By Nancy Knapp Schilke
- Sarrazin grabs Sebring 12H pole
- Peugeot also third on grid
- Audi sits 2nd and 4th for Saturday race
Stephane Sarrazin earned the pole for the 59th Mobile 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in sunny Florida. The Peugeot qualifying driver for the No. 8 Peugeot 908 set a fast lap of 1:47.571 (124.987 mph) to land the top spot in the American Le Mans Series season opener at Sebring International Raceway. The Frenchman was 1.109 seconds faster than Audi's best effort and Sarrazin had an additional .340 seconds on his own team car driven by Marc Gene.
The LMP1 battle lived up to its expectations between the two diesel powerhouses but not far behind for Saturday's endurance event was the French manufacturers' customer car team: Team Oreca Matmut.
This event also kicks off the first race for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup presented by the ACO. The top nine LMP1 cars have all submitted their entry for the ILMC which at the end of the racing season will crown the "world" sports car championship drivers, teams and manufacturer.
Audi's car if choice this weekend is the R15 with minor changes as the German manufacturer bids farewell before the R18 makes its race debut at the Spa circuit in Belgium. Romain Dumas in the #1 was second fastest with a 1"47.680. The #2 was qualified in fourth by Tom Kristensen with a time of 1:48.173.
The top petrol LMP1 and sixth on the grid was the debut of the AMR Muscle Milk Racing team owned by Greg Pickett. Highcroft Racing was seventh fastest.
LMP2 top qualifier was Soheil Ayari in the Signatech Nissan Oreca with a 1:53.815. Second in LMP2 went to Level 5 Motorsports in the #055 Honda Lola when Luis Diaz turned his best lap of 1:57.168. Patrick Lafargue in the Oak Racing Judd Oak Pescarolo.
The expected LMGT class was a tight battle but in the end it was the European-based AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia that came through to land the pole. Gianmaria Bruni who declared his enjoyment of the American circuits last year with the Risi Ferrari team was the one who had the fastest time. His 2:01.561 was .182 faster than the best of the Corvettes.
Oliver Gavin has his flying lap at a 2:01.743 in the #4 Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1. BMW was third in the hands of Dirk Werner with a time of 2:01.841 in the Rahal Letterman Lanigan M3 GT.
The now designated GTE-AM class saw Richard Lietz for Proton Competition take the pole with a 2:02.942 in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
Nicolas Jonsson in a Ferrari F430 GT was second for Krohn Racing with a 2:03.500 and third belonged to Fabian Giroix in the Gulf AMR Middle East Vantage with a 2:04.098.
Saturday's race is set to start at 10:30am ET.