Peugeot, Audi pilots preview Sebring race

March 19, 2011

Peugeot, Audi pilots preview Sebring race

March 19, 2011

Race morning at Sebring sees the dawn of another Peugeot vs. Audi battle. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Although 56 cars are entered, there is a strong chance that either one of the two Audi R15 TDIs in their last race, or the brand new second generation Peugeot 908s in their first, will emerge victorious in the overall standings at the end of the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Both of the operations that have won every 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2000 (except 2003) opened their doors to the media throughout the week, and here’s what some of their drivers had to say about the challenges of mastering both the race and the new for 2011 Automobile Club de l’Ouest regulations that govern most of sports car racing.

The changes see a drastic reduction in horsepower and downforce, but that said, overall polesitter Stephane Sarrazin of Peugeot set a time only 1.3 seconds slower than the 2010 pole time.


Defending champions at Sebring, from left to right, Anthony Davidson, Marc Gene, and Alexander Wurz. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Marc Gene, No. 7 Peugeot: “The old 908 was great to drive. You have to adapt – it’s a big difference at roughly five seconds a lap (in traffic) more. Although the shark fin has a big visual effect, it has a small effect on the car. The priority here is learning more about the car, and playing with the setup.”

Anthony Davidson, No. 7 Peugeot: “It takes about two laps to get the tires up to full temperatures. You can rely less on having a good front end of the car because with the tires, the grip is always there. We wouldn’t have done it if it didn’t work; we saw the Acura do it in 2009 and well.”

Franck Montagny, No. 8 Peugeot: “I was last here in 2009, and it was a lot more different. The track is Sebring … you really don’t need to say anything else! It’s bumpy, there’s traffic, but then there’s sunshine and you’re really happy to be here. With the new regulations, you can’t change it, you just adapt or do something else. Stephane (Sarrazin) and I will do all the (ILMC) races, and it’s great to have a real championship where you don’t have to pick up any races. We’re learning about how to use the bigger front tires. There’s more grip. It always depends on the feel.”


The 2010 24 Hours of Le Mans winners Mike Rockenfeller, Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard race for Audi again at Sebring. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Romain Dumas, No. 1 Audi: “Driving for Audi here is a big difference, because I was always here to beat them and now I’m part of the family! This car compared to a Porsche RS Spyder is completely different, because there, the agility was key with a P2 car. Traffic will be the biggest challenge this race.”

Timo Bernhard, No. 1 Audi: “Being in the old car helps us this week as we have a lot of experience with it, we are having to ride on that experience. We don’t have the bigger front tires yet, those will be on the (new) R18. This car feels almost like the Spyder in traffic. We feel good as this is the last race and we are shooting to give it a good result. Having this as the start of the (ILMC) gets you into a rhythm for the year.”

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