Last year’s Sebring LMP2 pole position winner Marino Franchitti will reunite with Highcroft Racing next week as the team takes Honda Performance Development back to the LMP1 class for the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron.

Franchitti drove for Highcroft at Sebring, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Petit Le Mans last year and played an integral part of the team’s championship success – taking pole at Sebring, anchoring the team’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca victory and completing a faultless performance at Petit Le Mans to help Highcroft and HPD take the manufacturer titles as well as David Brabham and Simon Pagenaud’s driver championship success.

The Scot was entrusted with qualifying duties at Sebring and Franchitti pulled out a perfect lap to score the LMP2 class pole despite strong opposition from Mazda and Porsche.

Franchitti is now eagerly awaiting the opportunity to do battle in the LMP1 class for the first time aboard the HPD ARX-01e

“Although I’ve driven a lot of prototypes and won in ALMS overall, I’ve never competed in LMP1 so it’s a big goal achieved for me to finally drive in the premier class against all the big factory teams,” Franchitti said.

“I can’t wait to get out there, see how the extra power and bigger Michelin tires feel and I’m sure HPD with Wirth Research have done the same amazing job they always do.

“We’re hoping the new HPD car is able to be up battling amongst the factory Audis and Peugeots from the word go. Our program has come together a little late and we’re going to be very light on miles. Reliability will be our main goal.

“We’ve done some simulator miles in the car this week and have been very encouraged. I’m looking forward to trying it for real.”

Franchitti will team up with David Brabham at Highcroft with the final driver set to be confirmed on Friday this week.

With a huge 57-car field entered for the Sebring event, the battle through traffic at the historic Florida airfield circuit is going to be a highlight of the 12-hour race.

“I always think the more cars the better. Everyone was worried at Petit Le Mans last year, but we actually found that working through the traffic gave us an advantage and we’re hopeful that will continue at Sebring,” Franchitti said.

“All the classes have to work together out there and having driven both GT and prototypes, as long as we all respect each other’s space it should make for great racing.”

Team boss Duncan Dayton is delighted to get Franchitti back aboard the Highcroft Racing machine for Sebring after his impressive performances last season.

“David Brabham said at the banquet last season that Marino Franchitti really came of age as a driver and I don’t think there is anyone in the industry who would disagree with that,” Dayton said.

“His performances were outstanding and he was remarkably quick every time he got in the car. He attended every race with us even when he wasn’t in the car and took part in all the debriefings with our engineers, David and Simon.

“We have all the faith in the world in Marino and when we gave him the opportunity to qualify the car he showed he was the man for the job.

“All of our guys last season worked extremely well together and while they all each wanted to go faster, they also gained great satisfaction from their teammates performing well. It was a pleasure to watch them work.”

Highcroft Racing will continue its countdown to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with the release tomorrow detailing the team’s new HPD ARX-01e – the return to the LMP1 class for Honda Performance Development.

Highcroft and HPD have enjoyed great success in LMP1 in the past – teaming together under the Acura brand to take the American Le Mans Series championship in 2009.

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