BRASELTON, GA. - American Le Mans Series race teams had an abbreviated and wet testing session Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway but were expecting sunny and dry conditions Wednesday for the first official day of practice for Saturday's...
BRASELTON, GA. - American Le Mans Series race teams had an abbreviated and wet testing session Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway but were expecting sunny and dry conditions Wednesday for the first official day of practice for Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Forty-four cars are on hand for the 52nd running of the event and will have two hours of practice on the 3.7-mile track on Wednesday. More practice will be held Thursday morning before Thursday afternoon's qualifying session. No official lap times were kept by officials during the Monday and Tuesday test sessions.
Tuesday's session was slightly delayed after a heavy rainstorm caused some flooding and running water in several areas of the circuit. The track gradually improved once cars started running during the session but was never totally dry. Despite the conditions, there were no incidents.
Many of the teams used the lower-speed session to give drivers new to Sebring the opportunity to become more familiar with the 17-turn circuit or for veteran drivers to get used to new cars.
"It was my first time on the Sebring track," said Mike Rockenfeller, driver of a Porsche for the new GT-class team BAM! "For me, it didn't matter if it was dry or wet, I just had to get used to the track. At the beginning, it was pretty wild -- there were puddles on the straightaways, so a lot of aquaplaning and wheelspin. But it was okay; our goal was just to make sure the car was ready to go and it was.
"The track is completely different from all the other tracks I've driven," Rockenfeller said. "It's wild because of all the bumps. At turn one and the last turn, there are I don't know how many lines and I'm still searching for the right one. But I'm used to the track now; it was good preparation for tomorrow."
"Obviously I wasn't going to learn much by going out there in the wet, but it was a necessity to get a feel for the car again in those conditions," said Allan McNish, driver of an Audi R8 for Audi Sport UK Team Veloqx. "We've looked at the weather forecast and it's highly unlikely that it will be wet on Saturday, but it was good to get the feel. I drove at Mosport and Nurburgring in 2000 in the Audi in wet conditions but the driveability is so much better now and it gives the driver a lot more confidence due to the FSI engine (fuel direct injection). Both Pierre (Kaffer) and I were very happy and comfortable."
Many teams elected not to run during the session, including the two factory Corvettes. The six veteran drivers on the team all have extensive rain-racing experience.
"Sebring is, without a doubt, one of the most challenging race tracks to drive on in the wet," said Corvette driver Johnny O'Connell. "Over 90 percent of the course has been repaved but the area from Turn 17 until Turn 1 is all original equipment, made of concrete squares that hold water.
"There's a lot of standing water and a lot of puddles and a driver has to learn really quickly where those are, otherwise you'll find yourself in trouble," he said. "I can't even recall all the times I've raced in the wet here where I've seen guys bouncing off the walls on the front straight because they didn't know where the puddles were. We're fortunate in that our Corvette loves the wet - some of our major victories, in particular Daytona and Le Mans in 2001, were in very rainy conditions."
The 52nd annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will get the green flag at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, March 20, and will be televised live from flag-to-flag by the Speed Channel. The American Le Mans Series Radio Web will have live coverage online at www.americanlemans.com.
Ticket information is available online at www.sebringraceway.com or by calling (863) 655-1442 (toll-free 800-626-RACE).
ALEX JOB TEAM VISITS HOSPITAL
American Le Mans Series GT class champion Alex Job Racing spent Tuesday morning at Heartland Hospital in Sebring visiting patients and performing a simulated pit stop. The patients all signed the rear engine cover of the team's #24 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
AJR drivers Marc Lieb, Timo Bernhard, Lucas Luhr and Romain Dumas signed autographs for children in the pediatric ward, visited with new mothers and visited with middle school kids to discuss the action that will be happening at Sebring International Raceway this weekend. In exchange, the patients and school kids signed the rear engine cover of the AJR Porsche that will be raced at Sebring on Saturday.
"We wanted to give the children someone to follow in this weekend's race," said Lieb. "Each patient, new mother and school child signed the engine cover so they can watch their car race on Saturday."
"You could really tell that we brightened the day for the children," said Dumas. "I had the chance to race [patient] Jarred Browning on the race car mountain in the children's play area in the pediatric ward, unfortunately he beat me two-out-of-three tries. I hope our race on Saturday goes better. It was a really nice way to spend the morning away from the pressures of the track."
"We consider Sebring our home track as it is just two hours south of our shop," said team owner Alex Job. "It was a good opportunity for the crew and the drivers to help the kids get their minds off their situation and to get ours off of racing for a while."