SEBRING, Fla.— American Le Mans Series CEO Scott Atherton once said that in ALMS, “The cars are the stars.” They certainly were Wednesday as ALMS teams turned loose their 2012 models on Sebring International Raceway for the first day of the ALMS Winter Test.
Unfortunately the day’s biggest star, the Muscle Milk LMP1 HPD ARX-03a, only made a very brief and very late appearance, but the cavalcade of other stars made that absence unnoticeable.
Level 5 was fastest in the LMP2 class in the first session with its HPD ARX-03bs driven by Scott Tucker, Christophe Bouchut,a nd Luis Diaz. The fastest of the pair, #055, turned in a lap of 1:53.934 at 116.91 mph.
For reference, the P2 pole for last year’s Sebring 12 Hour was 1:53.815 at 117.032 mph scored by Soheil Ayari in the #26 Signatech Nissan. The Signatech Nissan didn’t return, but Ayari was back, driving for the third-place Pecom Oreca, also powered by Nissan. Ayari and co-drivers Pierre Kaffer and Luis Perez Companc were 2.022 seconds off the leaders’ pace.
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing’s New LMPC Oreca was fastest in class, with Memo Gidley and Mike Guasch lapping at 1:57.431, 113.428 mph. The 2011 PC pole was 1:55.232 at 115.593 mph, but the Muscle Milk car was turning its first laps ever. Speed will come.
As for Muscle Milks’s P1 HPD, team owner Greg Pickett tweeted, “Car came in a million pieces; good to learn from the ground up. Should get on track maybe this afternoon but for sure Thurs.”
Dempsey Racing had its new Oreca out for the first time, driven by Henri Richard, Duncan Ende, and Dane Cameron (who holds the Sebring LMPC lap record.) The car ran second, 3.677 off the pace.
Core Autsport had Colin Braun co-driving with team owner Jon Bennet, and the Downs brothers, Matt, Lucas, and Antonio, testing the second Core car. PR1 Mathiasen ran last in class, only half a second ahead of the fastest GT, the unpainted Michelotto test Ferrari 458 piloted by Olivier Beretta, Gianmaria Bruni, and Toni Vilander. Could this end up being the Risi entry if things work out?
The #055 Level 5 HPD topped the afternoon session as well, followed by the Pecom Oreca only a second behind, with the PRI car of Rudi Junco and Buitch Leitzinger up to third. [etssp 516]
The #55 RLL BMW of Jörg Müller and Bill Auberlen was the fastest of the regular ALMS GTE-Pro entries in the morning, followed by the Corvette Racing cars, followed by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller in the #56 BMW.
In the afternoon it was the two ESM Ferraris atop the GTE leaderboard, with Scott Sharp and Johannes van Overbeek lapping at 2:01.401, 109.719 mph—pretty impressive considering the 2011 pole was 2:01.401 at 109.719 mph. The Michelotto test car, entered by ESM, ran third ahead of the Corvette Racing cars and the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche.
The Lizards had a tough time with their brand new Porsche in the morning session. Patrick long was reported to have asked the engineers, “Can someone please figure out how to get the front of the car to tell the back of the car what it is doing?”
The venerable Porsche campaigners seemed to find a bit of pace in the afternoon, though they were still nine seconds behind the lead Ferrari. Well, that’s the reason for testing.
The American Le Mans Series 2012 Winter Test officially wraps up Thursday. Apparently some of the teams which haven’t yet received their new cars will be back later in the month for more testing, to be ready for the season opening 60th Anniversary Sebring 12 Hours on March 17.
Tickets for the final test day are available at the gate, and tickets for the 2012 Sebring 12 Hours can be purchased through the track’s website. [etssp 517]