Audi takes early lead at Sebring

Allan McNish gave Audi the perfect beginning to the new R15 TDI era after dominating most of the first hour of the Sebring 12-Hour race

Audi takes early lead at Sebring

The Scot led the race just after the first hour, but the Florida event has already lived up to its billing as a classic match-up between the Peugeot 908 turbodiesels and the brand new Audi R15 TDIs.

Pedro Lamy's decision not to take on tyres at his first stop, 45 minutes into the race, allowed the Portuguese driver to skip ahead of McNish's hitherto dominant Audi which sparked a full-blown scrap for the lead.

Audi opted for a cautious approach and fitted new tyres to both its new chargers during the stops, which meant that McNish, who pitted with a 15s lead, dropped behind the #7 Peugeot. But he quickly closed the gap.

Feisty as ever, the double-Le Mans winner then proceeded to hound Lamy for several laps until finally the Peugeot was caught behind a backmarker and allowed McNish the opportunity to pounce on the back straight.

At the start of the race, the Scot had dived past poleman Gil de Ferran into Turn 1 and simply disappeared in to the distance as his turbodiesel rivals got caught behind the new Acura ARX-02a on lap one.

By the time Lamy had made it past de Ferran into second McNish was already five seconds down the road.

The Audi man built on that advantage as Lamy focussed on keeping Mike Rockenfeller behind in third in the second R15. The German remained in the same position at the turn of the hour, having also taken on new tyres.

Franck Montagny took less than half an hour to make his way up to fourth position in the #8 Peugeot having started from the pitlane, following the need for the team to change the car's entire hydraulics system after the morning warm-up.

De Ferran and David Brabham in the Highcroft Racing Acura are fifth and sixth.

Luis Diaz took over from Fernandez Racing team boss and co-driver Adrian Fernandez in the first pitstop for the Acura squad as the team took control of the LMP2 class, in seventh overall.

Johnny O'Connell led GT1 for Corvette ahead of stable-mate Olivier Beretta, as the duo conducted their own private battle for control of the class.

There was early drama in the GT2 category when three-time champion and race favourite Jorg Bergmeister broke a rear control arm on his Porsche in contact with David Murray in the Doran Ford.

The German lost five laps to the class leader and poleman Dirk Werner in the resultant pitstop.

Jaime Melo was second in class in the new Ferrari 430 Berlinetta GT. Mathias Russo ran third in another 430 ahead of Dirk Muller driving the new BMW E92 M3, which is making its competition debut at Sebring.

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