Audi fastest in opening test day at Sebring
The first test session of the American Le Mans Series’ Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway began just how the 2007 season ended - with Audi in front. The German manufacturer’s diesel-powered R10 TDI sat the fastest overall time Monday at Sebring, a 1:43.821 in the first of the day’s three sessions that was more than a second off last year’s overall pole time.
|Audi topped the speed charts on Monday|
Defending Series LMP1 champions Allan McNish and Dindo Capello, along with four-time Sebring champion Tom Kristensen and Mike Rockenfeller, are entered in the Audi for the three-day test. Their car bettered Marco Werner’s pole run of 1:44.974 by 1.153 seconds.
Series teams are using the Winter Test as a warm-up and practice for this year’s 56th Mobil Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, set for March 15 at the historic central Florida circuit.
Diesel cars held the top two spots on the day with the Peugeot 908 of Nic Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Stephane Sarrazin only 0.153 seconds back of their P1 rivals. This is the first time the two diesel prototypes have been on the same track since the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans, an Audi victory by 10 laps.
The Peugeot suffered a significant oil leak during Monday’s second session and did not return to the track for the final test period.
Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas were third fastest and quickest among the LMP2 entries. Last year’s class champions set a time of 1:45.155 in Penske Racing’s No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder, nearly a second better than Bernhard’s pole time in last year’s 12 Hours. They were followed by the sister car of Sascha Maassen and Ryan Briscoe with a 1:45.214, set in the day’s third session.
The Acura contingent was paced by the Patron Highcroft Racing entry of David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Stefan Johansson at 1:45.638.
Risi Competizione, last year’s GT2 winner at Sebring and the defending Series champion in class, showed no offseason rust with a stellar time of 2:01.192 in the No. 62 Ferrari F430 GT of Jaime Melo and Mika Salo. The time was 1.247 seconds better than Melo’s class pole time from last year’s race. Melo, Salo and Jaime Melo won last year’s class title at Sebring by 0.202 seconds over the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche in the closest finish in race history.
The Risi Ferrari was a full second faster than Tafel Racing’s Ferrari driven by Dirk Muller, Dominik Farnbacher, Pierre Ehret and team owner Jim Tafel. Monday marked the first running of the car since Tafel took delivery of it last week.
Third in GT2 was the Panoz Esperante GTLM of Panoz Team PTG’s Bill Auberlen, Joey Hand, Tom Milner and Tom Sutherland at 2:03.134. Panoz won the 2006 class title at Sebring, the same year it won at Le Mans.
Also of note was the first appearance of the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9, which will challenge Corvette Racing in GT1. The Aston set a time of 2:00.148.
The American Le Mans Series Winter Test continues Tuesday and Wednesday at Sebring.