Audi Back on Top at Sebring – Audi’s Dindo Capello fired back at Peugeot on Wednesday by posting the fastest time for the first official practice session for the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida, the opening race of the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Capello’s lap of 1:45.491 in the diesel-powered Audi R10 TDI was 0.017 seconds better than Stephane Sarrazin in the Peugeot 908.
The top three cars all are diesel-powered factory prototypes as the Series races into a green future with all cars powered by either clean diesel, E10 or cellulosic E85.
Capello will team with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen this weekend, the trio hoping to claim its second Sebring overall win in three years. Sarrazin is partnering with Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian in the Peugeot, which is competing in North America for the first time. The second Audi of Lucas Luhr, Marco Werner and Mike Rockenfeller was third overall at 1:46.465 (125.112 mph). “We are still not happy with the car,” Capello said. “This is a new chassis after our crash Monday. We are struggling with getting the handling right on the green track. We’re trying to find a comfortable way to drive it.”
Marco Andretti was quickest for the second straight day in LMP2. The young prodigy, grandson of three-time Sebring overall winner Mario Andretti, had a fast lap of 1:46.632 (124.512 mph) in the Acura ARX-01b of Andretti Green Racing. The second-year team won in class at Sebring last year in the debut for both itself and Acura and placed second overall.
Andretti, who is teaming with Bryan Herta and Christian Fittipaldi, was 0.346 seconds better than the lead Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard and Emmanuel Collard. The second Penske entry of Sascha Maassen, Patrick Long and Ryan Briscoe was third in P2 and sixth overall at 1:46.988.
Corvette Racing held the top spot in GT1 with a lap of 1:58.211 (112.585 mph) for the No. 3 Corvette C6.R of Jan Magnussen, Johnny O’Connell and Ron Fellows. They were 0.057 seconds ahead of the No. 4 sister car and defending race winners Olivier Beretta, Oliver Gavin and Max Papis.
Wolf Henzler was quickest in GT2 for Flying Lizard Motorsports. The Porsche factory pilot’s time of 2:02.402 (108.822 mph) marked the first time the new 911 GT3 RSR was quickest in class this week. Henzler, who will drive with Jörg Bergmeister and Marc Lieb was 0.019 seconds ahead of the Tafel Racing Ferrari F430 GT of Dirk Müller, Dominik Farnbacher and Rob Bell.
Third in class was the Ferrari F430 GT of defending class winner Risi Competizione. The No. 62 entry of Jamie Melo, Mika Salo and Gianmaria Bruni was at 2:03.009 (108.285 mph).
Feud? What Feud? See, We Like Each Other – Fernando Alonso has swerved suggestions his bitter relationship with Lewis Hamilton could turn nasty during this weekend’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix.
The pair made no secret of their intense rivalry and at times open dislike for each other when they were team mates at McLaren last year and Alonso’s departure to Renault has added a new dimension to their feud. Alonso and Hamilton both played down the suggestion when they appeared together at a news conference in Melbourne on Thursday, trading compliments instead of insults.
“When I changed and joined McLaren, Lewis was arriving to the team and was new to F1, so he was always giving fresh ideas to do things,” said Alonso. “You always learn from everybody. We are not together but we are still racing each other in different teams, with drivers that have been in F1 for a long time. “There are new drivers coming in, every year is a challenge,” added the Spaniard.
Hamilton, who recently said he expects McLaren to be a far more harmonious team now that Alonso has departed, said it had been an honour to work with the Spaniard last year, when he was asked in jest whether he would miss him. “When you have a two-time world champion (Alonso), when you come into your first season and someone you’ve been watching for so many years, you come and you work against them, work with them, it’s a privilege,” Hamilton said. “From that point of view, it’s a shame he’s not there.”