Sebring Podium for Team Modena
* Eleventh overall on US endurance classic debut
Team Modena scored a podium finish in the 55th edition of the Mobil 1 Sebring 12-hours on Saturday, March 17th. The driver line-up of Antonio Garcia, Liz Halliday and Darren Turner brought the teams Aston Martin DBR9 home third in the GT1 class behind the factory Chevrolet Corvette team. It was the first time that the UK-based team had tackled the tough endurance race in central Florida, and they were delighted with the result, finishing 11th overall in the 34-car field.
Race day did not start well as a gearbox problem forced a change of the unit after the warm up session, causing the Aston Martin to start the race itself from the pit lane. Yet despite this early set-back, and a later stop and go penalty, the team and drivers showed their potential to finish on the Sebring podium and learn valuable lessons ahead of the opening round of the European-based Le Mans Series, which starts next month in Monza, Italy.
"We are delighted to finish the race, it is a great test of the car, great test of the team and we came through it well," said team co-owner Rik Bryan. "Unfortunately we started the day badly, having to change the gearbox after warm up, so we missed the chance to get onto the grid.
"We then got a stop-and-go because the pit lane speed limiter wasn't working properly so it was a difficult start, but I think we were on the pace with the Corvettes. I am not sure how hard they were pushing, but we are delighted to have come here, it is perfect for our preparations for the Le Mans 24-hour race, and we have thoroughly enjoyed taking part in this fantastic race in the American Le Mans Series. And we may be back!"
Darren Turner found the handling of the car greatly improved after Michelin altered the tyre pressures. "My first stint was a bit difficult, but they did a good job with the tyres, dropped the pressures at the rear and we were really happy with the car in the middle of the day," said Turner.
"The hardest thing was the communication within the team because the radios weren't working properly and that made our lives stressful. I think we made two pit stops too many because of the lack of communication. It is all good for the team, there is a big list that they can learn from and it puts them in good stead for the LMS."
Antonio Garcia will lead the team in the six-round European series, and enjoyed his first Sebring. "During the early stints we had poor grip from the rear," said the Spaniard. "The second hour was really good. The main problem was the radio, because there was a period where we got three or four safety car periods, two for Darren and two for me, and without the radio it was more difficult.
"It was the first time we had come here, and we had to take the car as it was. The level we got we had for the whole race, but we were able to run a good pace from the beginning to the end. It was a good test for the team, the season is coming in one month, and we learned a lot today."
For Liz Halliday, it was the second successive year that she finished on the podium having won the LMP2 class and finished second overall in 2006. She had never driven the Aston Martin prior to the race week, a planned test in the UK having been cancelled due to snow.
"The car has run virtually flawlessly," she said. "It was the first time that the team has come here and to run the 12-hours without any dodgy pit stops is not easy to do. It was my first time in the car this week, so it has been a baptism of fire, I did night stints and I have learned a lot and know where we need to work on things."
Next Race: Le Mans Series, Monza, Italy, April 15th