Dixon And Acura Surprise In Qualifying At Sebring

The 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida is building up to be a great race between the suddenly quick Acura ARX-02a, the new diesel-powered Audi R15 TDI and the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 Hdi coupe. It was de Ferran Motorsports’ Scott Dixon surprising the field by taking the pole with a fast lap of 1:45.278 (126.522 mph) nipping Audi’s Tom Kristensen by 0.0082 seconds.

“I’ve watched this race for many years and it’s always been exciting so now it’s great that I get to race here,” Dixon said. “I’ve tested on the short track many times with IndyCar but never on the big track. So you can’t help but grin from ear to ear to be excited to drive here.” This is Dixon’s first American Le Mans Series pole for Dixon, who is teaming with team owner Gil de Ferran and Simon Pagenaud for their first Sebring race.

The R15 TDI had a couple problems in practice with some fuel leaks and minor teething problems for the new car. It has been diffucult for Audi because this is the first time running the car in these condtions. The rough track and Florida heat has been a real test for the German squad. The key will be finishing the race. However, the drivers from Audi are very happy and encouraged with the new car. Several told me it was like learning to drive all over again, but different from the R10. 2008 P1 Champion driver Lucas Luhr is hungry to win one overall for Audi at Sebring. Luhr added, “The R15 TDI is a brand new car, our baby. We are all very pleased and happy with the car. It reacts to changes, which is very positive. We are of course still in its infancy. The R10 TDI was developed over three years and fully exploited. The R15 TDI is still, let’s say, like a new-born child. We will for sure face minor problems. But our aim is Le Mans, and we’ve still got some time until then. Sebring is the perfect platform to test the car for Le Mans. And so far it looks very good.”

Second quick qualifier Kristensen is driving one of the factory Audi entries with Dindo Capello and Allan McNish.

Former Champ Car star Sebastien Bourdais is back in the States running the 908 Hdi Diesel. Bourdais crashed the car Tuesday which the crew was able to repair for today. He went off on Tuesday morning’s session and damaged his car’s front and rear bodywork. Then, just hours later, the team encountered a problem with the tub of the No.07 car. “This tub had been repaired by our subcontractor following a crash last year,” explained Bruno Famin, Peugeot Sport’s Technical Director. The repairs clearly weren’t carried out properly, though, and we had to find a solution here on site with our own composites specialist. We will keep a close eye on the situation during the race.”

“Sea Bass’ ” quickest lap saw him clock in a satisfactory 1m 45.559seconds. “There was no point in staying out any longer,” he explained. “The car is going well and I was able to push hard at once to set a time straight away. Franck Montagny will start with our car and he will benefit from tyres that have barely been scrubbed.”

Bourdais told me that he only got one test in for the F-1 Toro Rosso team so far this year. It is going to be hard to start the season this far behind. Bourdais misses racing in the U.S. but F-1 is the biggest show, he has earned his place.

Peugeot’s Christian Klien was third-fastest in one of the two French 908 Hdi coupes at 1:45.462 (126.301 mph). The Austrian F1 regular is teaming with Nic Minassian and Pedro Lamy.

In LMP2, Adrian Fernandez in the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b gave Acura a second pole position in the Series’ first race for the first time. The Mexican star earned his first American Le Mans Series pole position with a lap of 1:49.686 (121.438 mph) to outpace Dyson Racing’s two new Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes. “It feels good to start the season well,” Fernandez said. “Last year was frustrating that we didn’t ever get a win we deserved. It was always some little stupid things that prevented us. So it’s great to focus on finishing the race. We know the car, we know the track, and we have the most experience in the car.”

The 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida will open the 11th season of the American Le Mans Series and serve as the 100th all-time Series race. SPEED will televise the race live from 10 a.m. to noon and 2-11 p.m. ET. American Le Mans Radio and Live Timing & Scoring will be available at

57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
presented by Fresh from Florida
Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Fla.
Thursday’s qualifying

1. Gil de Ferran, Brazil; Simon Pagenaud, France; Scott Dixon, New Zealand; Acura ARX-02a (P1), 1:45.278, 126.522
2. Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Tom Kristensen, Denmark; Allan McNish, Scotland; Audi R15 TDI (P1), 1:45.360, 126.424
3. Nicolas Minassian, England; Pedro Lamy, Lisbon Portugal; Christian Klien, Austria; Peugeot 908 HDI FAP (P1), 1:45.462, 126.301
4. Lucas Luhr, Germany; Mike Rockenfeller, Germany; Marco Werner, Germany; Audi R15 TDI (P1), 1:45.551, 126.195
5. Stephane Sarrazin, France; Franck Montagny, Brignoles France; Sebastien Bourdais, France; Peugeot 908 HDI FAP (P1), 1:45.559, 126.185
6. David Brabham, Australia; Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; Dario Franchitti, Scotland; Acura ARX-02a (P1), 1:46.504, 125.066
7. Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Luis Diaz, Mexico; Acura ARX-01B (P2), 1:49.686, 121.438
8. Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, England; Andy Lally, New York, NY; Lola B09 86 Mazda (P2), 1:51.534, 119.425
9. Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Chapman Ducote, Miami, FL; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:52.323,
10. Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Tony Burgess, Canada; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:51.598, 119.357
11. Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Marino Franchitti, Scotland; Ben Devlin, England; Lola B09 86 Mazda (P2), 1:51.840, 119.099
12. Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Marcel Fassler, Switzerland; Corvette C6-R (GT1), 1:57.882, 112.994
13. Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Antonio Garcia, Spain; Corvette C6-R (GT1), 1:58.203, 112.687
14. Wolf Henzler, Germany; Dirk Werner, Germany; Richard Lietz, Austria; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 2:03.051, 108.248
15. J

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