2015 Tudor USCC: 12 Hours of Sebring race report
Endurance racing can be a cruel sport, as Porsche North America Racing found out at the 63rd running of the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend.
The factory US Porsche squad looked set for a dominant one-two in the second round of this year’s Tudor United SportsCar Championship, only for separate mechanical dramas to stymy both Porsche 911 RSRs inside the last hour.
After a disappointing start to 2015 at Daytona, the early sessions at Sebring couldn’t have gone much better for Porsche, with the works RSRs showing front-running pace in both of Thursday’s free practice sessions.
Then speed was then converted into a front-row lockout in qualifying, as Frédéric Makowiecki pedalled the no. 912 Porsche 911 (that he shared with Jörg Bergmeister and Earl Bamber) to pole with a lap of 1m58.587s.
Patrick Pilet, driving the no. 911 RSR that he shared with Nick Tandy and Richard Lietz, was only a further 0.219 seconds further back as Weissach saw off the challenge of the factory Corvettes and BMWs.
The team’s qualifying performance had buoyed Pilet who was “feeling optimistic for the race.” However, as the Frenchman explained “This race is won in the last two hours, so we need a perfect strategy and we can’t make any mistakes.”
When the green flag waved at 10:40am (Eastern Time) on Saturday, Makowiecki immediately moved into the lead, as Pilet in the sister car dropped to third behind the no. 3 Corvette during the opening lap.
With the GTLM field so close, stretching out a convincing lead proved difficult, though the no. 912 Porsche 911 still managed to grind out a near three-second advantage over the chasing pack before the first round of pit stops.
While Makowiecki stayed behind the wheel of the no. 912 RSR, Tandy jumped into the hot seat in the no. 911 car, leapfrogging the Corvette to move into second as the field exited the pitlane.
From here on in, the Porsche 911 duo dominated proceedings, with the no. 911 RSR grabbing the lead from their teammates during an early safety car period, while the Team Falken car gradually worked itself into the GTLM reckoning having qualified in eighth.
Despite the high temperatures (which peaked at 35 degrees Celsius), the Porsche 911 RSRs coped impeccably as the mercury rose. Even when the track temperature dropped as the race headed into darkness, Porsche North America Racing continued to set the pace.
However, with just under an hour left to run, things began to unravel. First the no. 912 Porsche had to head behind the pit wall for an extended stop with a problem on the left rear wheel, dropping Makowiecki, Bergmeister and Bamber to an eventual seventh place finish.
Then, moments later, Tandy reported gearshift problems in the no. 911 machine. Although able to make the chequered flag, the British ace dropped from first to fifth.
Misfortune for the factory Porsches was Team Falken’s gain though. After working their way into contention (including a period of leading the race during the early hours), the teal-and-blue car of Bryan Sellers, Wolf Henzler and Patrick Long secured third.
In the GTD class, the Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Alex Riberas, Mario Farnbacher and Ian James took GTD class victory, their first of the year, after a dramatic final lap.
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