21 February 2014
Bourdais drives Action Express to top of Sebring test
Sebastien Bourdais produced a late lap to push Daytona 24 Hours winners to head of Sebring test timesheets.
Sébastien Bourdais and Action Express Racing picked up right where they left off after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona by setting the fastest lap on the opening day of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship testing at Sebring International Raceway.
Bourdais drove the #5 Corvette DP around the historic 3.74-mile road course in 1min 52.480secs, topping Gustavo Yacaman's #42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan by 0.724secs in the final minutes of the afternoon session. The two-day winter test is preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday 15 March, the second round of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
“We're still trying to sort through the balance and the new aero configuration,” Bourdais said, “but we just kind of nailed it and were able to put down a really good lap at the end of the session. Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going.”
If Action Express Racing can indeed build off that momentum and win next month at Sebring, the victory would put the team in elite company. Only four teams have won overall with the same car at both Daytona and Sebring in the same season, the last coming in 1998 when Moretti Racing won both events with a Ferrari 333SP. The merger between the Grand-Am Rolex Series and the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón has resulted in the two events being on the same schedule for the first time since 1997.
Yacaman led the morning session and the majority of the afternoon before Bourdais blistered the field in the closing moments. There are few tracks Yacaman knows better than Sebring and it showed, as he consistently posted times quicker than his P-class counterparts.
“I have close to one million laps on the club circuit here,” Yacaman said, "Sebring has always been one of my favourite tracks. Today was my first time driving the full track, and it's even more amazing than the course I'm used to. It's very hard, but it's a lot of fun.”
Three cars from two teams took time to head the Prototype Challenge class. Tom Kimber-Smith drove the #25 8Star Motorsports ORECA FLM09 to the top spot in the morning session with a lap of 1min 55.940secs, which held up for the remainder of the day over the pair of BAR1 Motorsports entries.
8Star Motorsports co-driver Roberto LaRocca also had an incident at the end of the morning session, but the crew was able to repair the car, allowing Kimber-Smith to also post the top time in the afternoon session at 1min 56.561secs.
Porsche North America also carried momentum from its GT Le Mans class victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, posting the two fastest times on the opening day of the two-day test.
Jorg Bergmeister ran the fastest lap of the day in the morning session at 2min 00.048secs in the team's #912 Porsche 911 RSR, while Patrick Pilet led the afternoon session with a lap of 2min 00.364secs in the Rolex 24-winning #911 Porsche 911 RSR.
“We had a little bad luck with our car in the Rolex 24, but overall Daytona was perfect start for our new team,” Bergmeister said, “This is a new car, but we've tested here quite bit in the past and our set-up was perfect right off the truck.”
“We're happy, because it's always hard to be on the pace at the beginning of a test at Sebring,” said Pilet, who drove to victory in the season opener at Daytona with Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz, “It was a good day for us. We had no real issues. Daytona was a dream week for us, with a new team, a new car and new team-mates. Everything worked perfectly. I feel a real key was the hard work by the crew and perfect pit-stops.”
The GTLM class saw the top eight cars represented by five different marques separated by less than one second. Marc Goossens was third-fastest in the #93 SRT Motorsports SRT Viper GTS-R at 2min 00.496secs.
In the GT Daytona class, Dane Cameron was fastest with a lap of 2min 04.487secs in the #94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4. He was followed by the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America of Kevin Estre and the #33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R of Jeroen Bleekemolen.
“Sebring is one of my favourite places,” said Cameron, who will co-drive with Paul Dalla Lana and Markus Palttala, “The car is fast, and now we will work on making it happier over the bumps. We went through a lot of things today, and will continue working on the car tomorrow.”
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