The 12 Hours of Sebring, the toughest and oldest sports car race in the USA, will be held for the 66th time on 17 March. Sebring is one of the oldest continuously operating race tracks in the United States, the first race to be run there was in 1950 with the first 12 Hours of Sebring race being held on 15 March 1952. The atmosphere at Sebring is legendary but in 1974, the race was cancelled due to the energy crisis, however several hundred fans showed up anyway to party.
First though, a little tour through the history books is called for, to illustrate just what an important race this is for Porsche. It is not only the 18 overall victories and 70 class wins that make Porsche the most successful manufacturer in this classic endurance race, but also unequalled are the 4198 laps that Porsche has been in the lead in this race, a tally which is unmatched by any other manufacturer. At least one Porsche has lined up on the grid every year since 1953 (apart from 1974 – see above), and the Stuttgart manufacturer can also boast the highest number of consecutive wins by a manufacturer – thirteen in total (1976-88). Fifty-eight years after the first overall victory with the Porsche 718 RS in 1960, Porsche will line up again this weekend represented by four 911s, two in the GTLM class and two in the GTD class. This race will also serve as round two of the IMSA SportsCar Championship and the North American Endurance Cup.
Porsche’s 2018 race cars
Porsche is now into its second year of competition with the 911 RSR and its mid-mounted engine, and depending on the size of the restrictor, the engine develops around 510bhp. A full explanation of this race car’s design and development can be found here. The large rear diffuser, combined with a top-mounted rear wing, provides strong downforce making the 2018 RSR one of the most aerodynamically efficiency 911s to date. For 2018, Porsche is offering its customer teams an evo-kit for the 911 GT3 R. Developing more than 500bhp, this race car was designed for worldwide GT3 series based on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car.
Porsche’s first victory at the Sebring International Raceway came in 1960 courtesy of Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien in the 718 RS/60. Since then, the sports car manufacturer has notched up a total of 18 overall victories and 70 class wins. The most recent success was in 2015 with the Porsche 911 GT America, fielded by Alex Job Racing. One year prior, Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Patrick Long triumphed at the wheel of a Porsche 911 RSR. Since 1979, Porsche has netted 28 GT class victories, with a Porsche starting from the GT pole position 15 times. With these impressive successes and an unparalleled series of 13 straight outright victories between 1976 and 1988, Porsche is a Sebring record-holder.
The race schedule – Saturday 17 March:
|08h00-08h20||Warm up – WeatherTech Championship|
|08h25-08h45||Porscheplatz car corral parade laps|
|09h15-10h10||Open grid/fan walk – pit lane|
|10h40-22h40||66th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring|
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Vice President Motorsport and GT Cars: “We didn’t start the 2018 season at Daytona with the results we’d hoped for. Although this adds to the pressure, it’s best for us to remain calm. The season has only just begun. We know where we need to make improvements and we’re working hard on this.
Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsports: “The second classic of this season poses a brutal challenge. The heat in Florida and the very bumpy racetrack push drivers to the limit. And the demands on the cars are more extreme than at any other race on the IMSA SportsCar Championship calendar. We’ve conducted more test kilometres in Sebring with our 911 RSR than on most other racetracks, so we’re very well prepared to face the stiff opposition.”
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R: “The Sebring International Raceway is a racetrack that puts the highest demands on the durability of the material. Thanks to its rear engine concept, the 911 GT3 R has excellent traction characteristics. It can use this advantage, mainly when accelerating out of the tight hairpin at the end of the start and finish straight. With the evolution package that we developed for 2018, our customers should be in a position to fight for a podium spot with the 911 GT3 R.”
Jörg Bergmeister (911 GT3 R #73): “The Sebring race is only half as long as Daytona, but twice as exhausting. The bumpy racetrack takes its toll over time and the car has to endure a lot, as well. Still, we all look forward to this challenge and to giving the enthusiastic fans a great show.”
With their unfortunate Rolex 24 luck well behind them, the Wright Motorsports team has their sights set high for this weekend’s event. Between working out of the Batavia Ohio-based shop and participating in the IMSA sanctioned February test, the John Wright-led team has worked tirelessly preparing for the gruelling bumps of Sebring.
Patrick Long (911 GT3 R #58): “A lot of people talk about the bumps, the hot weather and the length of the race at Sebring. That definitely takes a toll on the team and the car, but for me an interesting challenge is the temperature changes as the race progresses and what it does to the balance of the race car. I’m happy with how the test went. All of the objectives were reached, which should give us a good start heading into this weekend.”
Christina Nielsen (911 GT3 R #58): “Sebring has been a good track for me the last three years. It’s definitely one of my favourites, but the track is so bumpy that drivers really have to take care of the car. It exhausts both the car and the driver. The car needs to be balanced enough to race during the day, and still stay competitive after the temperature drops at night and we push through those final two hours of racing. It’s a super intense 12-hour race where everyone is pushing all the time, but it is still an endurance race. We’ll need to take it just one hour at a time and see where we are during the final two hours.”
Mathieu Jaminet (911 GT3 R #58): “I’m really happy to be back with Wright Motorsports for Sebring. I’m sure it’s going to be an exciting race. This is a new track for me, so it’s going to be a very new experience, like Daytona. It’s very different from any of the European tracks because it has many different surfaces and a lot of bumps. This makes it a bit difficult to setup the car, but I think we’re looking good and can be confident going into this race.”
Robert Renauer (911 GT3 R #58): “I´m really looking forward to joining Wright Motorsports again for Sebring with the same driver line up. The team did an excellent job at the test two weeks ago, so I’m sure we will have great pace for the second round in this championship. It´s not a track where you go out and drive 100%. This is a ‘real old school race track’, so you need some laps to get a rhythm in order to be fast.”
Porsche Road & Race will bring you an update on this great classic endurance race with results and commentary, so be sure to stay in touch with us.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto