A pair of Peugeots set the pace in the first three hours of Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The French entry driven by Nic Minassian, Pedro Lamy and Christian Klien was ahead of the Peugeot of Stephane Sarrazin, Franck Montagny and Sebastian Bourdais by just more than 11 seconds after one quarter of the grueling American Le Mans Series opener at Sebring International Raceway.

"So far it is early in the race, but the car is good," Lamy said. "We have to push."

The second-place car had to start from the rear of the pack after changing its power steering pump. But with Montagny at the wheel, the Peugeot sliced through traffic and quickly got back among the leaders.

As expected, the main competition for the returning diesel-powered Peugeots came from the diesel-powered LMP1 class entries from Audi and the petrol-engine Acuras, both debuting new cars.

Five of the six cars were on the same lap after three hours, with the Audi of Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello third, followed by the team car of Marco Werner, Mike Rockenfeller and Lucas Luhr.

"At the moment, the Peugeots have a little more pace," Audi spokesman Ralf Juttner said. "But things have been changing. The Peugeots have very good straight line speed, and when we are behind them it is very hard to pass."

An Acura co-driven by team owner Gil de Ferran, pole winner Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud was fifth, with the Patron Highcroft Acura of David Brabham, Scott Sharp and Dario Franchitti in sixth, two laps behind the leaders. Brabham was at the wheel when he collided with a GT2 Ford driven by Andrea Robertson and both slid into a sand pit.

Both cars were able to continue and the Acura stayed within sight of the leaders.

A year-old Acura co-driven by Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz was seventh, leading the LMP2 class. A Corvette shared by Jan Magnussen, Johnny O'Connell and Antonio Garcia was at the front of the GT1 class in 11th place overall. The Ferrari of Pierre Kaffer, Jamie Melo and Mika Salo was on top of the GT2 class, 13th overall.

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