The long offseason for the American Le Mans Series drew to a close with the first official kickoff of the 2012 season, the Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway. A total of 24 cars posted times on the first of two days of testing.
P2 CARS, FERRARI LEAD CHARTS – P2 class entrants Level 5 Motorsports had a chance to lead the overall times on the first day of the ALMS Winter Test at Sebring, as Muscle Milk's new P1-spec HPD ARX-03a was being built up and didn't run. The No. 055 Level 5 HPD ARX-03b, HPD's P2-spec entry, posted the overall quickest time with Luis Diaz at a 1:53.044 in the afternoon session.
Teammate Christophe Bouchut also registered a 1:53.934 in the morning. Diaz indicated the sister No. 95 car is currently utilizing the existing ARX-01g tub the team ran at the end of 2011. Pierre Kaffer posted a 1:54.085 for the WEC-entered Pecom team, having a chance to test its ORECA 03 Nissan on U.S. soil.
In GT, Ferrari posted the three fastest times of the day, all in the afternoon and all from Extreme Speed Motorsports as the only Ferrari entrant at the test. The team's regular No. 01 and 02 entries split the Michelotto test mule that ESM is running, driven by Ferrari pilots Olivier Beretta, Toni Vilander and 2011 Sebring GT class polesitter Gianmaria Bruni. Johannes van Overbeek set the fastest lap of 2:01.401. Corvette's two factory entries also made it into the 2:01 bracket before the first Porsche in sixth, and first BMW in seventh.
PR1/Mathiasen's Rudy Junco led the LMPC category ahead of the Silicon Tech/Dempsey entry, with Dane Cameron joining that team's regular lineup of Henri Richard and Duncan Ende for this test. Green Hornet's Porsche was quicker than TRG's sister GT3 Cup in the GTC class.
DELTAWING PLANNING TO RUN SEBRING DEMO LAPS – The DeltaWing should be making its first public laps at Sebring, but in a much-anticipated demonstration run rather than the 12-hour race itself. The DeltaWing group, which includes Duncan Dayton's Highcroft Racing team, Dan Gurney's All American Racers and ALMS founder Don Panoz, have already indicated the car is on track for wind tunnel testing at the Windshear facility in Charlotte, and may make a private on-track appearance before the 12 Hours. Its first full race, as has been targeted since the project was announced at last year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, will be at this year's 80th running of the event in June.
NUMBERS GAME – The 30 WEC entrants confirmed on Feb. 2 will be added to the projected full season ALMS field at Sebring. The track itself has expanded the pit lane to accommodate the additional group of entries, with ALMS President and CEO Scott Atherton anticipating a field of 64 cars for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. ALMS COO Scot Elkins said he expects 35-36 cars for the full ALMS season, with the biggest number potentially in the LMPC class. Elkins said the possibility exists there could be 10-11 cars in class by year's end.
BLACK SWAN PROGRAM CONFIRMED – Tim Pappas' Black Swan Racing squad isn't present at the Sebring test, but its plans were made official Wednesday in terms of its chassis and engine package. The two-time GTC class champions will move into LMP2 with a Lola B10/80 coupe and an HPD engine (RIGHT, SEEN IN LEVEL 5 CAR). Pappas and Jeroen Bleekemolen will stay on as co-drivers, with their third driver and tire supplier yet to be confirmed. While Black Swan and Level 5 have most of their P2 programs finalized, Conquest Racing is still awaiting confirmation of its engine supplier for its Oak Pescarolo chassis. Eric Bachelart's squad is another not at the Sebring test.
DAYTONA DÉJÀ VU AT TRG – TRG has one of the two GTC class Porsche GT3 Cups entered in the winter test, and as in Daytona with its Grand-Am spec Porsche, has brought in the trio of Michael Waltrip, Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas to join the testing. The three tested for TRG before the Rolex 24, as the AF Waltrip Ferrari 458 was being shipped overseas. Kauffman's endurance racing prospects should see the team again in a GTE-spec Ferrari F458 Italia once the WEC season starts at Sebring, but for now, they're testing with TRG alongside its lead driver Spencer Pumpelly.
OTHER TIDBITS – The third Porsche GT squad in ALMS, Paul Miller Racing, announced a switch from Yokohama to Dunlop tires on Wednesday. The team posted a best result of fourth in 2011 at Long Beach, and will run Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and Rob Bell at Sebring. Defending LMPC class champions CORE autosport are testing Minnesota brothers and IMSA Lites veterans Lucas, Antonio and Matt Downs in its No. 06 entry. They haven't been confirmed beyond the test, but a headline of “Three CORE's Downs” could be in play if they are.