2015 12 Hours of Sebring: Action Express dominate central Florida


2015 12 Hours of Sebring (Courtesy of IMSA)

The dust has just about settled on the 2015 12 Hours of Sebring – the second race of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – and now everything has become calmer www.TheCheckeredFlag.co.uk looks back on the race and each of the four categories.

Prototype

In the lead up to the green flag, the class had been dominated by the Ligier LMP2s of Krohn Racing and Michael Shank Racing. With the higher downforce of the Onroak package getting the best of the Daytona Prototypes in almost every session building up to the race itself, it was thought that a P2 could have a good chance of overall victory.

However, issues for both the Judd engined Krohn Ligier and Honda engined Shank car meant they were quickly taken out of contention in the first few hours. Both the Tequila Patron ESM machines also hit problems which put them out of a chance with hitting the podium.

That meant, thanks to some absolutely barn storming laps, Sebastien Bourdais, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi lead home a train of Corvette DPs with the Action Express Racing crew avoiding the mayhem that descended around them.

Following numerous brake system issues, the Taylor clan in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing machine – with major assistance from Max ‘the ax’ Angelelli – ended up finishing a lap down on the winners but made up for a very disappointing Daytona.

Third in the top class was the #90 VisitFlorida.com machine of Richard Westbrook, Mike Rockenfeller and Michael Valiante after an absolute scrap with the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates of Scott Dixon, Joey Hand and Scott Pruett. The Ford EcoBoost-Riley was holding the final podium position but with ten minutes to go Westbrook managed to get the better of Dixon and claim what could be – at seasons end – a critical third place.

Fifth place would be the second Action Express Racing car, the #31 Whelen backed car of Dane Cameron, Max Papis and Eric Curran. While they were solid runners throughout in their Corvette DP, they never troubled for the lead either so a solid result rather than a spectacular one could still benefit them later on in the season.

Prototype Challenge

Where to begin with Prototype Challenge? If you wanted to see how Sebring should be won in an Oreca FLM09, look no further than the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer and Mike Guasch.

At points they were stretching their lead into minutes ahead of next in class, never mind finishing sixth overall – ahead of a number of the faster Prototype cars and doubled up their much more fortunate class victory at Daytona.

Second place, and showing if you have a good line up why change it was the #54 CORE Autosport entry of Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, and James Gue. Slowly rising through the field as the hours ticked by, they were second as the final hour came into being and it was clear that a late pit stop to change tyres was a warning shot that they were going to try something big sadly, the gamble failed to materialise  and 11 seconds behind was as close as they could get when the chequered flag flew.

Third place, and the last of the cars even close to the leaders was the Performance Tech #38 of James French, Jerome Mee, and Conor Daly. Like the #31 in the sister class, the car had a solid run – running second for a time before the CORE car got the better of French and went into the runner up spot. But, the silver lining is that Conor Daly had an exemplary drive around Sebring – takes after his Dad.

2015 12 Hours of Sebring (Courtesy of IMSA)
Nobody said it was easy… Fireworks end the race, but GTLM started the show early (Credit: IMSA)

 

GT Le Mans

Well, Sebring has just about recovered from one of the best GTLM battles the TUDOR Championship has seen in a while. The running had been tough all race with the BMWs, Porsches and Corvettes all settling their squabbles on the track.

To look at the hourly reports (links at the bottom) for hours 4-6 and 7-9 you would be excused for thinking that Porsche North America were on course for at least a win – if not a one-two – and a comprehensive one at that.

However, nothing is simple in endurance racing and as the hours ticked down and the darkness fell the gremlins came out of their slumber and sunk their teeth into not one but both of the Porsche North America 911s and their race unravelled in remarkably quick succession.

First to fall was the #912, Fred Makowiecki sat in the car helplessly as the left-rear tyre refused to come off even with hammer blows and repeated stabs of the air gun, a few laps later the car peeled behind the wall with suspension damage.

In the mean time, if that wasn’t enough for the mechanics to think about, the #911 with Nick Tandy behind the wheel couldn’t shift out of fifth gear – alright on the straights, but a nightmare in the twistier sections of the Sebring track.

That left the door open to Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R to swoop in and pick up the spoils, especially after the Risi Competizione car had a slow stop when it arguably counted the most. That said the iconic red Ferrari – piloted by Pierre Kaffer, Giancarlo Fisichella and Andrea Bertolini did managed to finish in second place, very good considering the yellow peril of the ‘Vettes.

Rounding out the podium was a team that are rapidly building a name for themselves in the longer races of the TUDOR Championship, the iconic blue and green liveried Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR with Wolf Henzler, Patrick Long and Bryan Sellers all making the best of the traffic to maximum effect and claim a well earned third place.

Fourth place would finish the #24 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE of John EdwardsLucas Luhr, and Jens Klingmann in what was an unfortunate result considering they definitely had strong pace throughout the race. That said they did managed to finish ahead of the #911 which managed to limp round in fifth and – somewhat coincidentally – finished fifth.

GT Daytona

Although GTD is the last class listed, it was by no means the least exciting class – indeed it was fair to say that they looked at all the other classes and thought: “we can hold out till a bit later to bring our drama can’t we?” And boy did they.

The final ten minutes of the final hour saw Mario Farnbacher in the Alex Job Racing Porsche have an almighty battle with Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R. With the brakes fading in the Porsche, and Farnbacher barely keeping the car on track, it seemed as though the Dutchman was going to have this clear and simple.

But, the heat affected the Viper badly and so Bleekemolen had to pull into the pits in the final moments and watch as Farnbacher took the victory ahead of the #007 TRG Aston Martin and the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.

Fourth should have been second, but thanks to a late penalty they were demoted down a couple of places – certainly a bad end for the Vipers.

12 Hours of Sebring results (top 15)

Pos Class No. Entrant Laps/Gap to next position
1 P 5 Action Express Racing 340
2 P 10 Wayne Taylor Racing 1 Lap
3 P 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing +11.962s
4 P 01 Chip Ganassi Racing w/ Felix Sabates +7.384s
5 P 31 Action Express Racing 1 Lap
6 PC 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports 4 Laps
7 PC 54 CORE Autosport +11.614s
8 P 57 Krohn Racing +8.377s
9 PC 38 Performance Tech Racing 1 Lap
10 GTLM 3 Corvette Racing 3 Laps
11 GTLM 62 Risi Competizione +59.453s
12 GTLM 17 Team Falken Tire 1 Lap
13 GTLM 24 BMW Team RLL +20.870s
14 GTLM 911 Porsche North America 1 Lap
15 GTD 23 Alex Job Racing 10 Laps

2015 12 Hours of Sebring hourly reports

Hours 1-3: Full on racing in no time at all

Hours 4-6: DPs to the fore at halfway

Hours 7-9: Green is the colour

Hours 10-12: Barbosa brings it home, Corvette snatch GTLM