Audi took the checkered flag at America’s premier road racing event, the 57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.
Allan McNish, Dindo Capello and Tom Kristensen were victorious in the debut of the Audi R15 TDI in a close finish with the French Peugeot team.
The winning team made the R15 TDI Audi’s third prototype to win in its race debut, joining the R8 in 2000 and R10 TDI in 2006.
McNish crossed the finish line 22.279 seconds in front of Franck Montagny in the Peugeot. The two diesel powered LMP-1 prototypes staged an epic sports car battle with the two cars staying on the same lap throughout the 12 hours, renewing their battles from last year’s 24 Hours of Lemans Petit Le Mans.
“This one for me was better than Le Mans, because we came here with a new car and at the end of every stint it was at the maximum for the entire 12 hours,” Capello said. “To come here with a new car really says something for Audi.”
The two Audis and two Peugeot 908 HDis swapped the lead 23 times. With 42 minutes to go in the 12-hour race, McNish took the lead for good when Montagny made his final fuel-only stop.
McNish stepped up the pace and built a big enough gap from the Peugeot to allow time for a quick splash of fuel with 14 minutes to go.
“I knew I had 55 seconds to get in and out with a comfortable gap,” McNish said. “But if a yellow came out after they pitted and prior to our stop, it was all out the window. We were lucky because I think everyone drove exceptionally well until the end.
"The poker aspect is played by the engineers, not by the drivers; the pit strategy is by the guys behind the wall. We are just given instructions to do things and that was drive very, very quickly.”
For teammate Tom Kristensen, this victory was his record fifth overall race at Sebring and also owns a record eight Le Mans victories.
“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 three cars: the R8, R10, and now R15,” said Kristensen.
“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.”
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).
Montagny along with Sebastien Bourdais and Stephane Sarrazin, lead a combined eight times but had to pit out of sequence with a suspected punctured rear tire. The car replaced its rear tires on the emergency stop, which forced a change of strategy for the rest of the race.
The second Audi of Lucas Luhr, Mike Rockenfeller, and Marco Werner finished third. It led four times in the race.
Both of the new Acura LMP-1 cars failed to finish the race dues to mechanical issues. The Patron-Highcroft racing car finished the race in 15th place, and the pole winning De Ferran Motorsports entry ended the day in the 18th spot.
Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz in the Acura ARX-01b took their first ever LMP-2 victory over their main competitors of Dyson Racing’s two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes, which struggled with mechanical woes.
Lowe’s Fernandez Racing is now the lone Acura, with De Ferran Motorsports and Patron-Highcroft Racing teams moving up to the LMP-1 class.
"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.”
The win was Acura’s second P2 victory in past three years at Sebring. Fernandez and Diaz placed second in class in 2007 and last year they finished third overall before the car was disqualified after post-race inspections.
Johnny O’Connell, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia won their second consecutive GT1 victory in the Corvette Racing C6.R. This is was the final race for the GT1 version of the Corvette C6.R at Sebring.
The second Corvette of Oliver Gavin, Olivier Beretta and Marcel Fässler finished one lap behind their teammates.
“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.”
For the second time in three years the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT, driven by Mika Salo, Pierre Kaffer and Jaime Melo won by over two laps in GT2 with the Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Ferrari coming in second completing a first ever Ferrari 1-2 finish at Sebring.
This 2009 victor was less dramatic than the exciting 2007 victory by a race-record of only 0.202 seconds.
The Risi Competizione Ferrari was forced to start the race from the back of the grid after Melo did not arrive at the circuit until Friday morning. The Ferrari tore through the field and took the lead in the second hour that they never relenquished.
Under ALMS rules, all drivers must participate in night practice to acclimate themselves to the conditions. Melo’s late arrival precluded this which caused the start penalty.
The Ferrari also caught a break when it was included in an early wave-by under caution to pick up the leading prototype. As a result, the Ferrari gained nearly a full lap on nearly the rest of the field.
“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 dominant Porsche teams failed to reach the podium with various on track and mechanical issues. The Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was knocked out from on-track contact, and the GT2 Class pole winner Farnbacher Loles Racing suffered mechanical difficulties.
Gianmaria Bruni, Mathias Russo, and Luis Companc in the Advanced Engineering Pecom Racing Ferrari ended the race in second ahead of the Panoz Team PTG’s Panoz Esperante GTLM of Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James.
