Controversy clouds an exciting 62nd annual 12 Hour of Sebring, that featured 30 lead changes among 11 different cars, came down to a final hour pit-stop sequence, as Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates took the overall win for Ford and the new EcoBoost turbo Daytona Prototype in their debut at Sebring.
Following the late caution with 20 minutes remaining, caused by the stalled No. 31 Whelan Corvette DP, Franchitti took the green on the restart and piloted the No. 01 Telcel-sponsored Riley-Ford across the finish line, 4.682 seconds ahead of Ryan Dalziel in the Extreme Speed Motorsports No. 1 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development ARX-03b (HPD), who took second.
Ganassi drivers Scott Pruett, Marino Franchitti and Memo Rojas scored their first overall wins at the circuit in addition to bringing home the first win for chassis constructor Riley Technologies at the event since the 1996 12 Hour. Marking the teams 195th victory, Ganassi is now the only team to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. “We’ve come from a lot of hard work with the new rules, with the new engine and all of the development behind that,” said Franchitti.
Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) set a new team record at the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida as both of the Tequila Patrón-sponsored teams and drivers finished in the top-five at Sebring. Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and David Brabham, co-drivers of the No. 1 Tequila Patrón Honda Performance Development ARX-03b (HPD), finished second.
As the race went back to green with 18 minutes remaining, Dalziel was running second. However, despite running faster lap times than Franchitti, traffic prevented Dalziel from catching the first place car before the checkered flag. Scott Sharp stated following the event. “This is great for us. It was a rebound off our Daytona finish. We gained valuable points in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, so all good. The cars, for the most part, are in one piece. That’s all good news looking ahead at Long Beach.”
Rolex 24 winners, Action Express Racing with drivers Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastien Bourdais, came in third after a strong showing throughout the entire event.
“A third place finish is a great result for Action Express today. We had a very good race. We were always in contention for the win. Unfortunately, the last yellow was surprisingly very long and I really don’t know why it was so long. It was all about track position on the restarts. And there was very little time left when we went back to green. Third place is a very good result. The entire team did a tremendous job.” stated Barbosa.
Prototype Challenge saw only two of the Chevrolet-powered Oreca FLM09s avoid incidents. The Daytona-winning Core Autosport entry shared by Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, and James Gue took home its second consecutive win of the year by 2.7 seconds over the RSR Racing quartet of Bruno Junqueira, Duncan Ende, and David Heinemeier. “That was exciting,” said Braun. “It was right down to the wire. I just had to hold off Bruno.”
GT Le Mans saw an intense battle as the final hour of the race set in, with Corvette Racing’s C7.R of Oliver Gavin running 2 seconds behind the leading SRT Viper GTS-R, however, an unfortunate spin with 55 minutes remaining put the No 4. Corvette out of contention as the the yellow flag was issued for an unrelated incident.
When racing resumed, the No. 912 Porsche North America 911 RSR of Patrick Long, Jorg Bergmeister, and Michael Christensen held first place by nearly 5.2 seconds ahead of the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R of Johnathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer and Robert Bell, resulting in their second consecutive win. “We were really fast all day, but we knew if we got in a different strategy the other guys would have to make their last pits and we could use that to our advantage,” Long said. “We got the final yellow which let us separate from the pack and then we could just play smart.” Third place went to the No. 55 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE of Bill Auberlen, Andy Priaulx and Joey Hand.
GT Daytona saw a controversial miscall by IMSA, as the No. 22 Porsche 911 GT America of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Philipp Frommenwiler was incorrectly penalized with a stop and go plus 80 second penalty for avoidable contact with the No. 49 Ferrari.
Following a review of the video footage, it was apparent that penalty should have been issued to the No. 912 Porsche North America 911 RSR. “The officials made us come in and serve a stop-and-go plus 80-second penalty. We lost the race by 4.7 seconds and we had an 80-second penalty, so in my mind we won by 75 seconds. It really killed our race,” said MacNeil. Following the event Scottt Elkins, IMSA vice president stated, “We believed this footage provided conclusive evidence of each car’s involvement in incidents,” “However, after the penalties were applied, we learned that the footage reviewed was taken from the wrong in-car cameras, as multiple cars were utilizing the same radio frequency. This was a unique situation, but we are unable to retract the penalties once served (stop plus time added). We will review our process and do what’s necessary to ensure such a situation does not occur again.”
Porsche had an extremely strong running in the GT Daytona class as Andy Lally piloted the No. 44 Mangnus Racing Porsche 911 GT America to the class win.
“We didn’t have it dead away on pace, but we had the right strategy that put us up front,” Lally said. “We had a day moving forward and back moving through the pack, but we were so well- handled by the Magnus Racing crew. This Magnus crew is absolutely the best team.” The No. 555 Ferrari 458 of AIM Autosport took home second in the class with Rolex 24 winning drivers, Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Jeff Segal, as well as co-driver for Sebring, Maurizio Mediani. Third place went to the No. 23 Porsche 911 GT America team of Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas while the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America of Alex Job Racing finished fourth.
The 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship continues April 11-12 with the TEQUILA PATRÓN SPORTS CAR SHOWCASE AT LONG BEACH. Be sure to stay up-to-date with all news from the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with OpenPaddock.net
Photos provided by: Alex Job Racing, Action Express Racing, Extreme Speed Motorsports, Magnus Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and Porsche of North America