12H Sebring 9 Hour Update: Darkness descends on chaotic Sebring


The 12 Hours of Sebring powered through its third quarter like a runaway train as dry running and darkening skies saw incident befall the Floridian track.

Most of the first hour of this three hour block, running from hour six till hour nine, was run under relatively clean conditions as teams got settled in again on a dry track after so long either stopped or racing in torrential conditions. The only incident of note was a spin for the #2 Tequila Patron ESM Ligier-Honda at turn 16, which was of no consequence to its position which shows how spread the lead Prototype class was during the sixth hour.

For incident you had to turn to the next hour and 4h:47m to go and a collision which will no doubt be the biggest talking point after the race which involved the Porsche #911 of Kevin Estre and the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R of Jan Magnussen who were running second and third respectively at the time.

Both ended up in the tyre wall, but how they came to tangle will be the source of debate. Both cars passed either side of one of the Stevenson Motorsport Audi R8 LMS machines on the front straight – the Corvette on driver’s right and the Porsche on the left – when they passed the car Magnussen seem to turn in on the correct racing line but Estre carried on a bit further without turning for the corner. Needless to say they both touched, with the Porsche hitting the rear-left quarter of the Corvette spearing both of them into the turn one tyre barrier.

Both cars would retire, the Porsche immediately and the Corvette after an attempted partial rebuild.

More than twenty minutes would elapse while officials set about rebuilding the tyre wall, but when the track went green again the driver on the move was Luis Felipe Derani in the #2 ESM Ligier who made a canny move on Joao Barbosa in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette to claim second place at the Hairpin.

Roughly ten minutes later Derani would again be involved in action, as an overly aggressive passing manoeuvre on Josh Webster in the Konrad Lamborghini Huracan saw the latter spin and glance the tyre wall at turn 15. Thankfully the car wasn’t damaged and he could continue.

Going into the final hour of this stint were a number of cautions for niggly issues which probably shouldn’t warrant a caution, the first of which being the #38 Performance Tech Racing PC machine that had found itself stuck at turn 10. The second was the Park Place GTD Porsche grinding to a halt at pit exit and retiring from the race. Both cautions would total 15 minutes of running behind the safety car and seriously shake-up the field.

The Park Place Porsche would survive the rain but not the eighth hour (Credit: IMSA)
The Park Place Porsche would survive the rain but not the eighth hour (Credit: IMSA)

In the lead Prototype class, Barbosa would lead the field in the #5 with the sister #31 Action Express car, featuring Eric Curran behind the wheel, relinquishing second place after a spin at turn 10 on the restart following the first caution period. That would promote Ryan Hunter-Reay in the Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP into second with Johannes van Overbeek – who took over the #2 from Derani – in third, even though he had a spin of his own at turn 17.

In Prototype Challenge, two cars pulled ahead of the others – the #54 CORE Autosport of Mark Wilkins and the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports car of José Gutierrez – namely the third placed Starworks car of Sean Johnston which found itself a handful of laps down on the two leaders.

For the competitors in GT Le Mans, late drama would shake-up the field as Lucas Luhr in the #100 Team RLL BMW M6 was tapped into a spin at turn 10 by the #85 JDC-Miller Prototype Challenge Oreca FLM09 – a car that has been in the wars throughout the race – and the German slipped from second down to fifth.

That meant the leader in the class, Bill Auberlen in the second Team RLL BMW, was fighting off the advances of Giancarlo Fisichella in the Risi Competizione Ferrari and Fred Mackowiecki in the #912 Porsche 911.

Finally GT Daytona and as the final quarter of the race began, Corey Lewis in the Change Racing Lamborghini had a slender lead over Markus Palttala in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 and Robin Liddell in the Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS.