Simon Pagenaud in the Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a - ALMS photoEnlarge Photo
There were 24 cars on the grounds for the test--among them 13 GT cars--while others stayed at their shops to continue preparations there.
Although the three-car LMP2 contingent were quickest on Wednesday with Luis Diaz best in the Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03b open-cockpit LMP2 prototype (1:53.044), he had nothing for the new LMP1 HPD ARX-03a that was getting its finishing touches in the paddock area yesterday.
The Muscle Milk Pickett Racing HPD LMP1 car was quickest on Thursday once fully constructed, and easily bettered that with a lap of 1:48.192. Lucas Luhr shared the car with Klaus Graf and Simon Pagenaud--it was the first time the 2012-spec HPD LMP1 prototype turned a lap anywhere!
"It's awesome," said Pagenaud. "This is one of the best Wirth cars I've driven." The Frenchman has driven three previous HPD/Acura prototypes, including last year's ARX-01e. "It's such a big evolution from last year's car," he said.
Diaz was equally enthusiastic about the LM P2 HPD car. "The car is very similar to last year's car," he admitted. "I would say the biggest thing was learning the Dunlop tires. There is a long way to go to the race, but I think we started on the right foot."
Luis Diaz in the HPD ARX-03b - ALMS photoEnlarge Photo
In the large GT class, Olivier Beretta was quickest in a Ferrari F458 Italia, followed by the similar car of Johannes van Overbeek and Tracy Krohn in his Ferrari F458 GT. Then came the two Corvette C6-ZR1 cars, while the first of the new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars was in sixth, the Flying Lizard No. 45 with Patrick Long at the controls. Reigning GT champion Joey Hand was seventh in the BMW E92 M3.
Now it's back to the workshops to analyze data and prepare for the 60th anniversary Sebring 12-Hour race. This was only a test--but a telling one for the ALMS regulars. When the WEC crowd converges next month, it might be a very different story.