Audi’s Allan McNish got down to serious business Thursday morning at Sebring International Raceway with the quickest time of the week in preparation for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. The Scot turned in a time of 1:43.195 (129.076 mph) around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit that will play host to the opening round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series.
McNish’s time came on his second-to-last lap of the 55-minute session. The Audi R10 TDI he will share with Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen was a full second quicker than another diesel-powered entry, the Peugeot 908 of Stephane Sarrazin, Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian. Third overall and in LMP1 was the second Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner.
Saturday’s race will be the first between Audi and Peugeot since the 2007 24 Hours of Le Mans, an Audi victory. Sebring also will mark the first race for Peugeot in North America.
Timo Bernhard was quickest in LMP2 and fourth overall for Penske Racing. His Porsche RS Spyder posted a time of 1:45.220 (126.592 mph), good enough for a 0.7779-second cushion over Ryan Briscoe in the sister Penske machine. Bernhard will team with Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard; Briscoe will join Sascha Maassen and Patrick Long.
Porsches held the top three spots with Butch Leitzinger turning in a 1:46.348 (125.249 mph) in the first of Dyson Racing’s two RS Spyders. He will drive this weekend with Marino Franchitti and Andy Lally.
Corvette Racing held the top two spots in GT1, paced by Jan Magnussen’s lap of 1:56.269 (114.562 mph) in the No. 3 Corvette C6.R. Magnussen will drive with Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows in the first factory car. The second Corvette was less than 0.3 seconds behind with Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis driving.
Bell Motorsports’ Aston Martin DBR9 was third in class at 2:00.730 (110.329 mph). Terry Borcheller, Chapman Ducote and Antonio Garcia will drive the car.
Jaime Melo made a late run to grab the top spot in GT2 for Risi Competizione. The defending class winner and season champion was at 2:01.184 (109.916 mph) in the first of Risi’s two Ferrari F430 GTs. Melo will team with Mika Salo, with whom he won at Sebring and captured the class championship, and Gianmaria Bruni.
Like Porsche in P2, Ferrari held the top two spots in class. Tafel Racing’s Ferrari of Dirk Mueller, Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell was second at 2:01.800 (109.360 mph). The first of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs was Jörg Bergmeister in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports entry at 2:01.831 (109.332 mph). It was Melo and Bergmeister who battled to the finish last year at Sebring with Melo winning for Risi by 0.202 seconds.
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