12 Hours of Sebring: It's All Over

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After our last update, things looked pretty bleak with half of the race running under full-course yellow flag conditions. After the six hour mark, however, things started to settle into a rhythm and laps started ticking down.

Once the racing started, things began to get pretty exciting. There are great class battles, and the overall lead was in jeopardy for the entirety of the next stint. Click through to read how the rest of the race progressed.

Shortly before reaching the 7th hour, the Ryan Hunter Reay #91 Viper backed the car into the tire barrier at the exit of 17. His car suffered damage to the splitter, the rear bumper, the decklid and the wing. A lengthy stop saw the team replacing all of those panels and layering over them with a couple acres of Bearbond. During the repair, they pulled Hunter-Reay out and replaced him with Marc Goosens. Even before the repairs, the car was a number of laps down.

My pick for GTD victory, the Rum Bum/Snow Racing car had a bit of a bauble when Madison Snow came to a halt on track on the back side of the track with no fuel pressure. Having come to a stop, perhaps his pump picked up some fuel that had been evading it, and he was able to get it back under way and back to the pits. This has not taken them out of the race, and they will continue to fight, but it did slow them down considerably.

Since the red flag, the 01 Ganassi car has been slowly creeping toward the front. The Ford turbo package was quick at Daytona, but ran into reliability issues. If the engine holds together, it will place well.

Meanwhile the Extreme Speed Motorsports car has been holding off the Daytona Prototypes, and has been flat out flying in the hands of Simon Pagenaud and Johannes Van Overbeek. Unlike the DPs, this chassis has lots of set up experience for this track.

From the previous LMPC crash just before the 6 hour mark (video shown below), Alex Tagliani was sent to the infield infirmary, and later given a clean bill of health, though possibly a sprained wrist, which was wrapped.

More North American Endurance Championship points are doled out at the 8 hour mark. Those points were received by the #2 Extreme Speed Motorsports LMP2, the #4 Corvette, the CORE Autosport LMPC, and the #555 Ferrari 458.

At just after the 8 hour mark, the #2 ESM car of Van Overbeek was involved in a dust up with Bryce Miller’s Paul Miller Racing GTD Audi R8 in the braking zone for turn 17 that cost him the lead. To Miller’s credit, there was a lot of sun in his eyes, and there was a GTLM Corvette behind him, shielding his view of the incoming prototype. Having lost the top spot, Christian Fittipaldi took over the lead in the Action Express #5 Daytona Prototype.

Sun

The 009 TRG Aston Martin had an interesting incident on track. The front left hub of the car sheared off, and the wheel exited stage left as the car entered turn 1. Coming with the wheel, oddly, was the brake rotor.  A few corners later, the brake pads popped out, too. This brought about the 9th full course caution period, and the 009 was able to limp it all the way back around to the garage. 

Just before the yellow came out, the Oak Racing Morgan Nissan pitted for fuel, tires, and to stick Gustavo Yacaman in the car. They gained some lost positions as other cars pitted under yellow, and went back to green in second position (third before pit stops).

During the yellow flag, the #3 Corvette pitted to replace their fuel pump (below).

Corvette fuel pump

 

Another good stint of green flag racing produced some excellent racing at the front. With the second ESM prototype of David Brabham, the 02 Ganassi driven by youngster Sage Karam, Barbosa’s Corvette DP, Gustavo Yacaman’s Oak car, and Scott Pruett bringing up the rear in the other Ganassi car, these five cars were running nose-to-tail for a good long time. As racing goes, Brabham’s pass on Barbosa for the lead was among the most exciting battles we’ve seen all year. With 8 prototypes on the lead lap with only 3 hours to go, that was only a sign of things to come! 

At 2:39, the Scuderia Corsa #63 Ferrari pulled to the right of the track and remained stationary. In order to retrieve the car, the yellow flag came out again for the 10th time.

Both the Dempsey Racing Porsche and the #73 Park Place Porsche were forced to go to the garage to replace their power steering racks. Is this indicative of a systemic problem with the new 991 GT America? Keep an eye on this in future races, as it could have huge implications.

During the round of pit stops that came during the yellow flag period, the Ganassi 02 car lost 3 positions due to a slightly fumbled driver change that cost them perhaps 2 seconds. That just shows how close the leaders were with 2.5 hours remaining.

According to Leh Keen and Alex Job himself, the Alex Job Porsche GTD car was given a stop and hold 80 seconds penalty for contact from the second place position.  The major downside of the penalty being that the contact never happened. Apparently the IMSA officials have reversed the penalty in the record books, but there is nothing they can do to give back the two minutes the team lost with the penalty. 

