12 Hours of Sebring: Peugeot on the Le Mans trail
For the third year running, Team Peugeot Total will be travelling to the United States to use the punishing 12 Hours of Sebring as part of its preparations for its main objective in 2010: a repeat of last June's win in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The American classic provided an exciting, drama-packed show in 2009 when the Peugeots and Audis were never split by more than a handful of seconds. With three hours remaining, the N°8 908 HDi FAP was challenging hard for the lead when it was forced to pit after picking up a slow puncture. When the checkered flag came down, it missed out on first place by a mere 22 seconds… after 12 hours of racing! This year, Audis has chosen not to attend the event, but the new regulations promise to make the petrol – powered cars – including the Aston Martins – a far more competitive threat.
Peugeot Sport's Technical Director Bruno Famin recalls that Team Peugeot Total's mission in Sebring will above all be of a technical nature: "Contesting the 12 Hours of Sebring has three major advantages for us. To begin with, the temperature is likely to be between 25 and 30°C, which is very similar to what we can expect at Le Mans in June.
Sebring serves as first class training, too, with regard to race strategy; there are generally a high number of safety car interventions and the amount of traffic on the track can be likened to Le Mans. Traffic means having to overtake and, whenever a driver strays off the ideal line, the tires tend to pick up a significant amount of dust and debris, which in turn results in less grip for the next two or three laps. Last but not least, Sebring is the year's longest race after Le Mans. It tends not to push the engines too hard, but the suspension faces a grueling test because the surface is so uneven. Sebring provides us with an opportunity to explore the limits of certain mechanical components. That could spell problems for us, but we do it with Le Mans in mind. If what we see calls for modifications, we will have sufficient time to make amends before Le Mans… where we have no intention of taking any risks at all!”
Team Peugeot Total will remain in Sebring after the race for a further two days of testing.
Peugeot Sport's Director Olivier Quesnel profited from Peugeot Sport's pre-2010 season press conference to point out that the two 908 HDi FAPs will race at Sebring sporting new livery which incorporates Peugeot's new brand identity.
"Le Mans is our main objective, so not only does that dictate running a certain number of test sessions, but it also entails taking part in selected races, such as Sebring, in order to put the team in a stress situation and prepare the drivers for the demanding challenge ahead. This applies particularly to Anthony Davidson who will be making his debut with us,” notes Olivier Quesnel.
"The 2009 race at Sebring was a very close-run thing. This time round, if we succeed in carrying on the momentum of our wins at Le Mans and in the Petit Le Mans without jeopardizing our work program, a victory would be a great way for Team Peugeot Total to the kick off the new season.”