Audi, Peugeot on front row at Sebring

Audi, Peugeot on front row at Sebring

Audi and Peugeot will share the front row for Saturday's Twelve Hours of Sebring following a bizarre qualifying session that was wiped out due to an early session accident. IMSA officials reverted to combined practice times from the three official...

Audi and Peugeot will share the front row for Saturday's Twelve Hours of Sebring following a bizarre qualifying session that was wiped out due to an early session accident. IMSA officials reverted to combined practice times from the three official practice sessions, giving the No. 1 Audi R10 TDI of Allan McNish the number one spot.

Allan McNish.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

"To be honest, I don't think either of us deserve it," McNish said while sitting next to LM P2 top qualifier Timo Bernhard.

IMSA rule 9.93 states if less than 10 minutes of green flag running time is made available to either GT or LMP qualifying session, qualifying will be abandoned and the grid order will be established by other means. The grid is thus compiled through rule 9.94, which states the stewards will use the best times from all official practice sessions if qualifying times are eliminated. Times for GT1 and GT2 teams were also set through this rule, despite successfully completing its session.

Eight minutes into the prototype qualifying, Ben Devlin crashed his B-K Motorsports Lola Mazda heavily into the Turn 1 barriers. The red flag stayed out for the duration of the 25-minute session, leaving many cars in the pits without setting a flying lap.

Initially, Stephane Sarrazin's 1:43.117 lap time in the No. 07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP was good enough for the provisional pole position. The Frenchman even made his way to the media center for post-qualifying interviews, only to get told the news of IMSA reverting back to practice speeds.

"While it is extremely unfortunate that a racing incident did not allow us to conduct a full qualifying session, the Series' rules spell out very concisely how this situation is handled," said Tim Mayer, IMSA's Chief Operating Officer and Race Director. "It is natural that teams which had posted some excellent qualifying times at the time of the incident were disappointed."

Guy Smith in the No. 16 Dyson Racing Porsche RS Spyder also initially held the P2 pole, but lost it due to the decision. Team owner Rob Dyson left the media center visibly upset at the decision.

St?phane Sarrazin waits to qualify.
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.

"It is too bad, because we do not run practice sessions as qualifying sessions," Dyson said in a statement. "Plus they not only penalized the top two classes in this event, the P1 and P2 classes, but they also penalized all the GT guys. I think that is a hollow accomplishment for those who really benefited from it. Those that did not benefit from it and got hurt from it are feeling the way that we do, that somehow we were cheated out of a position that we earned."

The No. 1 Audi of McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen was rewarded the top spot, reverting to a 1:43.195 lap time set during Thursday morning's practice.

"We were hoping to see qualifying," McNish said. "We didn't get a fair opportunity to see what the car could do. That would be the first time any of us could see the improvements n the Peugeot and new Acura."

McNish had symphony for Peugeot, which had the quicker car during the abbreviated qualifying run.

"Everyone had the same opportunities and the same rules," McNish said. "So I'm sure the Peugeot guys are quite disappointed. Until you get to qualifying, you don't know what everyone else is doing. You don't know who's driving, how much fuel you have, the tire wear. Qualifying is where people get on with it. I have the same questions everyone else does about what everyone else can do."

Sarrazin and co-drivers Nicolas Minassian and Pedro Lamy will lineup alongside the No. 1 Audi, thanks to its 1:44.271 lap time from practice.

"The car was nicely balanced for my first flying lap but I had been saving pleased to have posted the pole-winning time by a margin of more than six tenths ahead of McNish's Audi," Sarrazin said. "Although this is only its first attempt at this race, the team did a first class job and made sure we had a very competitive 908 today. I am obviously disappointed by the way things turned out; it's frustrating to have lost pole-position in this way, but rules are rules."

The French diesel-powered coupe edged the No. 2 Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner, which wound up third.

"Of course we'd prefer to have both cars on the front row instead of starting third," Werner said." But at Sebring it is always of great importance to work for the race. I hope that our time comes on Saturday. The race has always been Audi's strong point."

