ALMS Test Comes To End
Aston Martin Racing concluded the American Le Mans Series’ winter test at the Sebring International Raceway fastest over-all, but not without paying a price. After the factory team’s Lola B09/60 recorded its lap of 1:46.894 (124.609 mph) on Tuesday morning, Harold Primat suffered a heavy crash at Turn 1 in the afternoon. The driver was OK, but the car will require extensive repair prior to the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on March 20.
A record 28 cars attended the winter test, which included entries from the new LMP Challenge class for Oreca-built prototypes and the GT Challenge, introduced midway last season and featuring 911 GT3 Cup cars. Prior to the test days, the ALMS announced Tequila Patron as the series’ presenting sponsor, the first series sponsor since the ALMS was launched in 1999.
Adrian Fernandez, Chris Buncombe and Primat will drive the Lola-Aston Martin coupe at the season-opening 12-hour, but will face strong competition from a brace of factory-backed Peugeot 908’s, which did not attend the test. Anthony Davidson, Marc Gené and Alexander Wurz – the latter two drivers part of the winning Peugeot with David Brabham at the Le Mans 24-hour last year – will share one Peugeot 908 at Sebring. Sebastien Bourdais, Pedro Lamy and Nic Minassian will drive a second TDi FAP turbo diesel.
In the last afternoon of testing at Sebring, Intersport Racing’s Lola B06/10-AER of Jon and Clint Field postest the second quickest LMP1 time of 1:47.925 with its pass around the 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit.
Patrón Highcroft Racing was the next quickest entry and first in LMP2 with its HPD ARX-01c. The car – driven by Brabham, Simon Pagenaud and Marino Franchitti – set a best time of 1:48.153 in the morning session. Patrón Highcroft won the LMP1 championship last year and is running an updated version of the LMP2 car it fielded in 2008, posting four class victories and one over-all.
Less than 0.4 seconds back was Dyson Racing’s Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupe of Chris Dyson and Guy Smith. The team is continuing its tire development program with new technical partner Dunlop. The car’s best time was a 1:48.496 in the morning session. Muscle Milk Team Cytosport and its Porsche RS Spyder sat third in LMP2 with a lap of 1:49.318 in the morning. Team owner Greg Pickett and Klaus Graf did the bulk of the time in the car over the two days with Sascha Maassen on hand as well.
In GT2, Risi Competizione’s Ferrari F430 GT was quickest in both of Tuesday’s sessions. The car of Jaime Melo and Gianmaria Bruni set a best lap of 2:02.559 in the morning. Risi is the two-time and reigning class winner at Le Mans and hasn’t lost an endurance race since the Sebring race in 2008.
A pair of Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs were close behind. The entry of Darren Law and Seth Neiman sat second with a lap of 2:02.929. Porsche factory drivers Jörg Bergmeister and Patrick Long, last year’s GT2 class champions, were third at 2:03.021.
All total, the eight fastest cars, including two BMW M3’s from Rahal Letterman Racing, were within one second of each other. The Jaguar XKRS entry from RSR participated in all sessions, but was several seconds off the pace with a best lap of 2:07.734.
The Sebring test also marked the debut of the Le Mans Prototype Challenge class and the ORECA FLM09. Of the five entries testing at Sebring, Genoa Racing’s Larry Connor was credited with the fastest lap in class, a 1:56.753. He was less than 0.2 seconds quicker than Green Earth Team Gunnar’s entry of Gunnar Jeannette, Christian Zugel and Elton Julian. Level 5 Motorsports was fifth in class with a lap of 1:57.054 with Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut driving.
In the GT Challenge class for Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entries, Rob Walton went quickest for Kelly Moss Racing. His lap of 2:07.795 gave him a slim, near half-second advantage over Darrell Carlisle in another Kelly Moss entry. GMG Racing’s Brent Holden was third in class at 2:08.412.No Comment