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TUSCC: Sebring Test, Friday Sessions

The #5 Action Express Corvette continued where it left off on Thursday by setting the fastest Friday time, again in the hands of Sébastien Bourdais, in Friday’s test sessions at Sebring International Raceway.

The two-day test in preparation for next month’s Twelve Hours of Sebring included 42 cars across four classes.

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 #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 Morgan Nissan led the fourth and final session of the day with a lap of 1:53.338 (118.795 mph).

The #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).

Starworks Motorsport and Honda debuted its new 3.5-liter Daytona Prototype engine at the test. EJ Viso and Scott Mayer put the new engine through its paces over the two days in the #78 Riley, posting a best time of 1:57.910 (114.189 mph) in this very early running.

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon joined Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas Friday afternoon to test the #01 Riley Ford EcoBoost DP.

Dixon turned in the team’s fastest lap of the day at 1:53.452 (118.676 mph).

“My last time here [in a sports car] was 2009 with de Ferran Motorsports, and it’s fun to be here with this team. Sebring is about as far opposite as you can go from Daytona, which is really smooth. Sebring has a lot of character. It is bumpy in comparison and more technical, which to me is a lot of fun.”

The #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 #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 #8 ORECA FLM09 at 1:57.557 (114.532 mph) co-driven by Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande.

Porsche meanwhile completed a clean sweep of fastest session times in GTLM and topped GTD too on Friday.

Each of Porsche North America’s two Porsche 911 RSRs led two sessions with Patrick Pilet driving the #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.
“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 #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).

A third 911 RSR debuted at the test as Team Falken Tire ran its new #17 Porsche 911 RSR for Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers and Marco Holzer.

With the car not ready for the Rolex 24, the team sent several crewmen to Germany to help with final preparations.

“Just when you think that you can’t get any more from the Porsche 911, Porsche takes it to another level,” said team manager Derrick Walker.

“This is a sweet car. You can tell Porsche paid a lot of attention to details, working real hard to get a more refined car.”

Matteo Malucelli, on track for the first time since an incident involving he and Memo Gidley in the Rolex 24, was seventh-fastest in Thursday’s session, running 2:00.913 (111.353 mph) in the #57 Ferrari F458 Italia of Krohn Racing co-driven by Nic Jonsson. Risi Competizione partnered with Krohn Racing at the test while its Ferrari is being repaired from the Daytona incident.

Kevin Estre showed the way for Porsche in GTD, setting the fastest time in the #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 #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 #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.”

Rum Bum Racing meanwhile debuted in TUSCC competition, partnering with Snow Racing to field a Porsche 911 GT America for Matt Plumb, Madison Snow and Jan Heylen. It’s the second start for the team in the top level of GT competition after finishing seventh in the 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona.