March 20, 2010


March 20, 2010

Photographers swarm the winning No. 07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Photo credit: Rick Dole

On the weekend Michelin has been inducted into the Sebring Hall of Fame, Michelin has now captured its 12th consecutive victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Cars running on MICHELIN® tires swept the top six positions overall and scored three victories at Sebring, the American Le Mans Series 2010 season opener. The No. 07 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP of Marc Gene, Alexander Wurz and Anthony Davidson captured the overall and LMP1 victory.

The landmark victory for Peugeot is their first for the 908 at Sebring in four attempts, and second consecutive on American soil (Petit Le Mans last year). Gene and Wurz also won overall at the 24 Hours of Le Mans last year, and Davidson wins in his Peugeot debut after previously racing for Aston Martin.

The 07 took the lead for the final time following their sister car, the No. 08’s last pit stop with 40 minutes remaining. The 08, driven by Sebastien Bourdais, made the same decision to take four tires as the 07 had on its last pit stop five minutes earlier. Wurz jumped ahead as Bourdais exited to complete the pass, and the victory was secured as Bourdais spun on exit on cold tires. He was unharmed but lost more than 20 seconds to Wurz.

“We had 2 cars, 6 drivers and Michelin tires,” Wurz said. “We pushed, everyone 100%. The strategy people had smoke coming out of their ears. It was down to 3 seconds for the last stop. It came down to Sebastian and myself.”

The P1 battle behind the Peugeots, in the first of the petrol-powered entries, went to the Aston Martin Racing Lola Aston Martin. Running a trouble-free race, the V12-powered car secured the third podium position with Adrian Fernandez, Stefan Mucke and Harold Primat. The Aston is the only podium finisher that will make the trip to the next ALMS event at Long Beach next month.

Peugeot also won the MICHELIN® GREEN X® CHALLENGE for prototypes. The 08 diesel was fastest, cleanest and most efficient entry with a Green Racing Challenge score of 2.278 to its sister car’s 2.438. Flying Lizard Motorsports’ No. 44 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on E85 took the GT category, a car driven by team owner Seth Neiman, Darren Law and Richard Lietz.

(L to R) Michelin N.A. motorsports manager Silvia Mammone, Flying Lizard Porsche drivers Richard Lietz, Seth Neiman, Darren Law and the Michelin Man for the Green X Challenge award. Photo credit: Rick Dole

Finishing a distant but unrepresentative fourth in P1 was the Drayson Racing Lola B09/60 Judd. Emanuele Pirro put in an incredible first stint, at one point passing one of the Peugeots into turn 17.

“At the start of the race the car was great,” Pirro said. “I could even put pressure on the Peugeot, and I passed one and I couldn’t believe it. We chose to qualify on softs, which was a perfect start for the race and I could double stint them with no problem.”

Sadly, the dream of Drayson on the podium went awry with alternator issues and a water leak, and later one of the Peugeots contacted Pirro in the left sidepod. Pirro, team owner and driver Lord Paul Drayson and Jonny Cocker soldiered on to the strong finish.

P2 was a relatively uneventful affair with Highcroft Racing’s HPD ARX 01-c leading most of the race until past the eight-hour mark, when it ran aground of an electrical wiring issue in the cockpit. The repairs cost them the race, staying in the pits for nearly 20 minutes and witnessing as a six-lap lead turned into a six-lap deficit.

The beneficiaries were the Cytosport Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder of Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf and Sascha Maassen. Graf took over the lead as the HPD car was stranded. It’s the team’s first full season in the ALMS and the first win for an RS Spyder since 2008. Highcroft’s trio of David Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti were still second to record valuable championship points.

The GT2 battle was more or less a process of elimination, and provided a clinic in “what not to do when encountering your teammate.” Corvette, Porsche and Risi Ferrari all had one instance of contact between teammates, none more notable than the Corvette contretemps on pit road when the 3 and 4 ZR1s collided.

Risi’s No. 62 F430 continued its win streak in endurance races, and with the win today is its sixth consecutive between Sebring, Le Mans, and Petit Le Mans. Drivers on board here were Jaime Melo, Gianmaria Bruni and Pierre Kaffer. The Rahal Letterman BMWs had methodical runs to second and third overall, after starting seventh and 13th in class. The 45 and 44 Flying Lizard Porsches completed the top five in the highly competitive class.

The 45’s race was particularly fraught when another Porsche’s right rear tire and wheel came loose, hitting the left rear quarter panel and wheel. When Joerg Bergmeister entered the pits, the team couldn’t work on the car for three laps while the order behind the pace car was sorted out.

Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Marc Wilkins won with Level 5 in LMPC, which features Michelin as the sole tire supplier. Teams were able to regularly multi-stint their Michelin commercial (non-confidential) club racing tires.

Alex Job Racing won the new GTC category in the team’s return to the series, with Butch Leitzinger, Juan Gonzalez and Leh Keen on board.

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