Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK - Friday 14 November, 2013

The End of An Era At Petit Le Mans

David Brabham reflects on the end of a racing era and sealing his astounding American Le Mans Series (ALMS) career with yet another pole position and podium, as the series came to a close at Petit Le Mans.

Racing in the ALMS has been a big part of my life for the last 14 years. I’ve raced in the series since the first race and took my first series victory at the Rose City Grand Prix, Portland, in the Panoz LMP1 in 1999. So, racing in the last ever ALMS race, fittingly held at Petit Le Mans, meant a great deal to me.

It was a special moment for me, and the ESM team, to get the final P2 pole position and go on to add another podium to my series tally, especially as I haven’t driven much this year. It was a fitting way to end the ALMS.

ESM has come a long way during its first LMP2 programme this year and it was very kind of the team to ask me to take the lead on set-up for Petit. The car has my DNA from all the miles I’ve done in the HPD prototype, so I know how and why it works.

When I got to the track I could see that there were things the team had tried at other tracks that I was unsure of, and I thought we would need a back-to-back comparison on the set ups to see what would work at Road Atlanta. We continued to make good progress and, when we finished setting the car up, my teammates said it was the best it had felt all year, so that was positive.

The ESM Patrón team gave us a good car to be right on the pace and the reward was pole. The race was a real mixed bag of weather and positions. I had a situation of being on wets when it was dry and then slick tyres when it was wet…!

I stayed out in the hope that the track would dry out and, although the conditions were difficult, it was the right call and we got back into the lead. A lead that we held right up until the last pitstop, a stop that didn't go well and we lost time. That dropped us behind Level 5, who had done a great job to get back on the lead lap after they lost a lot of time at the beginning. It was a real fight to the finish and we came second, just 1.3 seconds adrift – not bad for a 1000-mile race…!

I have loved competing in the ALMS; the racing has been tough, but fair, and I have driven with great teams and drivers on awesome tracks. The fans that have followed the series are really passionate and the interaction with them made a special human relationship. The spirit in the paddock has always been mega and I hope the new series carries the same ALMS values.

Special thanks must go to Don Panoz and Scott Atherton who were the creators and bedrock of the series. Don’s vision for sportscars in the US has helped change it for the better.

I am thrilled to be part of a new dawn for American sportscar racing and the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship in 2014, racing again with ESM for three out of four North American Endurance Championship rounds.

I haven't actually raced at Daytona since the first of the Daytona Prototype races in 2003, where I took class victory with the Multimatic team – a great result! The only problem back then was that we finished fourth behind three GT cars. We suffered a few delays, so an overall win was possible. Hopefully I can add that outright title to my tally in January with ESM at yet another historic event – that would be a great way to start the year!

Image © Blue Matrix Photography.