Stephane Sarrazin pilots the Peugeot 908 HDi to a record 1:42.801 lap time at Sebring. (Photo courtesy of ALMS.)
Race on Sunday, sell on Monday. That's the time-honored, though oft-refuted mantra used by motorsport's patrons to justify the enormous expense of top-class motor racing. It might be a bit of a stretch for Peugeot, however, who announced today their US debut at this year's 12 Hours of Sebring, the first race in the 2008 American Le Mans Series, now entering its tenth season. Peugeot doesn't even import to the United States, but this just goes to show how single-minded the French team is in its pursuit of victory over its diesel rivals at Audi.
According to ALMS chief Scott Atherton, "It is no secret that Peugeot's ultimate goal for 2008 is to once again claim victory at Le Mans, and there is no better proving ground than Sebring." Peugeot evidently agrees. The decision to compete at Sebring comes after last month's test session where Stephane Sarrazin set a record 1:42.801 lap time at the Florida track behind the wheel of the Peugeot 908 HDi, beating the previous lap record set by Audi's Marco Werner last year by a full two seconds. It warrants repeating in case you missed it: two full seconds. That ended up being motivation enough for Peugeot to ship the car on over again to compete in the actual race, where Sarrazin will share driving duties with Nic Minassian and Pedro Lamy. We'll see how Peugeot does against Audi and the rest of the field when the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring gets underway on Saturday, March 15.
Press release after the jump. Thanks for the tip, Kamal!
PEUGEOT SETS SIGHTS ON SEBRING WITH 12 HOURS ENTRY
On the heels of an impressive showing last month at the American Le Mans Series Winter Test, Peugeot announced Friday that it will compete for the first time in North America by entering the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on March 12-15.
Pedro Lamy, Nic Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin will pilot the diesel-powered Peugeot 908 in the 12 Hours. It was Sarrazin who posted the fastest time in the three-day test at Sebring last month, a blistering 1:42.801 (129.571 mph) that was more than two full seconds better than last year's record-setting qualifying mark turned in by Audi's Marco Werner.
"Peugeot's confirmed entry into the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring sets the stage for one of the most anticipated editions of America's greatest endurance race," said Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series. "It is another validation of the importance that manufacturers and teams place on competing at Sebring and in the American Le Mans Series.
"It is no secret that Peugeot's ultimate goal for 2008 is to once again claim victory at Le Mans, and there is no better proving ground than Sebring," Atherton added. "We couldn't think of a more appropriate way to open our 10th season than by welcoming another world-class entry - Peugeot - into the American Le Mans Series. The North American racing debut of Peugeot coupled with all that is already in place within the American Le Mans Series all but assures that this year's race will be a classic."
Peugeot is seeking to become the second manufacturer to win overall at Sebring using diesel power. Audi accomplished the feat first in 2006 with its R10 TDI and repeated in 2007. The two marques also finished 1-2 at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2007 with Audi taking a resounding victory.
Sarrazin and Lamy both will race at Sebring for the third time after competing for Aston Martin Racing in 2005 and 2006. Minassian will compete in the 12 Hours for the first time.
The 2008 American Le Mans Series season opens with the 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida on Saturday, March 15. The race will start at 10 a.m. ET and will be broadcast live by SPEED, which will begin its coverage at 9:30 a.m. MotorsTV, Fox Latin America, 7TV in Russia and Greenlight Television will provide international coverage as well. American Le Mans Radio and IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring will be available at americanlemans.com.