Highcroft Racing's David Brabham and Scott Sharp took the new Acura LMP1's first victory in round two of the American Le Mans Series at St Petersburg.
With the Acuras by far the fastest machines in the disappointing 17-car entry - an all-time low for the championship - it was always likely that either Highcroft or De Ferran Motorsports would give the company its maiden LMP1 win at the Florida street track.
At first it looked like De Ferran would have that honour, as owner/driver Gil de Ferran stormed away from Sharp at up to one second per lap in the opening stint. Sharp was then further delayed with a trip off the road, briefly dropping him behind the LMP2 Fernandez Acura, although he narrowed the gap back to under 10 seconds as the leaders hit traffic.
Highcroft then benefited from the timing of the race's only caution. Although Duncan Dayton's team had a slow stop and fell back behind the Fernandez car, it was able to make its driver change under yellow, whereas De Ferran had stopped just before the pace car came out.
When racing resumed with 47 minutes to go, Adrian Fernandez briefly led overall before Brabham put the LMP1 Acura back in front. De Ferran's victory hopes ended soon afterwards when the car developed recurring electrical problems and tumbled down the order.
While Brabham and Fernandez cruised home to clinch first and second overall, and both prototype class victories, the two Dyson Lola-Mazdas made it to the finish in third and fourth, despite a warm-up crash for Chris Dyson and an early spin by Marino Franchitti.
The early GT2 leaders all hit trouble before half-distance. Pierre Kaffer led from pole at first in the Risi Ferrari, but after briefly falling behind Bill Auberlen's BMW, Farnbacher Loles Porsche driver Wolf Henzler hunted down and passed the Sebring class winner within 11 laps.
However none of the trio made it much further. Kaffer suffered a suspension failure, the BMW failed to restart after its pitstop, and Henzler lost 12 laps due to damage from a severe puncture.
That allowed the Flying Lizard Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long to take a comfortable victory. Dirk Muller and Tom Milner fought through to a distant second in the new Rahal Letterman BMW, battling past the PTG Panoz and the LG Riley Corvette after losing ground during the stops.
Pos Cl Drivers Car Time 1. LMP1 Brabham/Sharp Acura ARX-02a 1h55m53.705s 2. LMP2 Fernandez/Diaz Acura ARX-01b + 32.150s 3. LMP2 Dyson/Smith Mazda Lola B09 86 + 1 laps 4. LMP2 Leitzinger/Franchitti Mazda Lola B09 86 + 2 laps 5. GT2 Bergmeister/Long Porsche 911 GT3 + 5 laps 6. LMP1 Field/Field/Ducote Lola B06/10 AER + 5 laps 7. GT2 Mueller/Milner BMW E92 M3 + 7 laps 8. GT2 Farnbacher/James Panoz Esperante + 7 laps 9. GT2 Gigliotti/Curran Riley Corvette C6 + 8 laps 10. GT2 Neiman/Law Porsche 911 GT3 + 9 laps 11. GT2 Robertson/Murry Doran Ford GT MK 7 + 10 laps 12. GT2 Werner/Henzler Porsche 911 GT3 + 19 laps 13. LMP1 de Ferran/Pagenaud Acura ARX-02a + 27 laps 14. GT2 Feingerg/Hall Dodge Viper + 55 laps 15. GT2 Sutherland/Phinney Panoz Esperante + 55 laps 16. GT2 Auberlen/Hand BMW E92 M3 + 65 laps 17. GT2 Melo/Kaffer Ferrari 430 GT + 66 laps