After dominating the opening eight-and-half hours of the Sebring 12-Hours race in Florida, Bathgate’s Marino Franchitti saw a maiden win in the highly competitive LMP2 class go up in ‘barbecue smoke’.
The 30-year-old Scot, partnered by Australian David Brabham and Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, had established a comfortable five-lap lead on the bumpy 3.7-mile circuit which hosted the opening round of the American Le Mans Series.
But as Franchitti, who had qualified the car on the LMP2 pole, was about to enter the car to take over from Pagenaud he noticed smoke coming from the cockpit of the Highcroft Acura.
An electrical problem had ignited a small fire which, though it was quickly extinguished by the team, eventually caused the car to sit motionless in the pits while the crew completed the necessary repair work.
“I went to get in the car for my final double stint and noticed smoke and discovered there was a barbecue going in the passenger side; that wasn’t so good,” a deeply disappointed Franchitti explained.
“Luckily the guys were on it quickly with a fire extinguisher and put it out. Though the guys did a brilliant job to repair the car, the delay meant our five-lap lead turned into a six-lap deficit.
“In the remaining three-hours David and I managed to get the gap back to four laps, but there just wasn’t enough time for us to catch the leaders.
“The crew did an amazing job to get the car back on track. Not only did they fix the car so quickly, but to have every single electrical system perform faultlessly after that was amazing. It really was a fantastic recovery.
“Of course I’m disappointed at the end to not get the victory, but we scored fantastic points for the championship and our main goal was to come out of here strong. We can be very proud of what everybody did.”
Franchitti’s Highcroft car finished four laps behind the Porsche RS Spyder of LMP2 winners, Greg Pickett, Klaus Graff and Sascha Maassen, and fifth overall behind the three more powerful LMP1 cars.
Peugeot took a dominant 1-2 with the No7 car of England’s Anthony Davidson and team-mates Alex Wurz and Marc Gene finishing just 13.817secs ahead of their team-mates Pedro Lamy, Sebastien Bourdais and Nicolas Minassian.