Peugeot to use Sebring as LeMans warm-up As Peugeot Sport Director Michel Barge underlined during the presentation of the team's 2008 season, Team Peugeot Total's priority objective this year is victory in the Le Mans 24 Hours. To prepare for this exacting race, the team went straight into an intensive test program after last November's 1000 Milhas Brazil at Interlagos with a view to continuing the development and reliability-enhancing of the 908 HDi FAP which turned out to be competitive out of the box. But nothing can replace actual competition and this is why a car has been entered for the 12 Hours of Sebring. This race promises to be tough not only because of the notorious characteristics of the track but also because of the formidable competition Peugeot Sport faces in the American classic and which it will face again on the European rounds of the Le Mans Series and at Le Mans itself.
To prepare for the 12 Hours of Sebring, Team Peugeot Total made the trip out to Florida last January to take part in the Winter Test staged by the American Le Mans Series organizers. Three of the four Peugeot drivers who will contest the 2008 Le Mans Series – namely Portugal's Pedro Lamy and Frenchmen Nicolas Minassian and Stéphane Sarrazin – profited from the opportunity to take turns at the wheel of the 908 HDi FAP. To the surprise of many, the car immediately proved a match for the former airfield's infamous uneven concrete slabs. "This track is very different from modern European tracks," commented Stéphane Sarrazin who was clearly in his element at Sebring. "It's pretty bumpy in places but the car seemed to be well suited to track from its very first runs and we were pleasantly surprised by our performance which says a great deal for the 908 HDi FAP's excellent chassis."
The 908 HDi FAP ended the first day just one-tenth of a second off the top of the timesheets and the Peugeot Sport-run machine went on to secure the fastest lap of the three-day session in the hands of Stéphane Sarrazin. His time of 1m 42.801s even set a new track record, beating the Audi R10's 2007 pole-winning time of 1m 44.974s. "We didn't go all out for a time. We just worked our way through the program we had set for the three days," says Technical Director Bruno Famin. "We also tried the full range of Michelin tires we will have in 2008 and we were very pleased with them in terms of both their performance and durability."
In the course of the three days, Peugeot Sport's trio covered 235 laps of the 5.95km circuit, making a total of almost 1,400km, although the winner of March's race will have to cover practically twice that distance. With 35 cars at the start, ranging from LMP1s to GT2s, the 56th 12 Hours of Sebring promises to be something of an obstacle race for the quickest cars and numerous appearances of the safety car are likely which it will be necessary to manage as efficiently as possible!
One 908 HDi FAP has been entered (N°7) and will sport a blue livery.
The race begins at 10.05 local time (15.05 continental European team) on Saturday March 15. Peugeot Sport will stay on at Sebring for a validation test on the Monday after the race. With a program of three events that follow on from each other in quick succession during the build-up to the Le Mans 24 Hours, plus various private test sessions, Team Peugeot Total has a big workload and was unable to take part in the official Le Mans Series test at Le Castellet's HTTT track in France on March 2-3.
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