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#8 Peugeot leads as rivals collide

#8 Peugeot, Sebring 2011The new Peugeot 908 HDi driven by Franck Montagny, Stephane Sarrazin and Pedro Lamy led the Sebring 12 Hours at the halfway point.

The leading 908, which held a narrow advantage under yellow flags on the six-hour mark, was the only one of the four factory turbodiesels entered by Peugeot and Audi to reach the halfway stage without problems. The two Audi R15+ TDIs and the second new 908 were all involved in incidents resulting in major delays.

Montagny led Marino Franchitti in the Highcroft Racing HPD ARX-01e by just 4.7 seconds during the seventh safety-car period to interrupt the 59th running of the classic Sebring event. The Peugeot had held a 27-second advantage prior to the deployment of the safety car after retaking the lead earlier in the sixth hour.

The petrol-engined HPD had sensationally led the race in the hands of Simon Pagenaud, who nipped past Lamy in traffic late in the fifth hour. The Highcroft car dropped to third during the subsequent round of pitstops before Franchitti moved up to second ahead of Olivier Panis in the ORECA team's year-old Peugeot 908.

The Audi Romain Dumas qualified on the front row was the first of the turbodiesels to run into trouble. Mike Rockenfeller came into the pits with a flat, almost certainly as a result of running over debris, and then sustained a second puncture immediately after returning to the track.

The car was subsequently taken back to the team's awning for a check-over. It was found that a new rear body section fitted after the initial puncture had caused the second flat, but six laps were lost as a result.

The second cars from Audi and Peugeot were both delayed after they tangled at Turn 17 while battling for the lead in the fifth hour. Marc Gene made an attempt to pass Rinaldo Capello, appeared to back out of the manoeuvre and then collided with the leader.

Both cars needed length repairs in the paddock. The Audi Capello shares with Allan McNish and Tom Kristensen lost seven laps, the Peugeot driven by Gene, Anthony Davidson and Alex Wurz 19 laps.

A thrilling battle for honours in the GTE class was led by the Risi Competizione Ferrari squad after six hours. Jamie Melo's new 458 Italia held a narrow lead ahead of the two Rahal-run BMW M3s driven by Andy Priaulx and Dirk Werner respectively.

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HPD's debut podium stuns drivers
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Peugeot on top after three hours
Peugeot holds early Sebring lead
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