Peugeot takes control at Sebring
|By Simon Strang||Saturday, March 21st 2009, 17:29 GMT|
Peugeot had established a small advantage over the new Audi R15 TDIs in the Sebring 12 Hours, as the famous sportscar race reached quarter distance.
Nicolas Minassian led the race in the #7 908 HDi FAP by a couple of seconds from stable-mate Stephane Sarrazin in the sister Peugeot, after the French team moved ahead during the second and third hours of the race.
A full-course yellow 80 minutes into the race, when David Brabham's sixth-placed Patron Highcroft Acura LMP1 collected the Doran Ford GT2 while lapping it, changed the complexion of the race.
Up until that point Allan McNish and Mike Rockenfeller had been running one-two for Audi. But with the yellows flying, both German cars pitted and dropped behind Minassian, who had taken over from Pedro Lamy just before the accident.
When the race went back to green, Minassian shot off, with Capello (in-for McNish) fending off Sarrazin, and Marco Werner (having taken over from Rockenfeller) in fourth.
Through the second hour the four cars circulated in reasonably close company but as the track continued to warm up it appeared to suit the physics of the 908 better and Sarrazin was able to drag past Capello out of the final corner and into second.
Most of the third hour saw the Peugeots then running in formation and establishing a growing advantage of nearly half a minute over the new R15 TDIs.
Simon Pagenaud was fifth for the de Ferran Acura squad, which had a lap over the Highcroft team after Brabham's incident.
"I messed up," said Brabham. "I went around the outside of the GT40 and cut it too fine. That's my first and only mistake for the year, I can promise you that.
"I have to apologise to my crew and that of the other car. The car is running fine but we don't have the pace of the turbodiesels, so we just have to focus on our own race."
Adrian Fernandez continued to control the pace in LMP2, with the Acura holding a lap advantage over Marino Franchitti's Lola Coupe.
The battle for GT1 was heated as the two Corvettes disputed the lead on the track and in the pits! Olivier Beretta emerging furious from an argument over pit space that saw the #4 car lose the lead to Antonia Garcia's sister machine.
Porsche's challenge in GT2 faded as the #87 Farnbacher Loles machine of Wolf Henzler was rolled behind pitwall with a diff problem, leaving Pierre Kaffer unchallenged in the lead of GT2.
Matthias Russo is second in another Ferrari ahead of Tommy Milner in the new BMW E92 M3.