PEUGEOT BACK OUT FRONT AFTER FIRST SEBRING TEST
New car, same result for defending 12 Hours champion
Peugeot picked up Monday where it left off last year with the fastest time in Monday’s test session for the 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. One of the two new factory Peugeot 908s – driven by Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy – turned a best lap of 1:47.678 (123.702 mph) during the first of two four-hour sessions in the lead-up to the opening round of the 2011 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón.
The 2011-spec 908s are making their racing debut this week, and Peugeot enters as the defending Sebring race-winner. Things were incredibly close though with the top six cars within 1.158 seconds across the two sessions. The fastest of Audi Sport Team Joest’s Audi R15 prototypes sat second at 1:47.919 (123.426 mph), the best time of the afternoon session; that was the car of 2009 Sebring winners Tom Kristensen, Dindo Capello and Allan McNish. The sister Audi of reigning Le Mans champions Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Mike Rockenfeller sat third, just 0.106 seconds back.
Next up was defending ALMS prototype champion Highcroft Racing and its new HPD ARX-01e of David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti. It was the only non-diesel among the top four cars at 1:48.342 (122.486 mph) in the morning.
The GT battle was just as close with the first three cars within 0.267 seconds. The first BMW Motorsport BMW M3 GT of Bill Auberlen, Augusto Farfus and Dirk Werner, set a lap of 2:01.562 (109.574 mph) in the morning for a 0.152-second gap over the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Marc Lieb, which set its fast lap of 2:01.714 (109.437 mph) in the morning session. Coincidentally it was the exact same as the BMW’s quickest in the afternoon.
Next up was AF Corse’s Ferrari F430 GT of Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer at 2:01.829 (109.334 mph) in the morning session.
In LMP2, Signatech Nissan’s ORECA-Nissan of Franck Mailleux, Soheil Ayari and Lucas Ordonez was quickest in class at 1:55.626 (115.199 mph) during the afternoon running. The car, making its first start, led over Level 5 Motorsports’ new Lola-Honda coupe. Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Joao Barbosa are splitting duties in the car that set a best lap of 1:58.970 (111.961 mph). Oak Racing’s Judd-powered Pescarolo sat third at 2:01.306 (109.805 mph). Each of the class’ best times were in the afternoon session.
Krohn Racing’s Ferrari F430 GT was the quickest of the GTE Am entries. Nic Jonsson, driving with Tracy Krohn and Michele Rugolo, set a lap of 2:03.217 (108.102 mph) in the first session. The Krohn entry was 0.736 seconds clear of Larbre Competition’s Corvette C6.R of Julien Canal, Gabrielle Gardel and Patrick Bornhauser. CRS Racing’s Ferrari of Pierre Ehret, Shaun Lynn and Roger Willis was third at 2:04.852 (106.686 mph).
CORE autosport’s two ORECA FLM09s were quickest in LMP Challenge in the team’s first weekend of ALMS competition. The first car of Ryan Dalziel, Jon Bennett and Frankie Montecalvo set the fastest time at 1:55.060 (115.766 mph), good enough for a 0.323-second cushion over the sister car of Gunnar Jeannette, Ricardo Gonzalez and Rudy Junco.
Genoa Racing’s first entry of Jens Petersen, Dane Cameron and Michael Guasch was third in class and quickest in the afternoon at 1:55.904 (114.923 mph).
TRG held the top two spots in GT Challenge, led by the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry of Duncan Ende, Spencer Pumpelly and Alain Li at 2:05.872 (105.822 mph). The second entry of Dion von Moltke was second, just 0.479 seconds back. Magus Racing’s Porsche of Matthew Marsh, John Potter and Craig Stanton was third at 2:06.366 (105.408 mph).
There are two one-hour test sessions Tuesday – 11:35 a.m. and 3:50 p.m. ET.
Quotes Stephane Sarrazin, Peugeot Sport Total Peugeot 908, LMP1 “The new rules make things quite different. We came to Sebring on Saturday to run the maximum number of laps to improve our car. There is a lot to do. Everything is different. We have less power with the rules so we are having to learn and try a lot of things.”
Mika Salo, Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia, GT “Today was the first real day of running for me in the car. We still have a long way to go. I think this car will get there (to the level of the F430) but not now. We are not really running the car on full tanks or new tires. That is just where we are. Thursday we still start doing that and putting some stress on the car.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Rebellion Racing Lola B10/60-Toyota “The last time I raced at Sebring was 2006 with Spyker, and I tested last year in the Winter Test with the Black Swan Porsche. A closed prototype really gives you a different perspective of the track and a different feeling. You miss the feeling of your helmet in the air (driving an open car) but the temperature is higher inside. Also GT cars sit a lot higher and can control the many bumps easier. The prototypes are much more nervous over the bumps, and you have to be careful to take care of the underneath.”