Highcroft Racing pulled off an amazing giant-killing performance in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring - charging to second place with its new Honda Performance Development ARX-01e and beating the previously dominant factory diesel entries from Audi and Peugeot.
With a car only seven days old and a mere five days track time under its belt, the Danbury, CT-based team collected its best ever Sebring result with stars Simon Pagenaud, David Brabham and Marino Franchitti behind the wheel.
While contact and incidents delayed many including the powerful diesel factory teams, the petrol-powered HPD entry stayed in contention throughout the day with the team completing 12 hours of perfect pit stops coupled with superbly clean stints from all three drivers.
Despite frantic traffic through the 56-car field, the #01 Michelin Pilot Super Sport-branded Highcroft entry completed the race without any contact whatsoever.
Developed by HPD's partner Wirth Research in the UK, the ARX-01e hit the track for the first time only a week ago but demonstrated its incredible potential as a significant contender in the LMP1 class.
At the race end, the Highcroft squad finished only 31.868 seconds behind the race winning Team Oreca Peugeot.
Marino Franchitti had earlier been able to pass the Oreca car during his stint, but the privateer French squad also enjoyed a similar perfect race with its previous generation Peugeot - a car with five years development, versus five days for the new HPD machine.
The Highcroft squad led 16 laps throughout the race and from lap 116 through to the race finish at #332 - the team remained in the top three.
The team also enjoyed perfect strategy, switching to a fuel conservation mode to complete one less pit stop than the winner and the third placed factory Peugeot.
While Highcroft may not have been able to take the overall win, the impressive fuel consumption performances of the petrol-powered 3.4 liter V8 earned the team the Michelin Green X Challenge trophy - the award rewards competitors which succeed in consuming the least fuel while at the same time optimizing performance.
Highcroft and HPD took the overall Green X Challenge award last season in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron along with its second overall Series championship.
The Sebring performance was the best finish at the famous Florida venue for Pagenaud, Brabham and Franchitti and follows a similar effort at last year's Petit Le Mans where the trio won the LMP2 class.
Pagenaud took the car to the front towards the end of his initial run in the car earlier in the day, charging into the race lead despite triple-stinting his Michelin tires.
Developed from the championship-winning HPD LMP2-class machine, the car's impressive straight-line performance was not born out of wind tunnel, but created virtually by Wirth Research using computational fluid dynamics.
Considering the car was designed specifically for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the performance at the opening round of the ALMS and Intercontinental Le Mans Cup was impressive.
Highcroft's championship and Petit Le Mans class-winning performances last season earned the team an entry in this year's French classic.
But the results of Highcroft's efforts were not were not just on the race track. The team also raised more than $15,000 for it's Japanese Earthquake appeal. Race fans can continue to contribute via http://www.highcroftracing.com/help-japan.
SIMON PAGENAUD "It has been an incredible week with a lot of things going on to create this new car. "To just unload for the first time last Saturday and now be on the podium with the best teams in endurance racing is quite amazing. "It really is quite incredible what the Highcroft team has accomplished. "We had outstanding power from the Honda engine and the guys at Wirth Research did a fantastic job on the aero package which gave us both low drag and a lot of downforce - what more could you ask for. "This result just shows the strength of the team and strength of the new car. "I think this car could be a very good contender at Le Mans - I will have to keep an eye on it and be careful when I am back in the Peugeot."
DAVID BRABHAM "The first thing you have to realize is the monumental effort to even get the car on the grid. "It was only about a month ago that we got the go ahead to enter for Sebring. "The car was built, sent to Florida, we ran it for the first time last Saturday with a systems check and then got stuck into testing on Monday. "It was not really the ideal preparation for one of the biggest sportscar races in the world but when you think about the result we picked up today - it is absolutely stunning. "The Highcroft team really blew us all away this week. The car ran faultlessly, Simon and Marino were phenomenal in the car as well. "At the beginning of the week if you had offered us a podium finish we would have grabbed it with open arms. "It has really been a fantastic day."
MARINO FRANCHITTI "The monumental effort that everyone has put in to make this happen and the hours that they have worked is just unbelievable. "I said earlier in the week that everyone has been at maximum capacity all week - yet when it came to race time the pit stops were perfect, the strategy was perfect, we did nothing but give it fuel and tires all day. "HPD, Wirth Research, Michelin, all the guys on the team, everyone who supported us deserve a huge round of applause. "My two teammates were unbelievable especially my French friend at the end. "All I kept hearing them say on the radio was ‘you need to go faster and save more fuel!'" "His right foot really did a great job for us today. "We ran the last race last year without a mark on the car and have done the same today, I couldn't be happier."
DUNCAN DAYTON "I am enormously proud of the whole effort of everybody on the team - Honda Performance Development, Wirth Research, Michelin and everyone at Highcroft Racing. "Without everyone pulling long hours and doing whatever they needed to do to get the job done, we wouldn't be here. "The performance of the car, how flawlessly it ran and how superbly the drivers drove it is just amazing. "There isn't a mark on the car, we never took the engine cover off, it is just a testament to what a powerful partnership this is. "Without Michelin's great support and the fantastic tires they provided throughout the race, we couldn't have performed as well as we did. "We are all ecstatic but we're a little bit greedy, we wish we'd been one position better. "For the first time running the car, it is pretty pleasing. "Somebody made a joke at the end how it was great that we invited 55 other cars to come our test which made for a great race."