59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida
The 59 th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida lived up to expectations as a race to expect the unexpected. The many unknowns of the race played out in a way that the traditional factory favorites were upstaged by two experienced privateer teams, which receive manufacturer assistance. Team ORECA Matmut claimed the overall and P1 class wins in last year’s Peugeot 908 Hdi FAP. Not considered by many as the race favorite, they did have a proven race winning car, with restrictions in place to level the playing field. The big unknown was the Highcroft HPD ARX-01e. The Danbury, Connecticut squad had the odds and time against them as their program came together late. When Scott Sharp left Highcroft to form Extreme Speed Motorsports, he also left with the Patron bankroll in his back pocket. Duncan Dayton finally found some sponsorship from Michelin and was able to retain his drivers from last year for Sebring.
To finish less than a lap down to the Peugeot diesel is a tremendous achievement and a testament to a hard working talented team. David Brabham was the fourth quickest driver in the morning warmup, ahead of a factory diesel each from both Audi and Peugeot. But did the team have the pace, reliability and racing luck to score the big upset? As it turns out, they were just a half minute away from pulling it off.
The factory fight, between Audi and Peugeot did take place, but it wasn’t for the win. Marc Gene was trying an inside pass on Dindo Capello. The Audi driver changed his line to defend the position and was still ahead of the Peugeot, when Gene drove right into the side of the #2 Audi causing right rear suspension damage. The repair put the #2 back into 17 th position, seven laps down and out of contention for the win. The #1 Audi suffered two early punctures, which caused bodywork and rear wing damage. The incidents put the car back into 50 th position. Their charge through the field in the last 10 hours placed them 5 th, 6 laps off the pace.
Scott Tucker’s Level 5 Motorsports campaigned two Honda powered Lola LMP2 cars; one coupe and one open cockpit car. Early on the winning car lost a wheel just after the hairpin and had to be put on a flat bed and the driver took the long way back to the paddock. Between the incident and diversion, the car was over twenty laps behind the lead. But a combination of bad luck and attrition saw the race come back to them.
In GT Rahal Letterman Racing enjoyed engineering support direct from Germany and the presence of Mario Theissen; former head of BMW Motorsports demonstrated the importance and commitment that that is placed on a good Sebring result. Dirk Mueller, Joey Hand and Andy Prilaux showed well and overcame incidents to bring the M3 home with the GT win in the series most competitive class. Dirk Werner in the sister car, passed Tommy Milner in the Corvette with 35 minutes remaining to make it a BMW 1-2.
In the GT Amateur Class, which is only in ILMC events this year, Tracy Krohn, Nic Jonsson and Michele Ruggolo took victory in their Ferrari F430 GT. After a race long battle with the Proton Porsche for the first 10 hours, the 911 RSR had to make a trip to the paddock for mechanical repairs. Krohn’s squad was 50 laps clear of the Proton Porsche at the finish.
The LMPC victory went to the #036 of Genoa Racing’s Jens Peterson, Dane Cameron and Michael Guasch. They beat the Core Autosport entry, which finished on the same lap. Both cars finished 12 laps in front of the the first place LMP2 car.
In GTC, Boston’s Black Swan Racing took over the GT Challenge Class lead after 10 hours and finished a minute ahead of the TRG car; both running 299 laps. After missing Sebring last year, the team went on to win the title and began defense of their crown with a win in the year’s biggest race, just 10 days after taking delivery of their race winning Porsche.
Copyright 2001-2014 Greg Sarni, USA