2014 marked the 62nd running of the 12 Hours of Sebring, arguably the most grueling automotive endurance race on the planet. The race was the second round of the newly formed Tudor United Sportscar Championship, an amalgamation of the now defunct American Le Mans and the Grand Am endurance series’. The newly formed group brought together two groups in the interest of a unified series with increases competition. In doing so, much was required to make the different classes of cars on par with one another. The task was much easier said than done, but it appears that after round two things are lining up nicely. Unfortunately, other elements of the merger still need some work.

Race day was marked with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-eighties. Not only was the weather great for racing, it was also a nice change for a winter-weary Minnesotan such as myself. If you’ve never been to Sebring, the first thing you’ll quickly learn that it is expansive, covered in sand, devoid of any elevation and packed with people. If you’re used to the wonderful amenities and facilities at a track like Road America, you’ll be largely disappointed with Sebring. The one thing the track does have is history. Originally an Air Force base, much of the course is made up of decades old concrete runways that really provide a beating for the cars. For this very reason, many teams see the race as the perfect training ground for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The saying goes, if you can handle 12 Hours at Sebring you will have no problem racing 24 hours at Le Mans.

Since the race falls right in the middle of spring break season, you’ll find two distinct groups of attendees. The first are octane-loving race fans decked out in their favorite teams colors and focused intently on the race. The second group consists of folks there for the party and seemingly unaware that a race is even underway. The latter group assembles compounds using some very ingenious engineering methods all in the interest of having a good time day or night. Many adorn crazy attire such as chicken suits, drive around in the tallest pickup trucks you’ve ever seen and play music that makes the un-muffled cars on the track seem quiet.

As already noted, it’s generally a healthy hike from corner to corner. It seems that every time we decided to move corners we’d arrive at the new corner to find an extensive full course caution period. The race was marked by over five hours of full course cautions. While there was a fair amount of carnage, the cautions periods were often over-embellished, lasting a good 30-minutes past when incidents were cleared. Many attribute this to the new ownerships desire to bunch up the cars and create “exciting” racing. As a longtime race fan, I can tell you these unnecessary cautions only throw off the rhythm of the race and frustrate teams and fans alike.

In the end, though, the race did make for some exciting racing across all four classes. Chip Ganassi racing won the top prototype class with their Ford Ecoboost Powered Riley Daytona Prototype. Core Autosport won the Prototype challenge series with their Chevy powered Oreca FLM09. The Porsche factory team took top honors in the production based GTLM category with their 911 GT3 RSR. Magnus Racing in their Porsche 911 GT America won the final class, GTD. Despite the caution period fiascos, the race was still marked with a lot of close racing and results that came down to the wire.