Tudor USCC: 12 Hours of Sebring GTLM race report
The #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Porsche North America Racing has won America’s oldest endurance race, the 12 Hours of Sebring, providing the US factory team with its second successive victory in the 2014 Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
New to the Porsche factory driver roster, Michael Christensen gave the #912 machine pole position on Friday afternoon, lapping the 3.74-mile Florida track in 1m58.933s to edge out the two BMW Z4 GTEs by a scant 0.1 seconds.
Nick Tandy’s Daytona-winning #911 RSR wound up sixth after a troubled day of practice on Thursday. However, when the green flag waved on Saturday morning, the Briton immediately vaulted up to fourth as Patrick Long led the GTLM field in #912.
The opening half of the race was defined by numerous full-course caution periods, leading to three of the first six hours of action being run under the safety car. The subsequent rounds of pitstops continually shuffled the GTLM order.
During the first round of stops, the #911 and #912 Porsche 911 RSRs dropped to fifth and sixth respectively however, Tandy was soon fighting his way to the front, getting as high as second in class before disaster struck the #911 car.
In the second hour, while just behind the class-leading Ferrari, the championship-leading 911 sustained damage after contact with a spinning Prototype Challenge class competitor. After returning to the pits, repairs dropped the car six laps down and out of contention. The crew would eventually finish four laps back in ninth place.
This left the #912 machine of Christensen, Long, and Jörg Bergmeister as Porsche’s only hope of victory and they duly stepped up to the plate battling back through towards the front.
After four hours, Christensen was running second, before handing over to Bergmeister took over and moved into the lead at the halfway point, closely pursued by the #55 RLL Racing BMW Z4.
The next few hours saw the challenge of the BMWs fade, with the Corvette Racing C7.Rs and SRT Racing Vipers replacing the Munich machines as Porsche’s biggest rivals as dusk crept over the Sebring tarmac.
With Long back at the wheel, the #912 moved back into second after another round of pitstops but the American was soon demoted to third by the #91 Viper as the race entered its final third.
As the final hour came around, the #91 Viper was on a charge at the front of the GTLM field, looking comfortable ahead of the #4 Corvette, the Krohn Racing Ferrari, and the #912 Porsche 911 RSR.
Porsche had one roll of the dice remaining, bringing their lead car into the pits with 45 minutes left on the clock just as one final full-course caution was called. Bergmeister jumped behind the wheel and found himself at the head of the field with a comfortable cushion of cars between him and the second-placed #91 Viper.
“I was just telling myself ‘don’t mess it up’ those last laps,” explained the German who held on to secure Porsche North America’s second USCC win during the 20 minute sprint to the chequered flag.
“At first I pushed fairly hard and the car was really good,” Bergmeister said. “But, when I heard there was just five minutes to go I took some pace out and just tried to control it.”
The Team Falken Porsche 911 RSR, the first customer 991 racer, continued its solid showing of pace on its debut with regular drivers, Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler (joined by Porsche factory pilot, Marco Holzer) coming home fifth in GTLM.