Sarrazin, Peugeot power to Sebring pole

March 18, 2011

Sarrazin, Peugeot power to Sebring pole

March 18, 2011

Stephane Sarrazin (center) captured the overall pole for the 12 Hours of Sebring. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Showing the inherent speed that lies within the new factory Peugeot 908, Stephane Sarrazin captured the overall and LMP1 class pole for Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring. Sebring serves as the opening round of both the 2011 American Le Mans Series season and the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup global championship.

Sarrazin set a blistering time of 1:46.571, only 1.3 seconds off the 2010 overall pole despite running a new car that has less horsepower and downforce according to new regulations. His teammate Marc Gene set the fastest lap a year ago at 1:45.214.

The Frenchman, who will co-drive the No. 8 Peugeot with Franck Montagny and Pedro Lamy, waited until a few minutes had passed in the session before setting a flier.

“It’s been a hard week, we’ve been trying to improve the balance on the new car,” Sarrazin said. “We prefer to wait four minutes before going out and find a window without traffic. I had never had a very clean lap in practice.”

The two diesels exchange positions with Sarrazin’s No. 8 Peugeot ahead of the No. 1 Audi R15 TDI of Romain Dumas, No. 7 Peugeot (Marc Gene) and No. 2 Audi (Tom Kristensen). Dumas also set his and Audi’s fastest lap of the week at 1:47.680. The No. 10 Oreca Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, the older generation model, completed the top five.

American Le Mans Series regulars Muscle Milk Aston Martin Racing and Highcroft HPD came home sixth and seventh.

Soheil Ayari took the P2 class pole in the Signatech Oreca 03 Nissan at 1:53.815 ahead of Luis Diaz in the first of two Level 5 Motorsports Lola HPDs.

In what commentators John Hindhaugh and Jeremy Shaw called a “15-minute endurance qualifying session,” a great battle occurred in the LMP Challenge class between Genoa Racing’s Dane Cameron on his American Le Mans Series debut and the two CORE Autosport cars of Ryan Dalziel and Gunnar Jeannette. Cameron beat Jeannette’s 2010 pole time, a 1:55.232 to a 1:55.279. Cameron, 22, improved his laptime every lap except his final one in the bright red No. 036 entry.

“It’s extremely tight, but that’s the fun part of the class,” Cameron said. “It’s a pleasure to really maximize everything for the first time. Because of the similar driver pairings, no one has a huge advantage.”

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