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Audi regains place as 12 Hours of Sebring winner

SEBRING — Audi introduced a new car with the same old winning results in Saturday's 12 Hours of Sebring.

Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello, who now have a combined total of 12 victories in the sports car classic at Sebring International Raceway, outdueled a Peugeot shared by Franck Montagny, Sebastien Bourdais and Stephane Sarrazin in a battle of diesel-powered prototypes. It was Kristensen's record fifth Sebring victory.

The Audi R15 won in record fashion, covering 383 laps and averaging 117.986 mph, breaking the mark of 115.85 set in 1986.

It is Audi's ninth win in the American Le Mans Series opener in 10 years — a string broken only by Porsche last year — and the third time in that stretch Audi won in the debut of a new car.

A tire puncture in the ninth hour cost the Peugeot about 45 seconds and put it out of pit sequence. The top two cars swapped leads on stops several times in the final hours, but the French entry lost the top spot for the last time when Montagny pitted for fuel with 44 minutes left.

Kristensen said McNish was incredibly cool in the last hour.

"In the end, he faced immense pressure," Kristensen said. "But (the Peugeot team) gambled and stayed on the same tires at the end, and that worked in our favor."

Bourdais, a Frenchman and former St. Petersburg resident, said of McNish, "He just turned the heat up. Franck drove like a madman, but he couldn't get close enough."

Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz won the LMP2 class and finished fourth overall in an Acura. Other winners were a Corvette in the GT class (driven by Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia) and a Ferrari 430 in GT2 (with Jamie Melo, Mika Salo and Pierre Kaffer).

Audi regains place as 12 Hours of Sebring winner 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 11:52pm]

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