Peugeot edges Audi in Monday practice at Sebring
Peugeot picked up where it left off at the American Le Mans Series Winter Test by turning in the fastest time in Monday’s first test session for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. Stephane Sarrazin’s unofficial time of 1:43.302 was the quickest in the two sessions at the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit.
Sarrazin’s time was 1.672 seconds better than Marco Werner’s qualifying record from 2007 in Audi’s R10 TDI. Coincidentally, Werner was second quickest Monday at 1:43.784 that turned out to be Audi’s best time on the day. Allan McNish had posted the fastest lap of the morning session at 1:44.093.
Sarrazin led all entries at the January Winter Test with a 1:42.801.
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.
The top three LMP2 entries were within 0.828 seconds of each other with the No. 7 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder on top at 1:45.147, set by Timo Bernhard in the morning session. The defending class Series co-champion with Romain Dumas was just ahead of last year’s P2 race winner Andretti Green Racing (1:45.866 in the morning session) and Dyson Racing’s No. 16 Porsche RS Spyder (1:45.975 in the afternoon).
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 during the morning session. His time was 0.978 seconds better than the sister car of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows, a time set in the second period.
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 in the morning. 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 in a Saleen S7R.
The top three in GT2 on Monday 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. 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.
The 2008 American Le Mans Series season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, SPEED Latin America and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA’s Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.
Lucas Luhr, Audi Sport North America
Audi R10 TDI (LMP1)
“You cannot compare a prototype to a GT car. But there is a heavy car with a lot of weight in the back due to the diesel engine. The longer wheelbase doesn’t help but it’s a very fast car here.”
Pedro Lamy, Team Peugeot Total
Peugeot 908 (LMP1)
(On driving Sebring in the Peugeot versus the Aston Martin DBR9 from 2005 and 2006) “This car is much different than the Aston Martin. With the Peugeot, we are the fastest car on the track with the Audis. So we are doing all the passing. So far the car has been pretty good on the track surface. Because the track is very bumpy, this is a very good test for Le Mans. If you can survive 12 hours here, you can compete and finish at Le Mans.”
Oliver Gavin, Corvette Racing
Corvette C6.R (GT1)
This is pretty much the same car we raced since the end of last year. There have been a couple of little modifications with dampers and little things. The team also has worked on the traction control a bit.
(On the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9 entry): “It’s good to have them here with the car to take on a factory team. Maybe we are sometimes a victim of our own success in the American Le Mans Series. But the Aston is a very good package, and they have shown the guts to race. We are looking forward to it.”
David Murry, Robertson Racing
Ford GT-R (GT2)
“The car arrived here at 8:30 a.m. Saturday morning and we got on the track at about 4 p.m. We’re so ecstatic with the car. It has had very little problems. We were working on shock and spring settings, so we’re already working on setup. The goal for now is to find out what the car likes. We’ve made changes to the spring heights and ride heights. The car has no problems getting the power down. It really gives us the platform to be a winner.”
Marc Basseng, Farnbacher Loles Racing
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2)
“The first test day was not that good because in the first free practice we had a problem with the flywheel sensor in the car, so we stood still for the whole session. The second session was better. We found something with the car so we have a lot of work to do for tomorrow, to make the car better and better. But the (Porsche) pre-test was good; Dirk (Werner’s) lap time was very quick. I’m really happy with the team and my teammates, and I'm sure we can get good race results at Sebring and over the season.”