When the American Le Mans Series held their annual winter open test session at Sebring last week a newcomer showed up for the party. Peugeot brought over one of the 908 HDi diesel race cars that dominated the Le Mans racing series in Europe in 2007. Peugeot is apparently testing the waters to determine if they want to take on the Audi R10s on US tracks. While nothing is official yet, things are looking promising. Peugeot managed to set the fastest overall lap time of the three-day test session at 1m 42.801s, over eight-tenths of a second faster than the Audi. Peugeot will be making an announcement on February 15 about what their 2008 racing plans will be and whether that will include the full ALMS series.
SEBRING : WINTER TEST, 28-30 January 2008
Peugeot Sport took part in the three-day test organised by the American Le Mans Series at Sebring, Florida (Monday January 28 to Wednesday January 30), where three drivers took turns at the wheel of the 908 HDi FAP. Thanks to previous participations in the 12 Hours of Sebring, Pedro Lamy and Stéphane Sarrazin had prior knowledge of the circuit but it was a completely new venue for Nicolas Minassian.
The objective of the long session was to put the 908 HDi FAP through its paces round this notoriously difficult track and over its bumpy, concrete surface which is a telling test for the car's mechanicals and tyres alike. The three days also came on top of the programme of endurance tests that Peugeot Sport has planned with a view to working on the 908's reliability in preparation for June's Le Mans 24 Hours.
In the course of the Sebring test's eight separate sessions, the 908 HDi FAP covered 233 laps - equivalent to 1,386km - without encountering the slightest problem, with the exception of an oil leak on the first day. The run gave the engineers and drivers a chance to work on all fronts and adapt the 908 to the American circuit. It was the second day that saw Stéphane Sarrazin post the team's fastest lap (1m 42.801s) to improve the existing record round the 5.95km (3.7 miles) track which has stood since the Audi R10 claimed a 1m 44.974s during qualifying for last year's race: "This circuit is very different to what we are accustomed to in Europe. However, we arrived here with a sound base and we were pleasantly surprised by the fact that we were so quick from the outset, which proves that the 908 HDi FAP is a very good car." Despite this fast lap, the team continued to work right up to the end of the three days in a bid to profit from the full potential of the 908. "We succeeded in working all the way through our programme," reported Peugeot Sport's Technical Director Bruno Famin after the Florida tests. "That was particularly satisfying because we are beginning to arrive in unknown territory. We worked systematically on set-up without really seeking to maximise performance. The three days also gave us a chance to evaluate Michelin's 2008 tyres which worked very well, in terms of both performance and endurance."
On its return to Paris, Peugeot Sport will decide whether or not it will take part in this year's 12 Hours of Sebring which takes place on March 15. The team's 2008 programme and driver line-up will be revealed at a press conference in the French capital on February 15.
Fastest times over the three days:
1, Sarrazin/Minassian/Lamy Peugeot 908 HDi FAP 1m 42.801s
2, Capello/McNish/Kristensen Audi R10 TDI 1m 43.639s
3, Herta/Fittipaldi Acura ARX 1m 44.542s
4, Dumas/Bernhard Porsche RS Spyder 1m 44.610s
5, Maassen/Long Porsche RS Spyder 1m 45.214s