen, even with the penalty, finished third.

With one minute, twenty-five seconds to go, David Brabham forced his way past Bernhard to take the lead.  Brabham got a good run down the straight and pulled up outside of Bernhard, who had lost momentum passing slower traffic. Brabham passed him under braking, and cut sharply across Bernhard’s nose. Bernhard tried to dive inside, braked too hard and spun off the track.

The series points leaders all earned enough to keep their respective class leads.

Johnny O’Connel in the #3 Corvette took its third class win of the season.

Wolf Henzler in the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche took the GT2 win, keeping the class lead. 

Points Standings by Class

Place

Drivers

Team

Points

Protoype 1

 

 

1

Marco Werner/Lucas Luhr

Audi

86 pts

2

 Clint Field/Jon Field

Intersport Lola

49 pts

3

Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro

Audi

42 pts

Protoype 2

 

 

1

Timo Bernhard/Romain Dumas

Penske Porsche

86 pts

2

Scott Sharp/David Brabham

HightowerAcura

58 pts

3

Butch Leitzinger/Marino Franchitti

Dyson Porsche

46 pts

GT 1

 

 

1

Johnny O'Connell/Jan Magnussen

Corvette Racing

86 pts

2

Olivier Beretta/Oliver Gavin

Corvette Racing

78 pts

3

Ron Fellows

Aston Martin

30 pts

GT 2

 

 

1

Jorg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler

Flying Lizard Porsche

86 pts

2

Dominik Farnbacher/Dirk Mueller

Farnsbacher Loles Ferrari

49 pts

3

Patrick Pilet/Johannes van Overbeek

Flying Lizard Porsche

42 pts

         

 

American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock

Place

Drivers

Car

Class Position

1

Scott Sharp/David Brabham

Acura ARX-01B

 (1, P2)

2

Romain Dumas/Timo Bernhard

Porsche RS Spyder

 (2, P2)

3

Patrick Long/Sascha Maassen

Porsche RS Spyder

 (3, P2)

4

Lucas Luhr/Marco Werner

Audi AG R10/TDI

 (1, P1)

5

Luis Diaz/Adrian Fernandez

Acura ARX-01B

 (4, P2)

6

Marco Andretti/Franck Montagny

Acura ARX-01B

 (5, P2)

7

Marino Franchitti/Butch Leitzinger

Porsche RS Spyder

 (6, P2)

8

Jan Magnussen/Johnny O'Connell

Corvette C6.R

 (1, GT1)

9

Jörg Bergmeister/Wolf Henzler

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

 (1, GT2)

10

Jon Field/Clint Field/Richard Berry

Lola B06/10 AER

 (2, P1)

11

Richard Westbrook/Dirk Werner

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

 (2, GT2)

12

Mika Salo/Jaime Melo, Brazil

Ferrari F430 GT

 (3, GT2)

13

Dominik Farnbacher/Dirk Mueller

Ferrari F430 GT

 (4, GT2)

14

Simon Pagenaud/Gil de Ferran

Acura ARX-01B

 (7, P2)

15

Tom Sutherland/Tom Milner

Panoz Esperante Ford

 (5, GT2)

16

Oliver Gavin/Olivier Beretta

Corvette C6.R

 (2, GT1)

17

Patrick Friesacher/Harrison Brix

Ferrari F430 GT

 (6, GT2)

18

Patrick Pilet/Johannes van Overbeek

Porsche 911 GT3 RSR

 (7, GT2)

19

Tim Pappas/Anthony Lazzaro

Doran Ford GT-R

 (8, GT2)

20

Jim Tafel/Alex Figge

Ferrari F430 GT

 (9, GT2)

21

Emanuele Pirro/Rinaldo Capello

Audi AG R10/TDI

 (3, P1)

22

Joel Feinberg/Chris Hal

Dodge Viper Comp Coupe

 (10, GT2)