SEBRING, Fla.—The 2012 ALMS Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway ended Thursday evening with several cars shattering 2011 Sebring 12-Hour pole times.
Thursday’s two sessions were the fastest for everybody at the American Le Mans Series Winter Test. Most cars ran their fastest times in the afternoon session—a few seemed to prefer the cooler temperatures of the morning.
Muscle Milk/Pickett Racing’s P1 HPD ARX-03a finally ran a few consecutive hours and set fastest time of the test, 1:48.192 at 123.114 mph. While not threatening the time of 1:46.571 set by Stépahne Sarrazin’s Peugeot 908 in 2011, this was a quick time for a gasoline-powered P1 running for its first fast laps after having been totally in pieces the day before.
Level 5’s P2 Honda HPD-ARX-03bs topped their class, taking two seconds off 2011’s fastest P2 time. Soheil Ayari, who set the P2 pole in the Signatech Oreca-Nissan in 2011, managed only third in class with an identical car run by Pecom Racing. This car will need to be upgraded to 2012 specs for the 2012 12 Hours.
Ferraris dominated GT, with the Michelotto and 01 ESM 458s leading the field. The Porsche teams had troubles with their new, wide-track 2012 GT3 RSRs. The 45 Flying Lizard car, which turned in the best time for a Porsche, finished seventh in class.
The new wide-body Corvette Racing C6Rs finished fourth and fifth, behind the Krohn 458. The 2011 championship-winning 56 BMW of Dirk Muller and Joey Hand managed only 8th in class—and were still faster than the 2011 GT pole time of 2:01.561
Dempsey Racing got a handle on its brand new LMPC Oreca FLM09, topping the charts with a lap of 1:53.959 at 116.884, 1.2 seconds better than the 2011 12-Hour pole—not too surprising since Dane Cameron, who set the 2011 record, also co-drove the Dempsey entry this year.
Peter LeSaffre and Damien Faulkner proved the fastest GTC entry, completing a lap in 2:07.227 at 104.695 in their 34 Green Hornet Porsche GT3 Cup. Even here, in a class where one wouldn’t expect a lot of development, the pair beat the 2011 pole pace by .15 seconds.
The 2012 American Le Mans Series season is shaping up to be fast and furiously contested. Dyson Racing will be testing its 2012 Lola-Mazdas at the end of the month; Muscle Milk/Pickett has given the 2011 champs a high mark to shoot for.
P2 is expected to be busy this season, with Level 5 facing some new teams, including GTC champs Black Swan and IndyCar’s Conquest Racing.
Porsche teams will continue to develop the new RSR. Flying Lizard (and Porsche factory) driver Patrick Long described in some detail the advantages of the new car; once the teams learn the best set-ups for the new wider track, larger-tired chassis it will surely be a fast machine. Ferrari, which already has a season’s development on its 458, was understandably faster at the Sebring test, but will that advantage last?
Corvette Racing was only six-tenths off the pace of the fastest Ferrari with an undeveloped car. As with the Porsche teams, look for Corvette Racing to find some more speed in its new, wider chassis.
And Rahall/Letterman/Lanigan is not going to give up its 2011 championship easily. This team brings decades of experience and success to the table; don’t expect them not to find some answers. Even 8th in class, this car is already faster than last year’s fastest GT.
The ALMS season kicks off with the 60th anniversary Twelve Hours of Sebring, March 17. Qualifying, practice, and support races start on the 14th, and are definitely worth the price of admission. Tickets are available now through the Sebring International Raceway website.
Next: Full Results