2016 WeatherTech USCC: 12 Hours of Sebring race report
Porsche North America Racing secured its second successive WeatherTech United SportsCar Championship podium with the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki and Michael Christensen coming home third after a tumultuous 12 Hours of Sebring.
As at Daytona two months ago however, the result could have been even better for the US factory race squad had it not been for more problems with the leading no. 911 RSR, driven by Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Kévin Estre.
Once again, qualifying saw the two works Porsche 911 RSRs focus on race setup and, as such, meant that the no. 911 car would line up seventh on the GTLM grid, with the sister no. 912 machine in tenth, despite both proving fast in the free practice sessions on Thursday and Friday.
However, come the start of the racing on Saturday morning, the two Porsche 911 RSRs began moving their way through the highly competitive GTLM field, sitting on the fringes of the top five when rain started to fall at the 12 Hours of Sebring for the first time since 1997.
Porsche North America Racing used the tricky conditions to their advantage, making the correct tyre calls for both the no. 911 and no. 912 machines to vault the duo to the head of the field.
As the rain became heavier, Tandy took over from Pilet and went on a charge, easily lapping as the fastest car on the track to take the GTLM lead after just over two hours of racing.
Behind, Bamber (who had replaced Makowiecki at the wheel of the no. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) was tracking his 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans teammate through the field, sitting in second when the increasing deluge flooded the track in places and lighting in the area threatened the safety of the track marshals.
The ensuing red flag – after nearly four hours of racing – lasted for over two hours and, when racing resumed the two Porsche 911s once again led the field, though as the track began to dry their advantage began to lessen.
Both cars, with Estre and Christensen at their respective wheels, were in the thick of the lead battle and it was in defending the lead at around the halfway mark that the no. 911 car’s hopes were ended.
Battling with the no. 3 Corvette for the lead and coming up to lap a GTD class car, Estre chose to take the inside line for the fast turn one in an attempt to block Jan Magnussen in the Chevrolet.
However, spotting a patch of water too late, Estre locked up and careered into the side of the Corvette, sending both spinning into the barriers and the Porsche out of the race. The Frenchman was taken to hospital for evaluation but was later released after the heavy hit.
Like Daytona, this left the no. 912 Porsche to fight the no. 4 Corvette alone however, on the now-dry track, the 911 RSR didn’t have quite enough speed, falling away from winners of round one and into the clutches of the no. 25 BMW M6
At the last round of stops, the BMW vaulted ahead of the Porsche and, despite a late race caution period leaving a 15-minute sprint for victory, Bamber, Makowiecki and Christensen once again had to settle for third place.
The result leaves Porsche running second in all three WeatherTech USCC standings, with the no. 912 machine sitting just one point behind the no. 4 Corvette in the North America Endurance Cup (a mini series comprising Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans).
Next up for the Porsche North America Racing squad is the Long Beach Grand Prix, the shortest race on the 2016 calendar at just one hour and 40 minutes. The event takes place on the Californian streets on 15-16 April.
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