CytoSport's newly acquired Lola-Aston Martin LMP1 car was quickest on the opening day of official testing for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, while Corvette led the way in the GT class.
Although 31 cars took part in Wednesday's test, many of the major contenders chose to skip the event, including favorites Audi and Peugeot, plus the brand-new LMP1 Aston and the latest Highcroft HPD, as well as leading European entrants such as Rebellion Racing.
The CytoSport Lola-Aston and the Dyson Lola-Mazda were the only two LMP1 cars present, and Klaus Graf, Greg Pickett and new teammate Lucas Luhr set the pace with a 1m50.530sec, half a second quicker than Dyson's Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and newcomer Jay Cochran.
"Getting back in the car was a lot of fun," said team owner/driver Greg Pickett, who was returning to the cockpit of a prototype car for the first time since his crash at Mid-Ohio last August. "I was fortunate enough in the last three, four months after I had healed up, to head back to the gym to get back in shape – and I'm glad I did. These cars are physical to drive and you kind of forget when you're away from them a little bit just how fast things happen in them.
"I have to admit I was a little bit apprehensive in my first run, but I felt much more confident and better in my second run. I hadn't driven with Lucas before, because he was replacing me at Petit Le Mans, and he came up to me today and said he was really impressed by me, that he had never seen anything like it and coming from a guy like Lucas, that meant a lot to me."
Pickett said the transition from the open-topped Porsche RS Spyder to the Aston coupe was an easy one.
"This is a very comfortable car," he said of CytoSport's Lola-Aston. "It has a little bit more room, particularly at the elbows, compared to the RS Spyder. It's also easier, I find, to get in and out of. As for the visibility in the closed cockpit, I don't think it's a problem. And the air conditioning is great – it's the first time I've had it in a racecar. It's nice to feel the cool air on your face because it can get very hot in there."
Corvette's Oliver Gavin and Jan Magnussen were quickest in GTE in both the morning and afternoon sessions, with the Flying Lizard Porsche of Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long their nearest rival in session one, and the Krohn Ferrari of Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson second later on.
Risi gave the latest Ferrari 458 its public debut and was fifth quickest with team regulars Jaime Melo and Toni Vilander, behind the Falken Porsche and the second Corvette. The BMWs were not present for the test, while the RSR Jaguars were a late withdrawal.
Testing continues today. A 59-car entry is expected for next month's race, which is the opening round of both the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup and the American Le Mans Series.