Lola sportscars kicked the season off in successful fashion with 3rd place overall and 2nd in the LMP2 class after 12 Hours of hard and exciting racing at Sebring on Saturday. Fernandez Racing made the podium in their first ever ALMS event in the Lola-Acura B06/43, beating the much fancied quartet of Porsche LMP2 cars.
The all-Mexican pairing of Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz completed the entire 12 hour race duration as the teams third driver David Martinez was left as a standby driver for the event. The team did lose some time in the pits after an altercation with Dindo Capello’s Audi in the 7th hour which necessitated a change of front bodywork.
“It was a very good result today for us,” concluded Luis Diaz after the race. “If we can keep doing the job that we did today and keep making podiums, I think we can be contenders for the championship.”
The Fernandez Lola-Acura proved reliable over the full 12 hours but team owner and driver Adrian Fernandez believes that there is more to come in the coming races which come thick and fast in the next month, with events at St Petersberg, Long Beach and Houston.
“We were more reliable than other people, but we still have more work to do. We have some homework to do before St. Petersburg but I am very happy for the strong result today.”
The BK Motorsports Lola-Mazda combination showed tremendous promise at Sebring despite having just a few shakedown laps prior to last weeks running. The team of Ben Devlin/Jamie Bach and Rafael Matos were learning as they went during the race after Devlin had put in a superb performance in qualifying to start 8th in class.
Despite some lengthy stoppages during the race the Mazda powered Lola took the chequered flag and Ben Devlin believes that Sebring is the best place to learn about a new package and develop it for the long season ahead.
“All in all we learnt so much from this week. Yes there have been problems but as a team we overcame them brilliantly. There is a lot of determination with everyone here and that will shine through this year. Mazda have put together the right ingredients, now we just have to keep pushing in order to fulfil all the potential we have here.”
Horag Racing were on schedule for a good top 10 finish overall but were denied a deserved result with a persistent electrical problem. Didier Theys, Fredy Leinhard and Eric Van De Poele had run consistent laps in the red and white Lola B07/40 Judd throughout the race. However, the cruel last hour retirement meant that the teams efforts went unrewarded.
"The dash had been flickering but then everything just went dark,” said ex F1 driver Van De Poele. “I coasted to a stop. I didn't even have radio communication to tell them where I was. We have been chasing an electronics problem all week.
"None of us had any contact on the track with anyone; there isn't a scratch on the car. It's a shame we couldn't finish; we were able to do some good laps."
Autocon were also unlucky in their Lola B01/60 AER, one of only four LMP1 entries at Sebring this year. Chris McMurry, Bryan Willman and Michael Lewis had set some useful laps in qualifying but had a difficult start to the race when they were forced to pit on the first lap for some bodywork adjustments.
In the final hour the team were running a fine 17th overall but a broken suspension forced them to retire. It was a bitter pill for the team to take as they were set to challenge the Creation LMP1 for the final LMP1 podium position.
Lola are the sportscar world’s leading customer chassis provider with multiple entries in the ALMS, Le Mans Series and Le Mans 24 Hours. Later this season the first ever customer Lola LMP1 coupe will hit the track for the first time in preparation for the 2008 season.
The American Le Mans Series continues next weekend with the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersberg on April 1st.
Sebring 12 Hours Race Result
Pos Cl Driver Make Laps/gap
1. P1 Werner/Biela/Pirro Audi R10 364 laps
2. P2 Herta/Franchitti/Kanaan AGR Acura + 6 laps
3. P2 Fernandez/Diaz Fernandez Lola-Acura + 8 laps
4. P1 Kristensen/McNish/Capello Audi R10 + 11 laps
5. P2 Bernhard/Dumas/Castroneves Penske Porsche + 13 laps
6. P2 Brabham/Johansson/Dayton Highcroft Acura + 18 laps
7. GT1 Gavin/Beretta/Papis Corvette + 23 laps
8. GT1 Magnussen/O'Connell/Fellows Corvette + 23 laps
9. P2 Wallace/Leitzinger/Lally Dyson Porsche + 24 laps
10. P2 Smith/Dyson Dyson Porsche + 31 laps
19. P2 Leinhard/Theys/Van De Poele Horag Lola Judd + 57 laps
21. P1 McMurry/Willman/Lewis Autocon Lola + 61 laps
31. P2 Devlin/Bach/Matos BK Lola-Mazda + 120 laps
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