#7 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder: Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard, Emmanuel Collard.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Fourth overall, and top qualifier in P2 was the No. 7 Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Bernhard. His time of 1:45.220, like McNish's, also came from the Thursday morning practice.

"We were just about to go out and I could see into Turn 1 and the double yellow," Bernhard said about the red-flagged qualifying session. "It was clear that it wouldn't be cleared in two minutes. It was an up-and-down situation and I tried to stay focused. This morning we have a very good session and I am happy the car is first on the grid. It looks to be a good race start."

Bernhard, as well as the majority of the P2 field, failed to turn a lap in qualifying because of the red flag. This was one of the reasons why IMSA presumably made the decision to revert back to practice speeds to set the grid.

Lining up second in P2 will be the No. 6 Penske Porsche of Sascha Maassen, Patrick Long and Ryan Briscoe. Third in class goes to the No. 15 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz.

The B-K Motorsports Lola Mazda that caused the red flag was severely damaged from the crash. The car apparently became airborne as it slammed into the outside barriers in Turn 1. Devlin was uninjured, but the car sustained enough damage to warrant a new tub. It will be a long night ahead for the team as they plan to rebuild the car from the ground-up.

#3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6R: Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen, Ron Fellows.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Despite reverting back to combined practice speeds, the GT1 and GT2 top qualifiers remained unchanged from its original session. Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette Racing C6.R will start first in class after a 1:56.269 lap time from practice. Magnussen teams with Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows for Saturday's race.

"For us the week has been working on race setup," Magnussen said. "It has been very hard with the temperatureI It doesn't look like it has been close to what it will be for the race. The qualifying setup was probably the closest we could have. We tested sometime ago here with similar conditions and we used that our advantage. The weekend has gone great and we hope it continues."

The No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Max Papis will start second in GT1, with the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9 of Terry Borcheller, Chapman Ducote and Antonio Garcia in third.

Jamie Melo put his No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari qualified first, thanks to a 2:01.184 lap time run during practice. Melo and co-driver Mika Salo hope to repeat their success here from last year, when they edged out the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche on the last corner of the last lap. Gianmaria Bruni joins the duo for this year's race.

Fastest GT2 qualifier Jaime Melo celebrates with Gianmaria Bruni and Mika Salo.
Photo by Rainier Ehrhardt.

"Everybody knows how different the track is with the temperature, so it's been very hard to set the car up," Melo said. "But the conditions have been very similar today so we did not change much. My best lap time, I missed the last turn so I could have been two or three tenths better. The car is just really good, and the race is the most important part."

Tafel Racing's No. 71 Ferrari F430 GT of Dirk Muller, Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell was second quickest, with the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb in third.

The Robertson Racing Ford GT Mk. VII failed to set a time in the original qualifying session because of a fire on the cars out lap.

In other news, ECO Racing's Sebring hopes came to a halt today, as the team officially withdrew its diesel-powered Radical SR10. The P1 car was ineligible to compete due to incorrect homologation papers from the chassis manufacturer. The team hopes to return to the series by the Salt Lake City round. This leaves 34 entries for the race.

Thursday's activities comes to a close tonight with night practice, slated for a 7:15 p.m. EST start time.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Gianmaria Bruni , Antonio Garcia , Tom Kristensen , Dirk Müller , Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Guy Smith , Nicolas Minassian , Max Papis , Adrian Fernandez , Mika Salo , Ron Fellows , Johnny O'Connell , Emmanuel Collard , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Rob Dyson , Ben Devlin , Sascha Maassen , Lucas Luhr , Luis Diaz , Oliver Gavin , Jörg Bergmeister , Rob Bell , Jaime Melo , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Ryan Briscoe , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Olivier Beretta , Eric Gilbert , Wolf Henzler , Dominik Farnbacher , Dindo Capello , Chapman Ducote
Teams Team Penske , Corvette Racing , Risi Competizione , Dyson Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports