Sarrazin puts Peugeot on pole for 12 Hours of Sebring
Stephane Sarrazin turned a lap 1.109 seconds faster than his challengers to score pole position for Peugeot at the 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the opening round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patr¢n and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Sarrazin’s best lap of 1:46.571 (124.987 mph) gave the Frenchman his first Sebring pole and second in a row at the track for Peugeot.
The battle of the Audi and Peugeot diesels was rampant as the 20-minute qualifying session began. Tom Kristensen hit the top spot first in the Audi R15 Plus, but was quickly demoted by Romain Dumas in the sister Audi, then the Peugeot 908 of Marc Gene. Sarrazin finally silenced the competition in his Peugeot 908 by clocking a 1:46.571 (124.987mph), a full 1.109 seconds faster than the field.
“With the new rules it is very difficult with all the traffic. It was easier to overtake in the older car because we had more power. It is very hard to get through because we can lose 10 seconds a lap at times. That will be the toughest part of the race.”
Sarrazin will co-drive with Franck Montagny and Pedro Lamy. The trio closed the 2010 American Le Mans Series with a victory at Petit Le Mans.
“This is a test for Le Mans for us,” Sarrazin added. “The target is to finish the race with our car. We have had a few problems with a new car but that is normal. In practice I never had a clean lap, and I don’t think anyone else did either.”
The Audi R15 Plus of Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller will take up the second spot on the grid after Dumas turned in a 1:47.680 (123.700 mph). The second Peugeot Sport Total car piloted by Gene, Alexander Wurz and Anthony Davidson qualified third following Gene’s 1:48.020 (123.310 mph). The trio are the defending Sebring race-winners.
“Today was a very good day,” Bruni said. “We knew we had a good car. I missed the Monday test because I was testing at Paul Ricard. I’m also expecting a daughter in the next few days and was hoping she would come before I left. After the free practices, everything looked like a nightmare; we would put new tires on and would have a red flag.”
“The team received a F458 the night before testing at Paul Ricard. There was no time to get it ready and ship it to Sebring. It was tight enough getting the F430 here.”
Corvette Racing’s Oliver Gavin put one of the team’s two Chevrolet Corvette CR.6s into the second spot with a lap of 2:01.743 (109.411 mph) in the car he shares with Jan Magnussen and Richard Westbrook. BMW Motorsport ended the session third with a 2:01.841 (109.323 mph). The flyer was turned by Dirk Werner who co-drives one of the BMW M3 GT with Bill Auberlen and Augusto Farfus.
“Our car is obviously very good,” Ayari said. “It is a brand new car and we have done the maximum in testing. I drove the ORECA LMP1 car last year in Europe, and we have found a very good setup with good balance. The Nissan engine works very well and has good power.”
Level 5 Motorsports will start second in LMP2 thanks to a 1:57.168 (113.683 mph) set by Luis Diaz, who will co-drive with Ryan Hunter-Reay and tea m owner Scott Tucker. A 2:00.800 (110.192 mph) put Oak Racing third in the order. Patrice Lafargue entered the time and will share the Oak Pescarolo-Judd with Federic Da Rocha and Andrea Barlesi.
LMPC was a three-car fight with CORE autosport chasing Genoa Racing. Dane Cameron put Genoa on top with a new qualifying lap record of 1:55.232 (115.593 mph).
“Qualifying was extremely tight but that’s what’s fun about a spec class,” Cameron said. “It was a pleasure for me to qualify it. Ryan Dalziel and his team will be extremely strong. No one has an advantage or disadvantage when it comes to driver lineups. It will be fun with the traffic but hopefully we can stay out of it.”
“The only other time I’ve been at Sebring was pole position in 2007 with Star Mazda,” Cameron added. “The biggest difference is the weight and downforce on this car. This is a fantastic package and it’s fun for me to drive. Coming from driving single-seaters, it’s fun for me to come back from racing primarily GT cars to prototypes with the downforce.”
Dalziel’s lap of 1:55.430 (115.395 mph) put CORE’s first ORECA FLM09 in the second spot followed by Gunnar Jeannette in the sister car at a 1:55.905 (114.922 mph). Dalziel co-drives with Frankie Montecalvo and team owner Jon Bennett. Jeannette shares driving duties with Ricardo Gonzalez and Rudy Junco.
Richard Lietz is the first GTE-AM polesitter at Sebring and in ACO competition. The Porsche factory driver entered a new qualifying lap record with a 2:02.942 (108.344 mph) in the Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he shares with Gianluca Roda and Christian Ried.
“For me, it’s the fourth time I’m here and first for my teammates,” Lietz said. “We had no time to test because of the LMS test in Europe. It is quite hard for them to learn the track. There is a chance for us to be on the podium but the race will be quite hard. The tires were the best early and when there was no traffic.”
Krohn Racing’s Ferrari F430 GT qualified second on the strength of Nic Jonsson’s 2:03.500 (107.854 mph). Jonsson’s co-drivers will be Michele Rugolo and team owner Tracy Krohn. Third place went to Fabien Giroix in Gulf AMR Middle East’s Aston Martin Vantage. Giroix, who shares the car with Roald Goethe and Michael Wainwright, entered a qualifying lap of 2:04.098 (107.335 mph).
For the second year in a row, Leh Keen will start from the GTC pole. Keen entered a 2:07.373 (104.575 mph) in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry he shares with Bill Sweedler and Brian Wong.
“The car was totaled yesterday,” Keen said. “We went to a whole new chassis and the guys took everything off that and put it on the new car last night. The guys at AJR did a fantastic job.
“I do love Sebring,” he added. “One of the things that Greg Fordhal (engineer) knows how to do is make a Porsche 911 run around here. Alex has been so successful in ALMS over the years and they’ve done another great job.”
The 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida is set for 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 19. The race will be shown live and in its entirety on ESPN3.com starting at 10:15 a.m. ET. ABC will provide coverage from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20. Visit the American Le Mans Series' schedule page for information on tickets and area accommodations.
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