Penske Porsches lead first day at Sebring test
Penske Motorsports and Porsche finished atop the timing sheets after the first day of the American Le Mans Series Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway on Monday, besting last year’s qualifying pace by more than a half second.
The team’s No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder put in 39 laps during the afternoon’s four-hour session, the best time a 1:47.228 effort. Penske driver and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves got most of the work following the announcement that he will join Porsche factory drivers Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard for the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 17.
“It’s a great car and a great team,” Castroneves said. “This really is a tremendous experience for me. This type of racing is not just about being fast; you have to be consistent as well. When Penske decided to give me this opportunity, I was very excited.”
A second Porsche RS Spyder, the No. 16 Dyson Racing entry of Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, turned in the second-quickest time at 1:49.894. Monday was the first time the team put its new Porsche on the track. Dyson expects to contend with Penske, the three Acura-powered entries and past Series P2 champion Intersport Racing for class wins throughout the season.
“We are not going to concentrate on a lap time for now,” Dyson said. “The main thing is to get familiar with everything and how it all works together. The fundamentals of the car are quite good; aerodynamically it is very well balanced and the engine ran like a Swiss watch right out of the box. It is typical Porsche, stem to stern, no stone left unturned.”
Third on the day was the first of the new Acura cars, the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Lola B05/40. In its first public outing, the car of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz turned in a best lap of 1:50.461. That was less than 0.3 seconds ahead of the Acura-powered Courage of Andretti Green Racing and another second better than Intersport’s AER-powered Lola.
In GT2, the Panoz Esperante GTLM and the new Porsche Type 997 RSR went head-to-head for the first time. The Esperante of Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand posted the day’s fastest time in the morning session at 2:04.423. The No. 45 Porsche from Flying Lizard Motorsports set the day’s second fastest time of the day at 2:04.607 with Johannes van Overbeek getting all the duties in the morning.
Next was Tafel Racing and its lead Porsche of Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler, which turned in a 2:05.474 in the afternoon session.. Farnbacher Loles’ Porsche and the second Panoz from PTG each were within 1.2 seconds of the leading Panoz.
Here are selected quotes following the first day:
Helio Castroneves, Penske Motorsports
Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2)
“What I like the most is the name of the car: Spyder! It’s a great car and a great team. This really is a tremendous experience for me. This type of racing is not just about being fast; you have to be consistent as well. When Penske decided to give me this opportunity, I was very excited. I’d love to do double-duty at St. Petersburg.
“It’s a different seating position. This car has features like carbon brakes and paddleshifting, and it is about 100 pounds heavier. It’s much nicer and easier to drive with this configuration (than an Indy car).”
David Brabham, Highcroft Racing
Courage LC75-Acura (LMP2)
“Since it’s a new program, there is still much we are having to learn. We can’t run all day like some others. Both of us (Brabham and Stefan Johansson) have a lot of experience in this type of car. Stefan drove the Zytek last year so he has a bit more feedback.”
Seth Neiman, Flying Lizard Motorsports
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR-997 (GT2)
“This is a really great race car. Everything is new to us. The car is new. The tires are new. But the first impression is that this is a tremendous improvement by Porsche. It’s hard to make a comparison (from 2006). If we were making a comparison, then these cars are plainly quicker. What that means in terms of race pace we don’t know.”
Chris Dyson, Dyson Racing
Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2)
“The car ran perfectly right out of the box. Today is a learning day for the whole team. There are new faces and new people that we are working with. For us it getting used to the systems on the car. We are not going to concentrate on a lap time for now. The main thing is to get familiar with everything and how it all works together. The fundamentals of the car are quite good; aerodynamically it is very well balanced and the engine ran like a Swiss watch right out of the box. It is typical Porsche, stem to stern, no stone left unturned.