In the darkest of dark with just over two hours remaining, the #02 Ganassi car that did so well early on had a spin with Scott Dixon on board. A few corners earlier in the lap, Dixon was forced wide into the dirt, and his tires probably had a good amount of buildup on them to initiate the spin. He continued on without major damage, but lost a handful of positions in the process.

As close as the Prototype battle has been, the GTD class has been even hotter. The top 6 cars in class were separated by only 2.5 seconds with just 2 hours remaining. Absolutely some of the best racing among those GT3 based cars.

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The penultimate hour was an absolute shootout for the victory, but the final hour was really where the battle hotted up.  With nine world class drivers on the lead lap with one hour to go, that was bound to be the case, though. Dalziel, Bourdais, Dixon, Pla, Franchitti, Pagenaud, Fogarty, Wilson, and Taylor make up the Prototype battle in the final hour, and going into it, we really had no idea which would be on top at the end of the 12th hour. That’s just in the P class.

In PC, a hungry Bruno Junqueira was hounding a quick Colin Braun for hours. GTLM saw 4 cars on the same lap within only 30 seconds or so covering them. GTD was another toss up that saw 6 cars on the same lap with just an hour remaining.

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At the 1 hour mark my beloved Deltawing, with Katherine Legge aboard, suffered a tire failure that had the bodywork absolutely knackered on the left rear sidepod, shutting out power to the left tail lamp, and bouncing the left rear headlamp all over the place. The car suffered from several stops for repairs, and this one just added to their total. They were having some hydraulic issues from about the 7th hour onward that took them well back from the prototype pack.

With about 50 minutes remaining in the race, the 11th full course yellow flag was called because the Whelen Engineering Corvette Daytona Prototype stopped on an escape road. Personally, I don’t think the call for yellow would have been made in a WEC race, and this was another questionable call by the IMSA crew. On the plus side, all of the cars should be good-to-go on fuel and tires for the rest of the race, and we’ll have a full on sprint to the checkers.

Once everything was cleaned up and everyone had bunched up again, the green didn’t fly again until just 20 minutes were remaining. The shootout for the overall began as follows – 

01 – Franchitti

1 – Dalziel

42 – Pla

5 – Bourdais

2 – Pagenaud

02 – Dixon

10 – R. Taylor.

As it happened, Franchitti checked out at the restart in the Ganassi car, using that Ford Turbo powerplant to his advantage. Bourdais got the jump on Pla, and easily caught up to Dalziel. Ryan, being the bulldog that he is, not only managed to hold the Corvette DP off, but also caught Franchitti at an alarming rate. Even with that last push, he couldn’t catch up and pass, finishing second.

In the end, it was a great race that was marred by 5 hours and 20 minutes of caution periods, and a handful of terrible rulings.

As always, we couldn’t enjoy this event without the corner workers. Hats off to them for doing their best to make the race run smoothly and safely. (Besides, their yellow flag waving arms are probably super sore!)

flagger 

2014 Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring winners by class –

Prototype – #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley DP – Scott Pruett, Marino Franchitti, and Memo Rojas (1st overall)

Prototype Challenge – #54 CORE Autosport Oreca FLM09 – Colin Braun, James Gue, and Jon Bennett (10th overall)

GT Le Mans – #912 Porsche North America Racing 911 RSR – Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, and Michael Christensen (12th overall)

GT Daytona – #44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT America – Andy Lally, John Potter, and Marco Seefried (23rd overall)

 

Conclusions – The coverage was much better than I expected it to be.  The online stream worked quite well, and despite being told that it would be geoblocked in the US until after the terrestrial television broadcast was over, it worked for the entirety of the race’s 12 hours.

In just one race, TUSCC has really figured out the balance of performance, and the battle between all of the classes has been fantastic. The DPs and LMP2s are quite close in performance, and both GT classes were smashing battles for the whole race.

Just like Daytona, the racing was excellent, the cars were well matched, and the driving was world-class. If there is a down side of the event, however, it has to be the small handful of questionable calls by the race officials, a similar problem to the finish at Daytona.

My eyes are burning from staring at a computer screen all day.  I’m going to go take a nap before the Australian Grand Prix tonight! Thanks for following along, and welcome to the 2014 racing season!

Photos provided by IMSA.com and Porsche Motorsport

Bradley C. Brownell is an Editor with Hooniverse.com, but he also contributes to his own site “BavarianDrive“. Head over there for more of his work.

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