It’s that time of year again! The countdown to Le Mans can now begin. The 12 Hours of Sebring has concluded and we have a full report inside.
For the first time since 1998, Audi did not take part in the 12 Hours of Sebring. Instead, as posted earlier, they were out testing their new R15 plus TDI at Homestead-Miami Speedway. A couple days later though, the German tested their car alongside 2009 Le Mans 24 winner Peugeot at Sebring.
The Peugeot team was left mostly on their own for a majority of the race thanks to their diesel power plant and their improved reliability around Sebring, never leaving the track once for repairs. The only small blip on their radar was the Drayson Lola-Judd team led by former Audi driver Emanuele Pirro (ITA). The car had to go to the garage for cooling problems. The LMP1 race finished with the #07 car driven by former Formula 1 drivers, Marc Gene (ESP), Alex Wurz (AUT), and Anthony Davidson (ENG) coming in first with its sister car coming in 2nd and the Aston Martin-Lola coming in 3rd, 3 laps down.
In LMP2, the race was certainly a lot more interesting. It was mostly between defending LMP1 champions Patron Highcroft and the Cytosport Porsche RS Spyder. The Highcroft went back to LMP2 with an updated machine which qualified first in its class. During the first 7 hours, the Highcroft Acura built up a 5-lap lead over the Porsche team, but an electrical problem meant the Acura had to be sidelined while the Porsche continued to trek around the circuit.
When the Acura came back out, they were 7 laps down to the Porsche. But the team of David Brabham (AUS), Marino Franchetti (SCO), and Simon Pagenaud (FRA) weren’t about to give in. Over the last 3 hours, they were able to pull themselves back up to 2nd place in LMP2 and only 4 laps down to the Cytosport team. 3rd place went to the butanol-fueled Dyson-Mazda.
GT2 was certainly very hectic in South Florida, where 13 cars started the race. However, the #90 BMW M3 that qualified on pole for GT2 started from the pit-lane after failing a post-qualifying test. Dirk Muller (GER) , the driver, was able to get the Bimmer up to 4th in class at the end of the first hour.
The return to Le Mans racing for Jaguar didn’t turn out very well. Their GT2-spec XKR had a cracked cylinder head had to retire from the race after only 11 laps.
Arguably the most disappointing result from the race was that of the Corvette Racing team. After transitioning over to GT2 from GT1 for the full season this year, problems began to emerge. The #3 car had to sit in the garage for a long period of time to repair a damaged power steering hose, dropping them to 8 laps down. The worst was yet to come, though. Just past the 3 hour mark, Jan Magnussen (DEN) pulled his #3 Corvette out of the pit box just as Emmanuel Collard (FRA) in the #4 was coming in and it resulted in a crash.
The #4 Corvette had to spend many laps behind the wall as its bodywork got repaired and the #3 had to come in on the next lap because of a punctured tired from the incident. When the #4 was finished being repaired, the #3 came in for its body repair. After all this, both cars dropped to the end of their class, finishing 8th and 9th and 11 laps behind the GT2 leader.
More crazy things happened when the #17 Falken Tires 911 lost a wheel that ended up hitting one of the Flying Lizard Motorsport Porsches. That caused the car to get a bent wheel, restuling in loss of tire pressure. However, both cars managed to be repaired and finished the race. Things starting heating back up again when Scott Sharp’s (USA) Extreme Speed Motorsport Ferrari F430 GT caught on fire massively, causing the American team to retire the car.
Despite their pit lane start, the GT2 BMWs both managed to finish 2nd and 3rd in class with the #92 of Bill Aubuerlin (USA), Tommy Milner (USA), and Dirk Werner (GER) leading them. The GT2 win however, went to the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT of Jaime Melo (BRA), Gianmaria Bruni (ITA), and Pierre Kaffer (GER).
The new LMP Challenge class also made its debut this weekend. There were 6 of the Oreca-designed chassis’ at Sebring. The race was fairly straight-forward for this class, with the Level 5 Motorsports team of Scott Tucker (USA), Christophe Bouchut (FRA), and Mark Wilkins (CAN) finishing first easily with a 16 lap advantage over Gunner Racing. However, the Gunner team were then disqualified and the Genoa Racing squad were classified in 2nd, 46 laps behind the winners.
The last class competing at Sebring was the GT Challenge class, this season consisting of exclusively Porsche 911 GT3s.Of the 6 cars in GTC, 3 of them were owned by Alex Job Racing, a former GT2 team. The 3 AJR cars finished 1-2-3, with the #81 of Butch Leitzinger (USA), Juan Gonzalez (MEX), and Leh Keen (USA).
The 2nd competition that takes place alongside the 12 Hours is the Michelin Green X Challenge. This rewards teams in the American Le Mans Series for being the most fuel-efficient while still being the best performers on track. In the prototype class, the victory went easily to the #07 Peugeot that took overall victory due to it being powered by diesel. The GT class winner was the #44 Flying Lizards Porsche 911 GT3 RSR where they used an E85 fuel that the Corvettes also use which comes from wood chips.
Well that about wraps up the 2010 12 Hours of Sebring from Florida. Hope everyone who watched it enjoyed it!