Acura drivers Adrian Fernandez and Marco Andretti led the charge in the LMP2 division Wednesday in opening practice runs for Saturday's 56th running of the Twelve Hours of Sebring, the opening round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series.
Fernandez, the popular open-wheel veteran from Mexico, blistered the famed 3.7-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway with a clocking of one minute, 46.029 seconds in his No. 15 Lowe's Acura ARX-01b prototype sports car in the afternoon practice session. Fernandez' speed of 125.626 miles per hour was just short of the LMP1 and overall leader Dindo Capello in the more-powerful Audi at 126.267 m.p.h.
Fernandez will team with fellow Mexican Luis Diaz in Saturday's feature. Andretti, the IndyCar Series star competing in his first 12-hour event at Sebring, posted the second quickest time in the morning practice in his XM Satellite Radio Acura ARX-01b machine for Andretti Green Racing at 1:46.632 and a speed of 124.916 m.p.h. Defending LMP2 winner Bryan Herta will co-drive Saturday with Andretti and veteran Christian Fittipaldi.
Rounding out the Acura lineup in Wednesday's practice sessions was the No. 9 Patron Highcroft Acura ARX-01b driven by Scott Sharp, David Brabham and Stefan Johansson in sixth position. Johansson's best time was 1:47.922 (123.422 m.p.h.) in the morning. Sharp, the former IndyCar Series champion, has moved back to the sports cars in 2008 after 12 years in open-wheel cars. Sharp began his racing career in sports cars in 1980s.
Qualifying for Saturday's 10 a.m.- to-10 p.m. event will be held Thursday afternoon at 3:35 p.m. (EDT).
The 56th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be telecast live on SPEED Saturday beginning at 9:30 a.m.
BRYAN HERTA (#26 XM Satellite Radio AGR Acura ARX-01b): "It has been a couple of good days here at Sebring so far for our XM Satellite Radio team. We have learned a lot about our new race car, the Acura ARX-01b. Last year was our first year with the American le Mans Series and we had a pretty big learning curve. Now, we have made some refinements in the chassis and the car feels good. We need this new Acura to go the distance on Saturday."
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ (#15 Lowe's Fernandez Acura ARX-01b): "We got in one really good lap this afternoon and the new Acura ARX-01b felt very good. We are new to this chassis after racing the Lola last year. So this is really only the third practice for us with this chassis. But the other Acura teams are helping us with information. So we are progressing well with our setups. Overall, qualifying really means nothing here at Sebring. We know it is 12 hours in the race and we have to get to the finish line on Saturday. We had one little problem in last year's race and we finished second [in the LMP2 class]. Now, we are looking for the win. It would be great to capture a legendary race like Sebring."
SCOTT SHARP (#9 Highcroft Racing Acura ARX-01b): "Today we were just working in race trim trying different downforce settings. I was trying to get comfortable in traffic so all of that was good. It is incredibly hard to get a clear lap out there but I've got my fair share of driving in the 12 hours to figure all of that out."
12 Hours of Sebring Practice, LPMP2
1. LOWE'S FERNANDEZ ACURA - 1:46.029 (125.626 m.p.h.)
2. ANDRETTI GREEN ACURA - 1:46.632 (124.916 m.p.h.)
3. Penske Porsche # 7 - 1:46.978 (124.512 m.p.h.)
4. Penske Porsche # 6 - 1:46.988 (124.500 m.p.h.)
6. PATRON HIGHCROFT ACURA - 1:47.922 (123.422 m.p.h.)