Sebring Day 1: Audis out front
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is starting 2007 the way the 2006 American Le Mans Series ended. Audi Sport North America posted the two fastest times Monday during the week’s first test session for Saturday’s season opener.
Four-time Sebring winner Tom Kristensen (right) posted the day’s fastest lap at 1:45.177, nearly 0.7 seconds under teammate Allan McNish’s qualifying record set last year in the Audi R10 TDI. Both diesel-powered entries are new cars that feature improvements over last year’s Sebring and Le Mans winner.
The sister car of Emanuele Pirro, Marco Werner and Frank Biela was second quickest with a best time of 1:45.816. The R10 TDI won all eight races it competed in last season including seven in the American Le Mans Series.
“Visibly you can’t see a difference (between this year’s car and last year’s),” said Kristensen, who will race with Allan McNish and Rinaldo Capello. “But because of the diesel engine and to get it drivable, there have been quite a lot of things done to the electronics and taking feedback from the drivers and getting to know the feedback of the different circuit characteristics. We have improved things in terms of springs and roll-bars, and the car is closer to being on the limit.”
The six fastest LMP2 cars all were under the current class qualifying mark Monday. Andy Wallace led the way with a 1:46.703 in the Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder he will drive with Butch Leitzinger and Andy Lally. Porsches held the top three spots as Penske Racing’s two entries were second and third. The No. 6 of Sascha Maassen, Ryan Briscoe and Emmanuel Collard was the fastest at 1:46.988, less than 0.2 seconds better than the sister car.
The top Acura-powered team was the Andretti Green Racing entry of Bryan Herta, Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan (1:47.065). The trio was less than 0.4 seconds better than the second Dyson Racing Porsche and a half second ahead of the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Lola-Acura of Adrian Fernandez, Luis Diaz and David Martinez.
The GT1 battle between Corvette and Aston Martin appears as if it will as close this week as it was last season with just 0.372 seconds separating the top three cars. Corvette Racing’s Corvette C6.R of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis led the way with a 1:58.557 in the afternoon session, followed by the sister entry of Ron Fellows, Johnny O’Connell and Jan Magnussen. Team Modena’s Aston Martin DBR9 was the quickest car in the morning session and improved its time by about 0.1 seconds to 1:58.929 in the afternoon
Ferraris dominated GT2 as the Italian marque’s F430 GT held the top three positions. Risi Competizione’s Ferrari of Jamie Melo, Mika Salo and Johnny Mowlem was quickest at 2:02.159, nearly a half second under the track qualifying record. The Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing entry of Rui Aguas and Maurizio Mediani were a half second back, just ahead of the Petersen/White Lightning Ferrari of Tomas Enge, Tim Bergmeister and Memo Gidley.
The best Porsche in the morning session was the Rahal Letterman Racing car of Ralf Kelleners, Tom Milner and Graham Rahal at 2:03.623 nearly a second back of the Risi Ferrari.