Peugeot Still Has Sebring Magic Touch
SEBRING, Fla. – With a lap 1.109 seconds faster than his competition, Stephane Sarrazin kept the Sebring magic alive for Peugeot on Friday, earning the pole for Saturday’s 59th Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the opening round of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup at Sebring Int’l Raceway. Sarrazin’s best lap of 1:46.571 (124.987 mph) gave the Frenchman his first Sebring pole and second in a row at the track for Peugeot.
The battle between the Audi and Peugeot diesels was rampant as the 20-minute qualifying session began. Tom Kristensen hit the top spot first in the Audi R15 Plus, but was quickly demoted by Romain Dumas in the sister Audi, then the Peugeot 908 of Marc Gene. Sarrazin finally silenced the competition in his Peugeot 908 by outdistancing the field by more than a second.
“We arrived here with a new car and new rules so it was hard for us this week,” said Sarrazin, who will share driving duties with fellow Petit Le Mans winners Franck Montagny and Pedro Lamy. “We have been improving the balance of the car. Things were much better in qualifying than free practice because of the traffic. I did my lap without a mistake and it was very good.
“With the new rules it is very difficult with all the traffic. It was easier to overtake in the older car because we had more power. It is very hard to get through because we can lose 10 seconds a lap at times. That will be the toughest part of the race.”
Dumas, along with teammates Timo Bernhard and Mike Rockenfeller, will start from the second spot after Dumas laid down a 1:47.680 (123.700 mph) lap in the team’s Audi R15 Plus. The second Peugeot Sport Total of defending race winners Gene, Alexander Wurz and Anthony Davidson will start third on Saturday.
Gianmaria Bruni, sharing AF Corse’s Ferrari F430 GT with Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer, paced a tight battle in the GT class with the top six qualifiers separated by a mere .733 second.
In LMP2, Nissan scored its first Sebring pole position since 1994 as Soheil Ayari placed Signatech Nissan’s ORECA 03-Nissan on the class pole. The Frenchman was the class of the field with a lap of 1:53.815 (117.032 mph), a full 3.353 seconds faster than the competition. He will share the Nissan-powered prototype with Franck Mailleux and Lucas Ordonez in Saturday’s season-opening, 12-hour affair.
LMPC was a three-car fight with CORE autosport chasing Genoa Racing. Dane Cameron, sharing driving duties this weekend with Jens Petersen and Michael Guasch, put Genoa on top with a new qualifying lap record of 1:55.232 (115.593 mph).
Richard Lietz is the first GTE-AM polesitter at Sebring and in ACO competition. The Porsche factory driver entered a new qualifying lap record with a 2:02.942 (108.344 mph) in the Proton Competition Porsche 911 GT3 RSR he shares with Gianluca Roda and Christian Ried.
For the second year in a row, Leh Keen will start from the GTC pole. Keen entered a 2:07.373 (104.575 mph) in the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry he shares with Bill Sweedler and Brian Wong.