Florida in the spring
No, here at LotPro.com we’re not talking about the safari park located in Loxahatchee, Florida, but Sebring International Raceway which is located 120 miles northwest of that point and where, barring something unfortunate, the Peugeot Lion should score its first-ever win at this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring.
Originally constituted as Hendricks Field, an Army installation that was constructed in 1940 as an airbase for B-17 crew training, the racetrack at Sebring, Florida hosted its first race on December 31, 1950. Since that time, the track has seen the likes of Mario Andretti, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jim Hall, A.J. Foyt, Juan Manuel Fangio, Bruce McLaren, Bobby Rahal, Peter Gregg and Geoff Brabham (just to name a few).
Manufacturers that have competed and claimed victory in the 12 hour endurance race include Cunningham, Jaguar, Ferrari, Maserati, Ford, BMW, Nissan, Porsche and current LM1 defending champion, Audi. Audi, in particular, has recently dominated the series, winning the LM1 class from 2000 through 2007 and again in 2009, having lost the top spot only in 2008 when Penske racing captured the top spot in a Porsche RS Spyder.
For 2010, entrants in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) will be divided up into four classes consisting of two prototype classes (LMP and LMPC for Le Mans Prototype and Le Mans Prototype Challenge), as well as two Grand Touring (modified production sports car) classes (GT and GTC for Grand Touring and Grand Touring Challenge). The LMP class includes both manufacturers and privateers, while the LMPC, although still a prototype, is a “value engineered” entry racing on single-supply tires. GT cars include the Corvette C6.R, Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Ferrari F430 GT, Jaguar XKR, BMW M3, Panoz Esperante, Ford GT, and Dodge Viper while GTC cars are versions of the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
Last year, the LMP1 pole position was won on Thursday by Scott Dixon, who drove alongside team owner Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud in the first race for the new Acura ARX-02a. Second place was occupied by the then-new Audi R15 TDI, which also made its racing debut (Kristensen/McNish/Capello) as well, while Peugeot was in third place with its 908 HDi (Klein/Minassian/Lamay).
The race ended up being a duel between the two diesel-equipped superpowers of endurance racing, Audi and Peugeot. But while less than 23 seconds separated the first Audi R15 TDi team of McNish/Capello/Kristensen and the second Peugeot 908 HDi FAP team of Montagny/Bourdais/Sarrazin, the third place Audi R15 TDi Team of Rockenfeller/Werner/Luhr was 2 laps down while the first Peugeot team was forced to retire with 25 minutes left in the race with a gearbox failure.
This year’s race will begin on Saturday March 20th at 10:30 am but, unfortunately, race fans won’t see a rematch between the R15 TDi and the 908 HDi FAP. Due to the late confirmation of changes in the rules regarding vehicle specifications, Audi was unable to build a revised version of its R15 in time for this year’s race and Peugeot vetoed a proposal from Audi that stipulated using a mixed car with a 2010 specification engine in the 2009 R15 chassis.
Instead, it appears that the French manufacturer’s closest competition may come from the No.007 Aston Martin Lola B09 60 (Adrian Fernandez/Harold Primat/Stefan Mucke) which performed very well in the first Winter Test session or possibly even the No.1 P2 Honda Performance Development ARX-01c (David Brabham/Simon Pagenaud/Mario Franchitti).