Audi out front early at Sebring
Audi Sport North America fired the first shot at Sebring International Raceway this week with the unofficial fastest time in Monday morning's first test session for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. Allan McNish's time of 1:44.093 was just 0.244 seconds better than diesel rival Peugeot.
Audi has won Sebring's 12-hour classic every year since 2000 including the last two seasons with its diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI. The task grew tougher in February when Peugeot announced its entry into the race with its factory 908, the car that finished second to Audi at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007.
Audi's second R10 was third at 1:44.459 as the first three LMP1s were within 0.366 seconds of each other.
Penske Racing's No. 7 Porsche RS Spyder was quickest in LMP2 with Timo Bernhard posting a time of 1:45.147. The defending class Series co-champion with Romain Dumas was just ahead of two Acura entries: last year's P2 race winner Andretti Green Racing and Patr¢n Highcroft Racing.
The top five P2 cars each ran within a second of each other.
Corvette Racing sat 1-2 in GT1 with Oliver Gavin pacing the works squad with a 1:56.501 in the No. 4 Corvette C6.R. His time was 1.645 seconds better than the sister car of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows.
All six Corvette drivers boast at least one Sebring victory with O'Connell leading the way with six. That puts him in a tie for most in race history with Phil Hill. O'Connell also can set a record for most consecutive starts with his 18th this weekend.
Bell Motorsports' Aston Martin DBR9 was third in class with Terry Borcheller turning in a time of 1:59.882. This will be the first race for the Aston Martin in the hands of the Bell operation, which has a long history of chasing the Corvettes.
The top three in GT2 Monday morning looked very much like the final championship standings from 2007. Risi Competizione's Jaime Melo in the No. 62 Ferrari F430 GT was quickest at 2:01.423 that was more than a second better than last year's qualifying record. The Risi squad won its second straight class championship in 2007 and won last year's Sebring race by just 0.202 seconds.
The team it beat was second fastest in class Monday morning. The No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Jörg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb was 0.213 seconds back of the Risi car. Tafel Racing's new No. 71 Ferrari F430 GT was third in class at 2:01.882.