Hour eight of the 12 Hours of Sebring ended under caution following a nasty looking accident for the Alex Job Racing Ferrari 458 of Bill Sweedler as the Florida sun began to set.
The Italian machine made heavy contact with the barrier, destroying the front end of the car following an unrelated tangle with the leading GT class Corvette of Richard Westbrook several laps prior. The two made contact into turn ten as Westbrook attempted to lap Sweedler, with the Ferrari spinning off into the grass. He was able to re-join, but it appears that the car may have been damaged, resulting in the crash moments later.
Repairs were needed to the tyre barrier, which resulted in a lengthy caution period.
Westbrook had been battling for the lead in the GT category with the SRT Viper of Marc Goossens when the contact happened, but has subsequently been handed a stop and hold penalty. Oliver Gavin, who took over the driving duties of the Corvette following a pit stop, will have to surrender the class lead and serve the penalty once the race resumes.
The Viper suffered a long pit stop however, after the team replaced the car’s bonnet, and it has dropped back in the standings.
Westbrook was clearly irritated by the news of the penalty, criticising the race officials when asked about it by a pit lane reporter. He was not the only driver to feel aggrieved by a penalty however. Earlier in the hour, Muscle Milk Racing’s Klaus Graf came into contact with the ESM #02 LMP2 car at turn three, which resulted in slight body damage to both cars. The ESM car was spun in the incident, and lightly tagged by a following LMPC car.
Graf was handed a penalty, with the team losing time to nearest rivals Rebellion Racing as the car came in one lap later for a full service, including a driver change. Lucas Luhr took over the driving duties from an annoyed Graf.
Out front however, it remains an Audi 1-2. Things are not going as well as the German team might hope though, with the #1 car driven by Treluyer continue to suffer from a vibration caused by flapping body work on the underneath of the car. Allan McNish continues to pursue the sister car, having taken over the driving duties from Tom Kristensen.
Due to Muscle Milk’s problems, the #12 Rebellion is back in third place overall, however, the #13 car suffered a delay in the pits a little while ago. The two teams, who will contest the remainder of the ALMS season, have often been in close proximity to each other on circuit, giving an early indication of how this year’s championship will unfold after Sebring.
2013 12 Hours of Sebring class standings after 8 hours
#2 Audi – di Grassi/Kristensen/McNish
#1 Audi – Fassler/Jarvis/Treluyer
#12 Lola – Heidfeld/Jani/Prost
#551 HPD – Briscoe/Francitti/Tucker
#552 HPD – Hunter-Reay/Pagenaud/Tucker
#41 Zytek – Kimber-Smith/Lux/Zugel
#52 ORECA – Cheng/Guasch/Ostella
#500 ORECA – Heinemeier-Hansson/Nunez/Shears
#8 ORECA – Cumming/Johansson/Marcelli
#4 Corvette – Gavin/Milner/Westbrook
#62 Ferrari – Beretta/Bruni/Malucelli
#55 BMW – Auberlen/Martin/Muller
#66 Porsche – Faulkner/Keating/Stanton
#11 Porsche – Hedlund/Heylen/Fogarty
#30 Porsche – Cisneros/Edwards/Seefried