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Acura Creates History at Sebring 12 Hour

March 22nd, 2009
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Scott Dixon put Acura into the Sebring record books Thursday with a stunning final-lap dash to win the overall pole position for Saturday’s 57th annual 12 Hours of Sebring. 

Dixon, the defending Indy 500 and IndyCar Series champion, made his first Sebring race appearance quite notable by driving the all-new No. 66 de Ferran XM Radio Acura ARX-02a prototype sports car to the top position in Saturday’s grid over expected favorites Audi and Peugeot.  It is the first time since 2005 that a manufacturer has captured both the LMP1 and LMP2 pole positions in the same event.

This weekend marks Acura’s debut in the LMP1 class in the American Le Mans Series, after two years of competition in the LMP2 category.  Acura won the LMP2 division in its initial Sebring event in 2007.

Dixon made his best lap on his final clocking during qualifying, with a time of one minute, 45.278 seconds and an average speed of 126.522 miles per hour.   Dixon will team with Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud when the 57th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring begins at 10:30 a.m. [EDT] Saturday.

The legendary Sebring International Raceway was lined with interested spectators Thursday for one of the most anticipated confrontations in Sebring race history with Acura taking on sports-car giants Audi and Peugeot, two regulars at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.  De Ferran Motorsports and Patrón Highcroft Racing cars are launching the new ARX-02a in ALMS competition.

Veteran Adrian Fernandez took Acura to the pole in the LMP2 class Thursday in his No. 15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura ARX-01b with a speed of 119.425 m.p.h. The LMP2 pole marks Fernandez‘ first American Le Mans Series pole.  Luis Diaz, who placed third overall at Sebring in 2007 with Fernandez, will co-drive the Lowe’s car.

Trailing Dixon in qualifying Thursday was multi-time 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen in the No. 2 Audi followed by Nic Minassian in the No. 07 Peugeot, Mike Rockefeller in the No. 1 Audi, Formula One driver Sebastian Bourdais in the No. 08 Peugeot and David Brabham in the No. 9 Patrón Highcroft Acura ARX-02a.  Brabham will share driving duties Saturday with 2007 Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti and veteran Scott Sharp.

The new Acura ARX-02a car, with a 4-liter, normally-aspirated V-8 engine, will battle the turbocharged diesel Audi and Peugeot for the first time at Sebring Saturday in a grueling 12-hour contest.      

SCOTT DIXON (#66 de Ferran XM Radio Acura ARX-02a):  “It is  very exciting for Acura and the de Ferran team in their first race with the new Acura LMP1 car.  This car is like nothing I have raced before.  The car just seems to get faster as you drive it.  But you can’t get too aggressive with the Acura like I can with my Indy Car.  This is a big surprise to win the pole. But the 12-hour race will be very hard.”

DAVID BRABHAM (#9 Patrón Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-02a):  “We went into qualifying as a test for the race. We had many things that we wanted to work on as we prepare for the 12-hour  event.  The Sebring event is so tough on the cars, teams and drivers.  We want to be ready for all 12 hours.”

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe’s Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): “It feels good to win the pole at Sebring.  The rules have changed in the LMP2 class and we have to be patient in a long race like Sebring. Luis [Diaz] and I have been close to winning here a couple of times.  We’d like to do it this year.”

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