Audi And Peugeot Battle For 12 Hours At Sebring

Sebring, FL (March 21, 2009) – At the 57th running of the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring there was a concern because of the low car count that the race would not be that good. However, the race turned out to be a great battle between the two diesel powerhouses of Audi and Peugeot. Two Porsche’s withdrew during the weekend, including the Porsche that legendary Hans Stuck was suppose to drive, dropping the field to 26.

The 12 hours of Sebring was really building up to be interesting with the back-story of the troubles Peugeot was having. Early in the week, Sebastien Bourdias crashed the car and the other entry had a crack in the tub. The crew worked hard to patch it for two days. Many pit bystanders gave Peugeot little chance to do much. Was the French Peugeot having anything for the new Audi R15 TDI? Well, the Peugeot team proved everyone wrong, giving the Audi a real run. This race was a 12 hour sprint race and if Peugeot did not have that problem with the tire at the nine hour mark, it could have been a different ending. It put them on a different pit strategies and at the end Allan McNish showed why he is the best in the business by turning some laps three seconds faster than Peugeot to build up a lead. This was the third time Audi debuted a car and won. They won in 2000 with the R8, 2006 with the R10 and now the R15 in 2009, this has proven Audi is the car to beat, they have really given Porsche a run in the history books. After the race McNish exclaimed, “Our brand new R15 TDI was faultless throughout and allowed Audi to secure another Sebring victory. This must go down in the history books as one of the best Sebring 12 Hour races ever when you take in to account our competition, the intensity from start to finish making it a sprint race, with the final two hours especially typifying what Audi Sport is all about: grit and determination – the entire team can be proud in taking the laurels back to Germany.”

However, before the race, it was another story. Dindo Cappello appeared to be very nervous before the start of the race. The several Audi team members I spoke to seem a bit uptight, more so than normal. Even Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich was feeling the pressure. The same thought was issued, everyone wished they could have had more test time and that all the test time in Europe was cold and raining nothing like the heat this week in Florida. Capello also said that they had a couple of some problems this week such as a fuel leak and it had him concerned because this is such a long race and it is a very bumpy track which always brings up some issues such as leaks, suspension, etc.

The two Audis R15 TDI’s and two Peugeot 908 HDI’s swapped the lead 23 times. The race also set records for fastest average speed (117.986 mph), distance covered (1,417 miles) and laps completed under the current 3.7-mile, 17-turn configuration (383).

“It’s an absolutely fantastic feeling. Wow, what a race – the fastest ever race at Sebring covering a record distance. Winning with such a young car which had completed low testing miles in dry weather before we got here is amazing. I won here on the debut of the R8, then the R10 TDI and now the R15 TDI – thanks to the know how and experience of the crew. Everyone at Audi Sport, and all six drivers here at Sebring, have worked very hard to be in a position to beat Peugeot here at this very difficult track and after an extremely hard fight. I’m proud to be a part of this team – it’s a cool feeling. Coming with such a young car to such a tough race track and make the distance record with three yellows, it was really extraordinary and shows the knowhow from the last 3 cars – the R8, R10 and now R15,” said Tom Kristensen, who won his record fifth overall race at Sebring and also owns a record eight Le Mans victories. “I was really impressed with what the team did the last few days. This is such a huge team effort. I am humble and proud to be a part of teams like this. Victories like Le Mans and Sebring belong to a lot of people, and that’s what I enjoy is sharing it.”

Head of Audi Sport, Dr. Ullrich explained, “This is a great result for a brand new car which came to Sebring with less mileage under its wheels than we had planned. We’ve seen not only the fastest 12-hour race in Sebring history, but also one of the most exciting with so many lead changes and a very tight battle between Audi and Peugeot – and this in the 100th ALMS race since 1999. I can remember that four cars have been setting almost identical lap times at Sebring for such a long time. Little things have been decisive in the end. It’s a shame that our second car, which was also running at the front for most of the race, lost some time at the end. I’m very happy with the debut of our new Audi R15 TDI and I would like to say a big thank you to everybody who made this success possible.”

In P2, Fernandez Lowe’s Acura team beat the Dyson Mazda’s on their debut who struggled throughout the race. It was a long time coming however, the Lowe’s Fernandez team captured its long-awaited first LMP2 victory for Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz. The duo’s Acura ARX-01b ran a strong and consistent race while Dyson Racing’s two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes struggled with mechanical issues.

“We just had to focus and keep a secure pace,” Diaz said. “After that it was just a matter of not losing the concentration. Lap after lap it’s hard to keep the concentration so it became a challenge of not making mistakes. The Dyson Mazdas did not score points and we got a lot, so it gives us a cushion. But our goal is to win every single race this year. That is the pressure for ourselves. We want to prove we are the best team.” Saturday’s win was Acura’s second P2 victory in three years at Sebring.

Johnny O’Connell got another 12 Hours of Sebring trophy for himself while driving the GT1 Corvette. He was very impressed with his new teammate Antonio Garcia as Garcia has won the 12 and 24 hour races this year to start the season. O’Connell took the lead for good at the 51-minute mark, and never looked back. “It was a really good battle,” said O’Connell, who extended his record for Sebring victories to eight. “The No. 4 car had a better setup for qualifying, but we improved our car some and both cars were within 20-30 seconds throughout. We closed up during some cautions but our crew did a great job. The No. 4 car is full of fighters and they kept pushing every bit.”

The last race for Corvette Racing in GT1 will be the Long Beach round in mid-April. Then the Corvette team packs up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans where the team will hope to close the C6.R’s GT1 career with a sixth victory in France. The team will then transfer to the GT2 side for the rest of the schedule.

Mika Salo, Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer won the GT2 for the Risi team after starting last. “I have to thank these two guys working on the setup this week, making a good setup for the race and making the sacrifice for me starting at the back,” Melo said. “It’s good to start with a win like this. And we get to see against the Porsches and the BMW to see how quick they can go. We still have a long way to go for the championship but this is a good start.”

The Ferrari’s main contenders fell by the wayside early on due to contact (Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of J

Share Button