Peugeot 1-2 in 12 Hours of Sebring
Alexander Wurz's outlap after his final stop was quick enough for an overall victory for himself and Team Peugeot Total teammates Marc Gene and Anthony Davidson. Wurz drove his diesel-powered Peugeot 908 HDi FAP to a 13.817-second win at the 58th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, a first in the event for the famed French marque.
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Sebastien Bourdais, Nic Minassian and Pedro Lamy were second, putting an exclamation point on the weekend for the French Lions. The Peugeots were 1-2 in every official session this week.
Gene and Wurz were teammates for Peugeot’s historic victory at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June 2009. The 908 HDi now holds trophies from all of the major endurance races with a win at Petit Le Mans in September.
The factory Peugeot team used the race as a warm-up for Le Mans. Aston Martin Racing with its Lola B09/60-Aston Martin and Drayson Racing’s Lola B09/60-Judd provided the biggest challenges early. The Drayson Lola proved tough early on with Emanuele Pirro running second between the two Peugeots in the early going before it fell back with cooling and radiator issues.
“With Peugeot we came here as a team and wanted to accomplish a goal and we did,” said Davidson, who finished second in GTS during the 2003 race. “This was a big challenge to get through the traffic efficiently. That was where we excelled today. It’s a big challenge for the cars. We know the circuit will throw up all kinds of issues for reliability. It’s important to win the race, but also for preparations for Le Mans later in the year.”
Adrian Fernandez, Harold Primat and Stefan Mücke placed third in the Lola-Aston Martin, making its first start in the 12 Hours. It will go up against Peugeot at Le Mans, as will Audi. Gene is convinced the trip to Sebring will be worth it come the 24 Hours.
“We really think and after driving, this is the best prep for Le Mans,” he said. “In those corners especially the last one, you find the right places to over take, in Turn 17 you can overtake in the outside but a few times I picked up a lot of rubber. It’s a tough track but perfect practice for overtaking. The bumps are more perfect for Le Mans than maybe Paul Ricard, where it is more smooth. There isn’t any other corner in the world like that.”
Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf and Sascha Maassen won in LMP2 for Muscle Milk Team CytoSport. Their Porsche RS Spyder won by three laps over the Patr¢n Highcroft Racing HPD ARX-01c, which led until an electrical problem inside four hours to go set them back.
It marked Porsche’s second Sebring class victory for the RS Spyder, which made its first 12 Hours start in 2006. Penske Racing won overall in 2008, and Saturday’s win by CytoSport was the first time an independent team won in North America with the prototype.
“I really like this magnificent machine,” said an enthused Pickett. “You expect that from Porsche. We were glad to run with the Michelin tires this year, and I’m tickled we could double and triple stint them. I’m 63 now; to do this at this level of competition… my teammates did the heavy lifting. They let me get in a little bit. It was a wonderful adventure. We do this for fun, the better we do it, the more fun we have.”
The Patr¢n Highcroft car of David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti had dominated the opening two-thirds of the race and led by five laps when the electrical malady reared its head. Graf kept ticking off lap after lap while the helpless Highcroft car sat still in pitlane.
“I have to say that I have tried to win here with the Spyder quite a few times, but this time I was successful,” said Maassen, who won in class at Sebring for the fifth time but first in a prototype. “We had luck, that’s for sure. We had our plan, we did exactly what we wanted to do. We drive safe and steady and stay out of the pits. That is the key to an endurance race.”
“It was quiet on the radio. Bringing it home was special for me,” Graf said. “You had to keep your concentration up to not make a mistake especially in the dark.
Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Andy Meyrick placed third in class with their isobutanol-powered Lola B09/86-Mazda. The car experienced electrical sensor issues early.
Risi now has won consecutively at Sebring, Le Mans and Petit Le Mans, etching even more history in the F430 GT.
“I think it’s everything together,” said Melo, who won for the third time at the 12 Hours. “The team is a very, very good team. With three drivers who are very consistent like Gimmi and Pierre… that’s the way to win this kind of race. The Michelin tires are very consistent and work well for us. The preparation of the car is the key to this race. I know the F430 from when we started developing the car. We want to put it in the history books, so we want to win this year so bad. We can send it off in a good way.”
The fight in GT2 was a fantastic scrap before attrition started to take its toll. Team Falken Tire led early on in its Porsche and had two wheels come off on consecutive laps. The second hit the then-second-place Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche, which lost three laps in the pits. Corvette Racing’s two Corvettes collided in pit lane when one Corvette C6.R tried to leave its pit box and another came in simultaneously.
That left the Risi Ferrari and two BMWs to duke it out. All totaled, the winning Risi Ferrari led for approximately 10 hours. It led from nearly the 90-minute mark until a caution period just past the halfway point when the Lizard Porsche beat the Ferrari out of the pits. It took Bruni all of a half lap to retake the lead.
“We showed the three of us, Risi, and Michelin worked really well together,” said Bruni, who won for the first time in the Series. “This really helps. (with momentum). We've known each other a while. Jaime has been with this car for a good long time.”
In the new LMPC class, Level 5 Motorsports’ trio of Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Mark Wilkins won handily with their ORECA FLM09 prototype. They won by 16 laps over the Green Earth Team Gunnar trio of Gunnar Jeannette, Christian Zugel and Elton Julian.
“I took the start and the car was working really well, even if we had a small problem in warm-up, a problem with the engine,” Bouchut said. “We thought maybe it wouldn’t work like we expected, but not at all. The mechanics really did a great job putting it together.”
This was the first race for the ORECA-built machines, which are helping develop future prototype drivers and teams for the American Le Mans Series competition. Tucker and Wilkins made their first start in the Series, and Bouchut made just his 13th start.
“We haven’t had a lot of time in the car but it’s a really nice package,” Tucker said. “It’s sophisticated but simple. It was no problem running a triple stint in it. I really like the car.”
Genoa Racing’s Andy Wallace, JR Hildebrand and Tom Sutherland placed second in class.
Keen put the car on the class pole position Friday, and the No. 81 entry ran a clean race on a day when that wasn’t too easy. The only blemish was a speeding violation in pit lane but the winning AJR car held up well over the course of the 12 hours.
“By the time I got in it, these two had done such a good job,” said Leitzinger, who won in GTU at Sebring in 1990. “The prep was really showing through; people were having problems and we weren’t. It was about as easy as a Sebring gets. We didn’t have to pull out these huge laps to catch anyone.”
AJR, based in nearly Tavares, Fla., won at Sebring for the sixth time. All of Alex Job’s victories in the famed race have come with Porsches. Ricardo Gonzalez, Luis Diaz and Patrick Kelly drove the third AJR car.
“The last 12 hours have been really intense,” Keen said. “I have to give it to Alex. He really knows what he’s doing. He put together some great GTC cars for us. There was not a mark on the car. All the guys did an awesome job.”
The Peugeot prototype of Bourdais, Minassian and Lamy were prototype winners in the MICHELIN GREEN X Challenge, with the Flying Lizard Motorsports’ trio of Seth Neiman, Darren Law and Richard Lietz the GT winners. The award goes to the prototype and GT entry in each class that goes the farthest, the fastest and with the smallest amount of environmental impact.
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