Sunday, March 21, 2010

Peugeot Wins 2010 12-Hours of Sebring

Photo Credit: GM Media

After two times where the Peugeot 908 HDI FAP prototype came up short of the 12 Hour of Sebring victory in 2008 and 2009, the French marque claimed the prestigious victory through a triumphant effort by the two-car team. Piloted through the final laps by Alexander Wurz, the #07 Peugeot 908 crossed the line 13.817 seconds ahead of the #08 team car which was in the hands of Formula 1 driver and Champ Car champion Sebastian Bourdais. Joined by his co-drivers Anthony Davidson and Marc Gene, the #07 Peugeot team celebrated a picture perfect 12 hour run.

Photo Credit: Aston Martin

Behind the French-made diesel-powered prototypes, the #007 Lola-Aston Martin took third on the podium only 3 laps behind the indomitable Peugeot team. With long-standing corporate history at Sebring started with the first 12 hour race, Aston Martin toasted the podium finish. Aston Martin Chairman David Richards praised the team saying “Another immaculate performance by George (Team Principal, George Howard-Chappell) and his team in finishing here as fastest petrol car and a great start to the season.” Unlike the Peugeot squad, the Lola-Aston Martin is committed to running the second round in Long Beach with the American Le Mans Series.

In the P2 category for prototypes, the Porsche RS Spyder once again found class victory at Sebring campaigned by the CytoSport team. Finishing 4th overall in the 12-Hours of Sebring, the driver lineup was a road racing all-star team consisting of Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf and Sascha Maassen. 14 laps behind the Peugeot 908, the CtyoSport group did finish 4 laps ahead of their P2 rival Patron Highcroft Racing opponent.

The third prototype class, the all-new Prototype Challenge took their first green flag torture-testing the Chevrolet-powered spec racers. While all but one car that started the Prototype Challenge class were running at the end, many of the teams faced interruptions such as Primetime Racing team which needed an extended time to replace a broken rear suspension piece. Overcoming the bad luck of fellow the Prototype Challenge, the #55 Level 5 Motorsports car co-driven by team owner Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut and Canadian Mark Wilkins rolled to victory in class and an impressive 10th overall finish.

Even before the race started, the GT class was guaranteed to be the most contested category in the 12-Hours of Sebring. This promise was fulfilled even before the race started as the fastest qualifying #90 Rahal Letterman Racing BMW M3 was bumped to the back of the GT2 class field after failing post-qualifying technical inspection. Having to start from pitlane, the #90 car did soldier through the event for a podium finish in class. Through the 12 hour race, the #17 Falken Tire Porsche grabbed the lead from the start of the race but the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 GT would be holding the lead through the second hour and for much of the remaining event.

As some in GT2 showed strength in the 12-hour duration at Sebring International Raceway, some of the production-based vehicles experienced less than desirable results. The early leading #17 Falken Tire Porsche would be drawn to pit road in two occasions for a rear wheel and tire flying off the vehicle on-track. In the second case, the rear wheel would damaging fellow Porsche, the #45 Flying Lizards car.

The #75 Jaguar XKRS GT2 car suffered a quick withdraw from the event due to engine overheating problem disappointing of team owner and driver Paul Gentilozzi. While the Jaguar averted a catastrophic failure, the Ferrari 430 GT of Scott Sharp's new Extreme Speed Motorsports experienced an extreme hot engine compartment late in the 12-Hour race. With Sharp at the wheel, he brought the Patron-sponsored Ferrari to a stop off the course. A fast-acting track worker with a fire extinguisher prevented the red hot fire from engulfing the whole car.

Another entrant in class, the Ford GT run for the 3rd year by Robertson Racing also fell on tough luck. After a Monday testing crash at Sebring, the #40 Ford GT was skillfully repaired in time for Friday qualifying. In the race, more misfortune found the Robertson Racing effort in the 9th of 12 hours. Running off-track, some comic relief could be found with a Florida Fresh track sign planted onto the front of the Ford GT once the #40 car returned onto the race surface. Repairs on the Robertson Racing #40 Ford GT allowed the team to finish rounding out 10th in the GT2 class.

The final GT2 hard luck story goes to the Corvette Racing team at the 2010 Sebring event. While the Peugeot Sport team enjoyed a near clockwork 12 hour race in the prototype category, the GT2 class saw the prominent Corvette Racing team suffer a rare mistake in pit road within the 3rd hour of the timed event. Reportedly caused by crossed radio communications, the #3 Chevrolet Corvette C6R was heading down pit road for service when the car made hard contact with the #4 Corvette Racing teammate. Not only embarrassing, this collision endangered the crew members of both teams. Fortunately, no one on pit lane suffered injuries as result of the American car tingle. While the #3 Corvette was already displaced deep in the GT2 standings with repairs for a fluid leak, the #4 car damage forced the car behind the wall for repairs taking Corvette Racing out of winning contention for the GT2 class at Sebring. The cars would finish the race 9th and 10th place in class.

Photo Credit: GM Media

The GT2 class winner from last year, he #62 Ferrari 430 GT waltzed to victory after a late race caution positioned the Risi Competizione car one lap ahead of the BMW M3 pair. Gianmaria Bruni, Jaime Melo and Pierre Kaffer shared the red Ferrari for a second-straight Sebring win.

Winning the GT Challenge class after scoring pole on Friday, the #81 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car driven by Butch Leitzinger, Juan Gonzalez and Leh Keen ended the 12-Hours of Sebring race exactly where they started. A bonus for Alex Job Racing was the racing organization's sweep of the GT Challenge podium with the #23 in 2nd and #80 finishing 3rd at Sebring.

The story of the 2010 12-Hours of Sebring is of course the overall victory of the Peugeot 908 diesel prototype car. The French automaker now holds the sports car racing Triple Crown by winning at Le Mans, the Petit Le Mans in Road Atlanta and now Sebring.

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