Archive for March, 2012

12 Hours of Sebring Recap

Admittedly, I am a huge fan of endurance sports car racing and had the opportunity to attend the 60th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring earlier this month. If you are not familiar, the 12 Hours of Sebring is a European Style endurance race held every March at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. Arguably the toughest endurance race there is, the race takes place on the 60 plus year old, 3.7 mile course which began it’s life as an Air Force training base for B-17 bomber pilots. Portions of the track consist of original runway sections that have not been repaved since the 1950’s. As a result, the track is characterized by a number of rough transitions that can wreak havoc on the competing cars. For this very reason, many teams see the 12 Hours of Sebring as a test session and precursor for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, based on the notion that 12 Hours at Sebring is much harder on a race car and driver than 24 Hours at Le Mans.

This year there were a record 64 entries combining cars from the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the FIA’s World Endurance Championship (WEC). Cars were classified into prototype groups and GT based run groups. Amongst the prototypes, Audi Sport’s trio of R18 TDI‘s were favored to win overall and did so, although the margin between their P1 class diesel prototypes and the P1 class petrol powered prototypes was much narrower than in past years due in part to the strong running from the Muscle Milk Honda Performance Development (HPD) prototype and the Dyson Racing Lola-Mazda prototype. Surprisingly, the lesser classed P2 prototypes from HPD were able to break into the top four places overall and as always the racing was tight amongst the bottom rung LMP-C prototype classes.

The production-based GT category is always my favorite to watch since the competition is always fierce, with privateer and factory entrants from the likes of BMW, Corvette, Ferrari and Porsche. During the pace lap Dominik Farnbacher, driving the Luxury Racing Ferrari 458 Italia, took his team out of the race when he collected the Flying Lizard Porsche 997 GT3 RSR driven by Joerg Bergmeister. This left Joerg stranded on the track for nearly 30 minutes before a safety car could bring his car back to the pits for extensive repairs putting the typically front running team 26 laps down and out of contention. As the race went on it was plagued by a number of yellow caution periods that kept the GT cars close with two entries each from BMW Team RLL and Corvette Racing leading the pack. Despite a collision in the closing lap, the number 155 E92 M3 of BMW Team RLL managed to cross the checkered flag first and claim its second consecutive GT class win at Sebring.

The 2012 12 Hours of Sebring is just the beginning of the ten race ALMS season , which resumes the weekend of April 13 in Long Beach. Based on the action at Sebring, the season is sure to be exciting and I cannot wait to see how things unfold.