Things We Learned On An Airport Runway In Central Florida

25 Mar

Ahhh, Sebring, the 2nd race of the triple crown of endurance racing. It taught us some things this week. One obviously how brutal it can be. Just before the start the Luxury Racing Pro-AM 458, driven by former ESM driver Dominic Farenbacher got  together with the #45 Flying Lizard 911 GT3 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister. Who knew that would set the tone for the 60th 12 hours of Sebring. During morning warm-up the Falken Tire 911 had thier race motor go up in flames. The crew worked like mad to get the car back on track. They would start from pit lane.

Audi jumped out to a commanding lead with the next two spots taken up by the other two Audis. This though wasn’t a surprise. The surprise was actually sitting in the 4 th spot with the Team Cytosport Muscle Milk HPD ARX-03a of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, and probably the fastest guy in a non Audi prototype Simon Pagenaud.

As the race wore on, Audi 2 of McNish, Capello, and Mr. Lemans Tom Kristensen were going to be the ones to beat. The race would see several lengthy yellow flag safety car sessions through out the race. Including one that had the Dempsey Racing PC (formely LMPC) getting airbourne, into the catch fence going into the hairpin. The Audi’s proved that under the Florida sun and pounding race course that they weren’t invincible. The pole sitting car of 2011 lemans champs Lotterer, Tréluyer, and Fässler had shifting issues half way through the race. After repairs were made they finished 16th overall 15 laps down.

The ALMS favorite Muscle Milk Honda, were poised to be the spolier of the Audi party. Due to a speeding penalty, replacing body work on the back, and a rare issue with the fuel buckeye late in the race. They tumbled all the way back to 28 from 3rd. Absolutely heartbreaking for Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr, and Simon Pagenaud, after a hard fought race to were they kept the mighty Audi’s at bay till the last hour.

With Muscle milks issues that propeled the Starworks Motorsport entry, yes that Starworks that finished second at Daytona with Mcnish, Ryan Dalziel, Lucas Luhr, and Enzo Potolicchio. Into third overall. Former Peugoet driver Stéphane Sarrazin, with Dalziel, and Potolicchio, put the brand new HPD ARX-03b on the podium. Neat factoid this is the 2nd year in a row a HPD that showed up the week of the race has made the podium. Last year Highcroft almost ran down the Oreca-Matmut Peugeot 908HDi-FAp.

In GT it came down to the wire with the sleeper of the week Joey Hand and the Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan BMW taking top honors. But it wasn’t without some controversy. On the last lap Gimmi Bruni moved into the inside of Hand going into 5, nearly spinning Hand. Behind that Olivier Beretta who was in 2 nd place at the time, also spun to avoid the sliding BMW. That put the #71 AF Corse 458 into third and the #03 Corvette into 2nd. Coming into 17 Hand caught up to what was thought to Beretta. Hand out brakes him in the ever so bumpy last turn. It actually ends up that Hand has got back up with Bruni! Joey Hand, who is doing a full season of ALMS and DTM, wins the GT Class in a wild finish.

PC was won by the Core Autosport Oreca FLM of E.J. Viso, Alex Popow, and Bury Friselle. GTC was won by Alex Job Racing with Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, and Dion Von Moltke. What a momentum builder for AJR as they step up to GTE with the Lotus Evora starting at Long Beach.

Some notes and stuff.
John Dagys reported that the FIA/ACO’s intention was to not have a combined event ALMS/WEC, when the WEC was formed. So what does this mean? The same that it did for the Petit Lemans. Is it a downer yes. But if I was a betting man a 6 hours of Austin doesn’t seem to far off. When the 2 Audis and the Rebellion crashed in night practice, I predicted that, that would be the nail in the coffin for the WEC at Sebring. Do I want it to happen? Eff no I’m planning my honeymoon around the 2013 12 hours of Sebring. I want to see some WEC cars. But, if it does happen Sebring will be just fine. They went from the 70’s till 2011 without a world championship.

Do I think a 6 hour race in Austin would be successful? Who knows. All depends on promotion. Sebring has tradition to help it, Austin is new. From the little I’ve seen of the track it looks like a neat track.  I kicked around the idea of Road America getting a WEC date, but that’s because I’m very biased. We’ll see though I’m sure.

Ecoboost isn’t just a sponsor on a stock car hood anymore. Libra racing will debut thier Radical-Ford at Long Beach or Laguna. The power plant is a turbocharged V6 built by some guy in Nascar country named Roush-Yates. Word on the street is they make some wicked Ford engines for them roundy round cars.

Dempsey Racing on the heels of there high-flying ALMS debut in PC. Announced they will be running a Lola-Mazda starting at Laguna Seca. John Dagys also tweeted he’s not the only Grand-am owner wanting to join ALMS and a deal could be done in a couple weeks.

Derek Bell was on Wind Tunnel discussing how thier should be only ONE sports car series in the USA. Do you hear that you two, fans want it, legendary drivers want it….let’s make it happen.

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