Thursday, March 17, 2011

2011 Sebring Preview

With the first official practice sessions over it's time to preview the upcoming 59th running of Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. This year's edition of one of the most grueling races in the world is filled with exciting new changes.This year Sebring is not only the opening round of the American Le Mans Series, it also serves as the opening round of the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup, an international series centered around the 24 Hours of Le Mans. At the top of the 56 car field significant changes make P1 racing as open as it has been in years. New regulations have resulted in brand new machines from Peugeot, Aston Martin, and Audi. Unfortunately only Peugeot has its new race car, the 908, at Sebring. Audi is racing an updated version of last year's Le Mans winner which they are calling the R15++. Joining the P1 ranks this year is the Honda Performance Development effort. Peugeot and Audi have traded posting fastest times in the first few sessions with Honda and Aston Martin closely behind. New rules for 2011 have slowed down the diesel competitors creating close competition at the top. With the ACO closely watching all lap times and ready to slow down cars that are too quick it we might not see the true pace of some of the front runners until the green flag drops.

Regulation changes have resulted in a significantly larger gap between P1 and P2 categories, nevertheless the Nissan powered Oreca has enjoyed a sizable advantage in early testing over the Honda powered Lola.

The GT field this year looks to be as close as ever with Ferrari (represented by the new 458 Italia and the old 430), Porsche, Covette and BMW posting very similar times through the early sessions. As in P1 a true favorite might not emerge until the race begins.

This year Sebring will be streamed live in its entirety on ESPN3 and the ALMS website. Live coverage begins Friday for qualifying at 2:55PM (EST) with the race coverage starting at 10:115 AM Eastern time on Saturday.

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