Capello paces Wednesday practice at Sebring

After two days dominated by Peugeot, Audi was back on top of the time charts at Sebring International Raceway. Dindo Capello clocked a 1:45.491 lap time Wednesday during the first of two 55-minute practice sessions at the historic 3.7-mile circuit.

After two days dominated by Peugeot, Audi was back on top of the time charts at Sebring International Raceway. Dindo Capello clocked a 1:45.491 lap time Wednesday during the first of two 55-minute practice sessions at the historic 3.7-mile circuit. Capello's time held during the warmer afternoon session saw Peugeot's Nicolas Minassian lead the way. Teams spent Wednesday continuing to dial in their cars for Saturday's Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening round for the American Le Mans series.

Audi suffered a major blow on Monday when its No. 1 R10 TDI was involved in an accident with the No. 12 Autocon Motorsports Creation CA06-H. The team has since gone to a spare chassis and is still trying to get the diesel-fueled entry up to speed. It sure seems as they did, as Capello was quickest on the day.

"We are still not happy with the car," Capello said after the morning session. "This is a new chassis after our crash Monday. We are struggling with getting the handling right on the green track. We're trying to find a comfortable way to drive it."

Capello and co-drivers Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen are aiming to score their second Sebring victory in the last three years.

Minassian's time of 1:45.508 in the morning held up to be second quickest overall of the day. The Frenchman's No. 07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP was quickest in the afternoon, but nearly four-tenths slower than the morning time. Minassian teams with Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy for Saturday's race.

Third quickest overall, and leading the LM P2 contingent, was the Lowe's Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b of Adrian Fernandez. His time of 1:46.029 was set during the hot-and-sticky afternoon session, one of the only teams to improve its time over the morning.

"The conditions are very tough out there with very low grip," Fernandez explained. "I think we're strong for qualifying. I don't know how strong we are to the Porsches for the race. We probably wont know until the race. I think conditions for everybody has been tough."

Team co-owner John Anderson is pleased with the new ARX-01b chassis that all three Acura teams are now running, but is concerned over the car's reliability. A recent 12-hour race simulation was cut short due to a gearbox failure.

"Anytime you start with a new package, its an uphill learning curve right away," Anderson said. "The big question is probably reliability. We had a few issues in our 12-hour simulation test and were not able to complete that. We believe we've addressed those issues, but how many other issues are in they're that we're not real sure about? That's a little bit of a question. Reliability is our biggest concern from the chassis and gearbox perspective. The engine is very reliable... A good finish here will go a long way to prove the reliability of the car."

Fourth quickest overall, and third in LM P1 went to the No. 2 Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller and Marco Werner. The time of 1:46.092 was set in the morning.

ALMS "rookie" Marco Andretti has made quite an early impression at Sebring, setting quick times on both Tuesday and Wednesday. The 2006 IndyCar Rookie of the Year ran a 1:46.632 lap time in the morning aboard the Andretti Green Racing Acura ARX-01b. Andretti teams with full-season drivers Bryan Herta and Christian Fittipaldi for the race.

Both of Penske Racing's Porsche RS Spyders trailed the two leading Acuras, ending the day sixth and seventh quickest overall, third and fourth in class. The No. 7 machine of Timo Bernhard, Emmanuel Collard and an ailing Romain Dumas set a 1:46.978. Dumas injured his knee during Porsche's spring training program last month. The sister No. 6 entry of Sascha Maassen, Patrick Long and Ryan Briscoe clocked a 1:46.988 lap time.

The LM GT1 class was headed by the two Corvette Racing C6.Rs, led by Oliver Gavin in the No. 4 entry. His time of 1:57.674 run in the afternoon was three-tenths quicker than the No. 3 machine of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell and Ron Fellows. Both Corvettes are not running on E85 ethanol this weekend, instead aiming to introduce it possibly by next round.

"We did run a three-day test last month, and from a hardware side of things, the engine, horsepower and operation of the engine is great," said GM road racing program manager Steve Wesoloski. "What we did find though is that blend of fuel eats at our very complex fuel cellI The adhesive inside the fuel cell broke down with the fuel inside and we just couldn't take that risk."

Bell Motorsport's Aston Martin DBR9 didn't set a time in both sessions because of frame rail damage. New components were flown in today from Prodrive in England, and the car is expected to be back out tomorrow.

Wolf Henzler in the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche paced LM GT2, with a 2:02.402 lap time set in the morning. Henzler, who rejoins the team for the season, partners Jorg Bergmeister and Marc Lieb in the 2008-spec 997 GT3 RSR.

"The car is pretty good," Henzler said. "Porsche improved the car from last year. We're trying to find our way with the new car and it's getting better and better. I'm very pleased to how the car reacts to the changes we make. I think they're on the right way. We'll see on Saturday."

Henzler said he took three laps in the afternoon to evaluate a change made to the car from the morning. The team is mainly working on extending tire life on its three Porsches.

The No. 71 Tafel Racing Ferrari 430 GT clocked the second quickest time in class, with the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche rounding out the top three in GT2.

The Autoracing Club Bratislava Porsche made it onto the track for the first time during the second session, leaving the ECO Racing Radical SR10 the only car yet to turn a lap.

Action continues Thursday with a 55-minute practice at 10:15 a.m., followed by qualifying at 3:05 p.m. for the GT1 and GT2 cars. P1 and P2 qualifying is slated for 3:35 p.m.

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Rinaldo Capello , Tom Kristensen , Jan Magnussen , Allan McNish , Nicolas Minassian , Adrian Fernandez , Christian Fittipaldi , Bryan Herta , Ron Fellows , Emmanuel Collard , Stéphane Sarrazin , Pedro Lamy , Sascha Maassen , Jörg Bergmeister , Timo Bernhard , Patrick Long , Marco Werner , Ryan Briscoe , Marco Andretti , Marc Lieb , Romain Dumas , Mike Rockenfeller , Wolf Henzler , John Anderson
Teams Team Penske , Corvette Racing , Flying Lizard Motorsports