57th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida
Sebring International Raceway, Sebring, Fla.
1. (2) Allan McNish, Scotland; Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Tom Kristensen, Denmark; Audi R15 TDI (1, P1), 383.
2. (5) Franck Montagny, Brignoles France; Sebastien Bourdais, France; Stephane Sarrazin, France; Peugeot 908 HDI FAP (2, P1), 383.
3. (4) Mike Rockenfeller, Germany; Marco Werner, Germany; Lucas Luhr, Germany; Audi R15 TDI (3, P1), 381.
4. (7) Luis Diaz, Mexico; Adrian Fernandez, Mexico; Acura ARX-01B (1, P2), 360.
5. (3) Pedro Lamy, Lisbon Portugal; Christian Klien, Austria; Nicolas Minassian, England; Peugeot 908 HDI FAP (4, P1), 356.
6. (12) Jan Magnussen, Denmark; Antonio Garcia, Spain; Johnny O’Connell, Flowery Branch, GA; Corvette C6.R (1, GT1), 349.
7. (11) Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Marcel Fässler, Switzerland; Corvette C6.R (2, GT1), 348.
8. (27) Mika Salo, Finland; Jaime Melo, Brazil; Pierre Kaffer, Germany; Ferrari F430 GT (1, GT2), 332.
9. (15) Gianmaria Bruni, Italy; Mathias Russo, Argentina; Luis Companc, Argentina; Ferrari 430 GT (2, GT2), 330.
10. (17) Dominik Farnbacher, Germany; Ian James, England; Panoz Esperante GTLM Ford (3, GT2), 329.
11. (14) Jörg Bergmeister, Germany; Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Marc Lieb, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (4, GT2), 326.
12. (24) Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Johannes van Overbeek, San Francisco, CA; Darren Law, Phoenix, AZ; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (5, GT2), 326.
13. (23) Nic Jonsson, Sweden; Eric van de Poele, Belgium; Tracy Krohn, Houston, TX; Ferrari F430 GT (6, GT2), 325.
14. (16) David Murry, Cumming, GA; Andrea Robertson, Ray, MI; David Robertson, Ray, MI; Doran Ford GT MK 7 (7, GT2), 303.
15. (6) David Brabham, Australia; Scott Sharp, Jupiter, FL; Dario Franchitti, Scotland; Acura ARX-02a (5, P1), 302, Drive line.
16. (13) Dirk Werner, Germany; Richard Lietz, Austria; Wolf Henzler, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (8, GT2), 274.
17. (19) Joel Feinberg, Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Chris Hall, Daytona, FL; Ritchie Holt, Davie, FL; Dodge Viper Comp Coupe (9, GT2), 251, Clutch.
18. (1) Gil de Ferran, Brazil; Simon Pagenaud, France; Scott Dixon, New Zealand; Acura ARX-02a (6, P1), 246, Mechanical.
19. (20) Robert Bell, UK; Paul Drayson, London, UK; Jonny Cocker, UK; Aston Martin Vantage GT2 (10, GT2), 204, Engine.
20. (9) Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Tony Burgess, Canada; Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; Lola B06/10 AER (7, P1), 151, Electrical.
21. (10) Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Marino Franchitti, Scotland; Ben Devlin, England; Lola B09 86 Mazda (2, P2), 149, Mechanical.
22. (26) Dirk Müller, Germany; Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; BMW E92 M3 (11, GT2), 140.
23. (8) Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Guy Smith, England; Andy Lally, New York, NY; Lola B09 86 Mazda (3, P2), 127, Mechanical.
24. (22) Lou Gigliotti, Dallas, TX; Eric Curran, Easthampton, MA; Lucas Molo, Brazil; Chevrolet Riley Corvette C6 (12, GT2), 89, Mechanical.
25. (25) Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Chapman Ducote, Miami, FL; Jon Field, Dublin, OH; Lola B06/10 AER (8, P1), 77.
26. (18) Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; BMW E92 M3 (13, GT2), 27, Mechanical.
27. (21) Nicky Pastorelli, Netherlands; Hans Stuck, Germany; Johannes Stuck, Austria; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (14, GT2), 0, Withdrawn.
28. (28) Richard Westbrook, England; Marc Basseng, Germany; Lance David, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (15, GT2), 0, Withdrawn.
Photos and Quotes Courtesy of ALMS
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!