“Ant’s” ascendance

March 18, 2010

“Ant’s” ascendance

March 18, 2010

Anthony Davidson, No. 07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Photo credit: Rick Dole.

British fans and petrol-heads will recognize the name Anthony Davidson, if for no other reason than he was once a Formula One driver and last year, a factory Aston Martin Racing pilot.

Fast forward to 2010 and “Ant” – a nickname born of shortening his full name and also his diminutive stature – has earned the opportunity of a lifetime, racing one of the factory Peugeot seats aboard the turbo diesel 908 HDi FAP closed-top prototype.

The American Le Mans Series allows for both diesel and gasoline-powered cars, and is known for being on the cutting edge of green innovation and relevant technology. Davidson raced for the team that was the top gasoline entry last year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (AMR finished fourth overall), but now has an opportunity to join the champions.

“I got quite a late call, but luckily I had no other confirmed commitments this year,” he said of joining Peugeot. “I just jumped at the chance. LMP I was focusing on more after F1, because F1 had become even harder to get into. LMP was where I wanted to be. After testing this car in 2008, I was thrilled to have the choice to drive a Peugeot.”

Davidson spent parts of four seasons in Formula One, and now co-drives with two of his former competitors in the series. He shares the No. 07 Peugeot with Marc Gene and Alexander Wurz. It’s good company to be in because Gene and Wurz won overall at Le Mans last season, co-driving with David Brabham.

“It’s fantastic for me, as I obviously know them from the F1 paddock,” Davidson said. “It’s a good experience to start this week. We have a nice, easy relationship. To be with the winning team at Le Mans and to drive this year with the number 1 at Le Mans, you can’t beat it.”

Davidson has one prior start at Sebring but it was in 2003, in the former GT1 class with Prodrive and a Ferrari 550 Maranello. The GT1 class, then called GTS, was made up of supercars and more sophisticated sports cars, such as the Maranello, the Aston Martin DBR9, Saleen S7R and others. The GT2 class was made up of more production-based sports cars.

Given the gap between starts at this race track, Davidson has needed the week to get back up to speed.

“I expected it to be familiar, but it was not at all in the slightest. The LMP is much different. Plus it’s been such a long time. I still don’t feel 100 percent yet since the last time, but it’s easy to be confident in the car.”

Davidson closed by mentioning his other commitments this year. He works as a commentator for the BBC’s coverage of Formula One and will be heading straightaway to Melbourne, Australia after Sebring, sight of the next round of that series’ championship.

For now, he is making his mark on the U.S. and has to be considered one of the favorites for overall victory on Saturday.

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