SEBRING, Fla. -- With six hours in the books, the Champion Audi of Stefan Johansson has a commanding one lap lead over the Joest Audi of Phillip Peter in the 51st running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. After finishing second last year, third in 2001,...
SEBRING, Fla. -- With six hours in the books, the Champion Audi of Stefan Johansson has a commanding one lap lead over the Joest Audi of Phillip Peter in the 51st running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. After finishing second last year, third in 2001, fourth in 1999, and third in 1998, Champion Racing is seeking its first overall win at Sebring.
"I had a little pick-up collect on the tires, but that was my only real problem," Johansson said. "The Champion guys have given us a great race set-up and are getting us around real quick. Let's hope the last six hours will be as good as the first for us."
Except for a brief period in the early afternoon in which Marco Werner in the Joest Audi managed to open up a seven-second lead over Johansson, the Champion entry of Johansson, Emanuele Pirro, and J.J. Lehto has led throughout most of the day.
"I had a wonderful opening drive," said Pirro, who took the lead from Biela's pole sitting Audi on lap five and held it until he handed the car over to Lehto at the end of his second stint. "I cannot make one complaint about the car or the tires in my two stints."
"The car was perfect for me too," Lehto added.
Indeed, the car is performing so well that the Champion trio seems to have a decisive fuel mileage advantage over the Joest car that could save them more than two minutes in the pits by the end of the race.
The highly publicized Bentley's, which were forced to start 52nd and 53rd in the 55-car field after race officials discovered rear diffuser abnormalities during post-qualifying inspection, lie third and fifth, separated by the green-trimmed Audi UK entry of Mika Salo, Johnny Kane, and Perry McCarthy.
The Panoz of Max Papis, Olivier Berretta, and Gunnar Jeannette is sixth, followed by both factory Corvettes and the Riley & Scotts of Jim Mathews Racing and American Spirit Racing.
The Corvettes have a five-lap lead over the No. 80 Prodrive Ferrari, which has been in and out of the pits with brake problems. Likewise, the second Ferrari has had its share of problems, including an extended stop on pit road for cooling system repairs that was followed by a stop-and-go penalty for too many crew members over the pit wall.
In the GT class, the White Lightning Porsche of Johnny Mowlem, Nic Jonsson, and Craig Stanton has a 16.820-second lead over the Alex Job Racing Porsche GT3-RS of Lucas Luhr and Sascha Maassen, which has been slowed by electrical problems. The No. 34 Risi Competizione Ferrari of Marino Franchitti, Phillip Bennett, and Kevin McGarrity is third in GT.
Attrition has decimated the LMP 675 class. Power steering problems felled the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola-MG, which many expected to contend for the overall win, less than 12 minutes into the race. And by the end of the sixth hour, four of six 675 entrants had called it quits. As a result, the second Dyson Racing entry of Didier de Radigues, Chad Block, and Chris Dyson is leading the class despite spending a considerable amount of time behind the pit wall to fix a broken suspension. They are many laps behind the overall leaders.