SEBRING, Fla. – The No. 5 Corvette DP from Action Express Racing continues to build momentum in the early stages of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, as Sébastien Bourdais drove the Rolex 24 At Daytona-winning machine to the top of the time chart on Friday for the second consecutive day at the Sebring Int’l Raceway winter test.
The two-day test in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida included 42 cars across four classes. The March 15 race is the second round of the TUDOR Championship and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
Bourdais – who last month co-drove to the Rolex 24 victory with Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa – posted a best time of 1:52.488 (119.693 mph) around the 3.74-mile circuit. The lap was slightly slower than Bourdais’ best lap on Thursday of 1:52.480 (119.701 mph), but still kept him and the Action Express Racing team atop the chart as the two-day test concluded.
“The car was not quite as good as yesterday,” said Bourdais. “We’ve been going through our test program, and seeing how the car responds to changes. It was not perfect today. Traffic was challenging, and the wind was not predictable. It was gusty and quite strong at times, and I went off twice. It looks like our car is strong, but this race is going to be a big challenge.”
The No. 42 Morgan/Nissan of OAK Racing shared by Gustavo Yacaman, Olivier Pla and Alex Brundle was second-quickest on the day in the Prototype (P) class with a lap of 1:53.230 (118.908 mph) in the morning session. The No. 42 led the fourth and final session of the day with a lap of 1:53.338 (118.795 mph). The No. 90 Corvette DP of Spirit of Daytona Racing co-driven by Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante was third on Friday with a best lap at 1:53.399 (118.731 mph).
The No. 25 8Star Motorsports ORECA FLM09 in the hands of Tom Kimber-Smith led the Prototype Challenge (PC) class for the second consecutive day in the car he shared with Eric Lux. Kimber-Smith logged a best lap of 1:56.289 (115.781 mph) to lead his third of four sessions at the winter test. However, his time of 1:55.940 (116.129 mph) from Thursday’s first session that stood up as the fastest PC lap of the test.
“This was the first time 8Star tested here in a PC, and to be quickest in three of the four sessions is very encouraging,” Kimber-Smith said. “This was a very good test. The track changed dramatically overnight. This test was important because I feel this is how the track will develop during race week. We’re in a good position for the race, and I’m looking forward to coming back in a few weeks.”
The No. 88 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 shared by Doug Bielefeld and Sean Rayhall was second in PC with a best lap of 1:56.942 (115.134 mph). Starworks Motorsport was third in PC with its No. 8 ORECA FLM09 at 1:57.557 (114.532 mph) co-driven by Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande.
Porsche put a punctuation mark on a successful two days of testing, topping the GT Le Mans (GTLM) charts in all four sessions and the GT Daytona (GTD) charts on Friday at Sebring Int’l Raceway.
Each of Porsche North America’s two Porsche 911 RSRs led two sessions with Patrick Pilet driving the No. 911 entry he shares with co-drivers Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz to the fastest lap in class with a time of 1:59.395 (112.769 mph) in the final 45 minutes of Friday’s afternoon session. The two-day winter test is in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on Saturday, March 15, the second round of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
“We had a clear set of objectives entering the test,” said Owen Hayes, Porsche Motorsport North America director of operations. “While finding speed is always very nice, our main goal was to test the cars at one of, if not the, most physically demanding race courses in the world. To be able to work through our checklist of items to test without any major issues with either of the Porsche North America 911 RSRs was very encouraging.”
The clean sweep of testing adds to an already successful start to the 2014 TUDOR Championship season for Porsche after Tandy, Lietz and Pilet combined to drive the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR to victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
The Porsche North America No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR co-driven by Patrick Long, Michael Christensen and Joerg Bergmeister finished the test second in GTLM, with Bergmeister turning a lap of 1:59.867 (112.324 mph), also in the final session. The No. 93 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R of Marc Goossens, Jonathan Bomarito and Jeroen Bleekemolen was third at 2:00.496 (111.738 mph).
Kevin Estre showed the way for Porsche in GTD, setting the fastest time in the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT America of Park Place Motorsports that he shares with Patrick Lindsey. His lap of 2:04.289 (108.328 mph) was a shade quicker than the 2:04.359 (108.267 mph) set in the final session by the No. 23 Porsche 911 GT America of Alex Job Racing shared by Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Peter Frommenwiler. Turner Motorsport rounded out the top three in GTD with Dane Cameron driving the No. 94 BMW Z4 he shares with co-drivers Paul Dalla Lana and Markus Palttala to a lap of 2:04.487 (108.156 mph).
“Sebring suits our Porsche a bit better than Daytona,” said Estre. “We found a good setup at this test, and I feel we’re in good shape for the race. We gave it our all out there. When we return, we’ll see if the other teams were holding back anything.”