ALMS: Peugeot Takes Sebring Pole

Other class pole sitters include: Signatech Nissan (LMP2), AF Corse (GT) and Proton Competition.

John Dagys Posted March 18, 2011 Sebring, FL |  SPEED

Stephane Sarrazin put in a dominating performance to claim the pole for Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. (Photo: John Dagys)

As Stephane Sarrazin quickly learned this week, traffic can make or break one’s lap around the crowded Sebring International Raceway. But thanks to clever strategy by his Peugeot team, the Frenchman will start Saturday’s 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring from the overall pole.

Sarrazin’s Peugeot 908 sat in the pit lane during the opening moments of the 15-minute prototype qualifying session, waiting for a gap in traffic. Once given the all clear by the Olivier Quesnel-led team, the reigning Le Mans Series champion reeled off an impressive 1:46.671 lap time, shattering the competition by over a second.


Signatech Nissan has paced the LMP2 field this week with its new Oreca 03 Nissan. (Photo: John Dagys)

Signatech Nissan scored the LMP2 class pole, with Soheil Ayari clocking a 1:53.816 lap time in his No. 26 Oreca 03 Nissan. The Frenchman, who will share the wheel of his new cost-capped prototype with Lucas Ordonez and Franck Mailleux, outpaced the No. 055 Level 5 Motorsports Lola B11/40 Honda of Luis Diaz by nearly four seconds.

“It’s a brand-new car that we haven’t done massive testing with,” Ayari said. “But we found a good setup and the car was very well balanced. The Nissan engine made a very good [power]. It was easy to drive with a lot of torque. My lap time was pretty normal for this type of car, I think.”

While the Philippe Sinault-led Signatech team have been the pacesetters all week in the heavily revised category, Ayari is happy to be competing this weekend having suffered a dislocated shoulder in a motocross ice racing event less than two weeks ago. The ORECA test driver, along with his co-drivers, are all competing at Sebring for the first time.


Veteran European GT outfit AF Corse captured the GT-class pole. (Photo: John Dagys)

While there’s four Ferrari F458 Italias in action this weekend, one of the tried-and-trusted F430 GTs stole the GT class pole. Gimmi Bruni put the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari on the top spot with a 2:01.561 lap time, edging out the No. 04 Corvette Racing C6.R of Oliver Gavin by 0.182 seconds.

Bruni, who will share his Prancing Horse with Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer, is one of five ILMC GT-class competitors that will be kicking off the seven-round global sportscar championship this weekend. While the Italian squad’s new Ferrari wasn’t delivered in time for the season-opener, Bruni is confident that the trusty old 430 can still deliver success.

“I’ve tested a lot with the F458, and to be honest I like that car more now,” Bruni said. “But we obviously have more data with the 430 around here. We started racing it in 2006. We’ve done lots of testing for Michelin with these tires… I think to start the season, the 430 can be fast. At the moment, we’re happy where we’re are.”

Gavin’s 2:01.743 lap put the Corvette as the highest of the ALMS season regulars, ahead of the two BMW Team RLL-entered BMW M3s qualified by Dirk Werner and Dirk Muller, respectively.