Pagenaud wins thriller for Highcroft

Simon Pagenaud scored a brilliant victory for Patron Highcroft Acura by taking the lead in dramatic fashion from Adrian Fernandez's factory AMR Lola coupe on the last lap of a 100-minute thriller at Long Beach

Pagenaud wins thriller for Highcroft

In a perfect advert for the American Le Mans Series' new regulations to equalise LMP1 and LMP2 and create one category, the Aston and the Acura crews put on a race-long battle that was only settled in the last 45 seconds of the race when Fernandez made a mistake and allowed the more nimble but less powerful HPD ARX-01c through to win.

Harold Primat took advantage of Aston Martin's pole position and built an early lead from a fast-starting Jon Field, with Pagenaud's co-driver David Brabham dropping to third.

But within minutes of the green flag the first caution was raised after Tom Papadopoulos crashed his LMPC Oreca. This was followed by another caution almost immediately as Chris Dyson skated his Lola into the wall at Turn 1.

All of Primat's hard work already undone, his misery was then compounded at the restart as Field powered by into the lead.

It was at this point that the Aston began to encounter brake problems and, for all its power, held up Brabham. The Australian got frustrated, as he later admitted, and went for an opportunistic pop down the inside of Primat just after the 30 minute mark. The pair made contact, damaging the back of the Aston and instigating a stop in the penalty box for Brabham.

The significant build up of debris also prompted the third, and race-changing caution period, around half distance.

Highcroft's excellent stop vaulted the team into the lead, recovering all of the time it had lost to Brabham's penalty, while the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder also got ahead of both Field's Intersport Lola and Fernandez (now installed in the Aston).

Fernandez put on a charge and quickly dispensed of the Intersport car, though it took him longer to get by Klaus Graf in the Muscle Milk Porsche.

All the while Pagenaud maintained around 4s gap to the race behind him, but once into second, the Mexican closed the Acura down fast. With around 10 laps to go, Fernandez got past Pagenaud on the back straight. Once in the lead however, he couldn't pull away as his rear brakes faded further and lapping traffic became a problem. In the end it all culminated in that last lap error at Turn 5, and once ahead again Pagenaud ensured he stayed there.

Graf and Tom Pickett took a well-deserved third ahead of Guy Smith, who forged the Dyson Lola back up to fourth following its earlier off.

The GT battle was just as exciting and also pivoted on that crucial third caution.

The Rahal Letterman BMWs pitted early and the team chose to gamble on running the cars on one set of tyres through the race. This gave Tommy Milner and Joey Hand track position and moved them ahead of early leader Wolf Henzler's Falken Tyres Porsche through this phase of the race.

Patrick Long (Flying Lizard Porsche) and Gianmaria Bruni (Risi Ferrari) also moved up to third and fourth in the stops.

But as the tyres on the M3s faded, so Long, always one for a street fight, began to force his way through, trailed by the Ferrari and a hard-charging Jan Magnussen in the Corvette.

Long made short work of Hand and quickly closed up behind Milner. As Hand dropped further back, Long looked for ways past Milner and eventually dummied him from left-to-right on the backstretch. Magnussen, who had scrabbled his way to front of the pursuing pack, also got past Milner before the race's end.

Gunner Jeanette and Elton Julian took the Le Mans Prototype Challenge class win, finishing fifth overall in an excellent drive while the GT Challenge honours went to Butch Leitzinger in the Alex Job Porsche.

 Pos Driver Class Car Result 1. Brabham/Pagenaud LMP HPD ARX-01c 67 laps 2. Primat/Fernandez LMP Aston Martin Lola + 0.353s 3. Pickett/Graf LMP Porsche RS Spyder + 9.472s 4. Dyson/Smith LMP Lola B09 86 Mazda + 10.903s 5. Julian/Jeannette LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 1 lap 6. Tucker/Bouchut LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 2 laps 7. Hildebrand/Sutherland LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 2 laps 8. Bergmeister/Long GT Porsche 911 RSR + 2 laps 9. Drissi/Davis LMP Lola B06 10 + 2 laps 10. Magnussen/O'Connell GT Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 + 2 laps 11. Auberlen/Milner GT BMW M3 GT + 2 laps 12. Melo/Bruni GT Ferrari 430 GT + 2 laps 13. Mueller/Hand GT BMW M3 GT + 2 laps 14. Sellers/Henzler GT Porsche 911 RSR + 2 laps 15. Sharp/van Overbeek GT Ferrari 430 GT + 2 laps 16. Brown/Cosmo GT Ferrari 430 GT + 3 laps 17. Pagerey/Wong LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 4 laps 18. Beretta/Gavin GT Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 + 4 laps 19. Gonzalez/Leitzinger GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps 20. Curtis/Sofronas GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps 21. Sweedler/Kapudija GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 4 laps 22. Bonilla/Marcelli LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 5 laps 23. Robertson/Murry GT Doran Ford GT-R + 5 laps 24. Lewis/Vento GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 5 laps 25. Drayson/Cocker LMP Lola B09 60 + 5 laps 26. Miller/McMullen GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 6 laps 27. Rodriguez/Bieker GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 6 laps 28. Gonzalez/Diaz GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 7 laps 29. Pappas/Bleekemolen GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 7 laps 30. Field/Field LMP Lola B06 10 + 19 laps 31. Richard/Lally GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup + 19 laps 32. Gentilozzi/Dalziel GT Jaguar XKRS + 22 laps 33. Law/Neiman GT Porsche 911 RSR + 39 laps 34. Beggs/Baron GTC Porsche 911 GT3 + 61 laps 35. Mowlem/Papadopoulos LMPC Oreca FLM09 + 64 laps 
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