Unfortunately for Peugeot, fate stepped in and bitch slapped the French automaker's racing team. Welcome to America, guys. Just nine minutes after the qualifying session began and after the 908 HDi had recorded its fast lap, the No. 8 Mazda was involved in an accident bad enough to cancel the session entirely. ALMS rules state that a minimum of ten minutes must be run in a qualifying session for it to count. Therefore, Peugeot's fastest lap time was thrown out. Since the nine-minute long qualifying session couldn't be counted, organizers used lap times from earlier in the day during practice sessions in which Audi set the fastest lap time mentioned above.
Thus, your starting grid for the 2008 12 Hours of Sebring will be Audi and Peugeot on the front row, with another Audi in the first spot of the second row. Both teams obviously view what transpired yesterday very differently. Read the press releases from both Audi and Peugeot after the jump to see how they really feel about each other.
PEUGEOT PRESS RELEASE
THE PEUGEOT 908 MISSES OUT ON POLE-POSITION DUE TO REGULATIONS
Despite posting the fastest time in yesterday's qualifying session on his only flying lap in the Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, Stéphane Sarrazin was deprived of pole-position.
Stéphane Sarrazin had been in a confident mood at the beginning of the session and went out just minutes after the start in his bid to start Saturday's race from pole. His first flying lap saw him bag a time of 1m 43.117s which effectively toppled his Audi rivals Alan McNish and Lucas Luhr – who had lapped in 1m 43.765s and 1m 44.291s respectively – from the top of the timesheet.
Stéphane's second flying lap was then cut short due to an accident involving the No 8 Mazda which brought out the red flags and the qualifying session was halted after nine minutes. However, the ALMS rules state that a minimum of 10 minutes must be run for the times already recoded in the session to count.
Therefore, in keeping with the American regulations, Saturday's start order will now be based on the fastest time set by each car during the three free practice sessions. The Peugeot 908 HDi FAP will therefore start the race from second on the grid thanks to the 1m 44.271s lap recorded by Stéphane Sarrazin during Thursday morning's session.
Michel BARGE (Peugeot Sport Director): "Despite the way the afternoon ended, I am very proud of the work accomplished by everyone in the team. We mustn't lose sight of the fact that Stéphane posted the fastest time on his one and only lap, whereas our main rivals had already completed three laps!
Stéphane SARRAZIN: "The car was nicely balanced for my first flying lap but I had been saving myself a little bit for my second lap. Despite the interruption, I was very pleased to have posted the pole-winning time by a margin of more than six tenths ahead of McNish's Audi. Although this is only its first attempt at this race, the team did a first class job and made sure we had a very competitive 908 today. I am obviously disappointed by the way things turned out; it's frustrating to have lost pole-position in this way, but rules are rules."
Serge SAULNIER: "It is an uncustomary regulation but we fully respect it. We will need to keep on our toes throughout the race to make sure we stay in control of every tiny detail. There is nothing we could have done to come out of today's situation any better, and our intention now is to focus on Saturday's race. Nicolas Minassian will line up for the start and we haven't lost sight of the fact that our objective here is to prepare for the Le Mans 24 Hours."
Free Practice Times
1, Audi N°1 (Capello/McNish/Kristensen), 1m 43.195s
2, Peugeot 908 HDi FAP (Lamy/Minassian/Sarrazin), 1m 44.271s
3, Audi N°2 (Luhr/Rockenfeller/Werner), 1m 45.090s
4, Porsche N°7 (Dumas/Bernhard/Collard), 1m 45.220s
5, Porsche N°6 (Maassen/Long/Briscoe), 1m 45.999s
AUDI PRESS RELEASE
Audi R10 TDI starts from pole position at Sebring
- Qualifying abandoned following accident
- Starting grid based on times from free practice sessions
- Audi R10 TDI first and third on the grid
With a 1m 43.195s, the Scotsman at the wheel of the number 1 Audi R10 TDI beat last year's pole time by 1.779 seconds. This is a hint how much the world's fastest sports cars have been developed over the previous twelve months.
This is also the case for the Peugeot 908, which will line up on the front row of the grid on Saturday at 10:05 a.m. local time (15:05 p.m. in Germany) next to the Audi of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish. The second Audi R10 TDI with the German trio Lucas Luhr/Mike Rockenfeller/Marco Werner will start from third place.
Since the beginning of the Sebring week on Monday, the diesel-powered sports cars from Audi and Peugeot have been setting the pace alternating at the top of the time sheets. Their fastest times on Thursday were just 78 thousands of a second apart which means that the spectators may expect an especially thrilling sports car race in which also the lighter LM P2 cars from Acura/Honda and Porsche have the chance of overall victory.
Audi is undefeated at Sebring since 2000 and starts for a ninth time in a row from pole position. In a 12-hour long race, however, apart from speed also consistency and reliability are decisive. That's why Audi Sport Team Joest worked especially intensely on the race-setup of the two new R10 TDI cars which race for the first time in their latest technical configuration.
While it was unusually cool at Sebring at the beginning of the week, for race day temperatures up to 31 degrees Celsius have been predicted – in combination with the bumpy track this makes up an extreme test for men and material.
The starting grid at Sebring
1 Capello/Kristensen/McNish (Audi R10 TDI), 1m 43.195s
2 Minassian/Sarrazin/Lamy (Peugeot), 1m 44.271s
3 Luhr/Rockenfeller/Werner (Audi R10 TDI), 1m 45.090s
4 Dumas/Bernhard/Collard (Porsche), 1m 45.220s
5 Maassen/Long/Briscoe (Porsche), 1m 45.999s
6 Fernandez/Diaz (Acura/Honda), 1m 46.029s
7 Franchitti/Leitzinger/Lally (Porsche), 1m 46.348s
8 Herta/Fittipaldi/Andretti (Acura/Honda), 1m 46.632s
9 Field/Field/Berry (Lola), 1m 47.358s
10 Smith/Dyson (Porsche), 1m 47.567s