Stephane Sarrazin ensured that Peugeot struck the first blow of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC) season, taking pole position for the 12 Hours of Sebring with a scorching that was more than a second better than anyone else.
In Peugeot’s new 908 the Frenchman needed only one flying lap around the 3.7 track, logging a time that was, at the time, 1.5 seconds faster than the previously best lap. In a session when very few laps were run, owing to the hot temperatures and ALMS rules that dictate cars must start the race on the same tyres they qualified on, Sarrazin's lap of 1:46.571 was more than good enough to take pole even as others improved their own markers.
“I waited for four minutes before heading out onto the track so as to avoid the traffic,” said Sarrazin. “That turned out to be the right decision, and it was all wrapped up after one lap! I am really pleased with this result. It's just rewards for the whole team, because we have really worked hard in the last few months and it's been even more intense since we arrived at Sebring.”
Romain Dumas took second in the no.1 Audi with a lap of 1:47.680, Marc Gene third.
Behind the five diesels predictably at the top of the times Klaus Graf gained the unofficial honour of best petrol car in the grandfathered-in Lola-Aston Martin of Muscle Milk Racing. Despite the rule changes for 2011 the first indication is that the gap between diesel and petrol machinery remains, Graf over three seconds off the pole time and more than a second adrift of the slowest diesel. Highcroft Racing's HPD ARX-01e, which look capable of challenging the diesels on pace during the unofficial tests earlier in the week faded a little in the session.
The four car LMP2 class, which shared the track with the premier class, was dominated by Soheil Ayari in the Signatech Nissan ORECA 03. He was more than three seconds faster than the older, open cockpit Lola of Level 5 Motorsports, while Scott Tucker's other car – a closed cockpit Lola failed to run flying lap as the team battled technical issues.
The GT pole – despite the wealth of new machinery on display – went to Gianmaria Bruni in the Ferrari F430 of AF Corse.
The top eight in class were covered by less than a second in a session which spoke volumes about the level of competition in the class which boasts more than 20 entries. The best of Ferrari's new F458 Italia cars was Jaime Melo in the Risi Competizione example. Two more F458 were in the top eight, along with both BMW M3 GT, one of the works Corvettes and Jorg Bergmeister – who set the initial pace in the 15 minute GT session – in the no.45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche.
In the GTE-AM class – for teams running with a gentleman driver in their ranks – it was the distinctly profession work Porsche driver Richard Lietz behind the wheel of the Proton Competition Porsche he will share with Christian Reid and Gianluca Roda – who is a gentleman driver.
Dane Cameron finished 12th overall in taking pole in the LMPC class. Leh Keen rounded out the pole winner for Alex Job Racing in GTC.
The 12 Hours of Sebring begins at 10:30am local time Saturday March 19.