This weekend sees the first double-header at Sebring with the running of both round 6 of the World Endurance Championship WEC, as well as round 2 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. This weekend’s activities will be a challenge for all involved in the organisation, the drivers and at team level, as everyone seeks to deliver the best performance possible. For the spectator or TV viewer, it offers an unprecedented marathon weekend of motorsport – what’s not to like!
“This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense race weekends of the year. The schedules of both series are so tight that we can only use a few personnel on both sides. Basically, the two races add up to a marathon of almost 24 hours. That’s definitely on a par with Le Mans, especially on this extremely demanding racetrack. We’ll have a 30-strong crew for each of the WEC and IMSA series, plus an additional 15 people for the GT3 and GT4 customer sport programme in the USA,” said Pascal Zurlinden, Director of GT Factory Motorsport.
At the race weekend in Florida, dubbed #SuperSebring, a total of 17 drivers from Porsche’s 25-strong driver squad will share driving duties in the factory cars and customers’ 911 racers.
WEC Round 6, Sebring
After five of the season’s eight rounds, the works team with its two Porsche 911 RSRs ranks first in the manufacturers’, drivers’ and team categories. Three customer squads field four other identical vehicle models in the GTE-Am category. Sebring has hosted the Sports Car World Endurance Championship WEC only once (2012) since the launch of the series. In the long history of endurance racing at Sebring, Porsche is by far the most successful manufacturer, with a total of 18 overall victories.
The factory squads will be contesting the 1000-mile race (or eight hours) with just two drivers per car. Richard Lietz and Gianmaria Bruni tackle the race with the #91 Porsche 911 RSR car. The cockpit of the identical #92 sister vehicle is shared by Le Mans champions Kévin Estre and Michael Christensen.
Julien Andlauer, Christian Ried and Matt Campbell will compete in the #77 car. An all-Italian crew shares the Dempsey Proton Racing #88 cockpit, with Matteo Cairoli and the father/son pairing Gianluca and Giorgio Roda. Manning the #56 Porsche 911 RSR for the Project 1 team is Porsche works driver Jörg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey and Egidio Perfetti. Michael Wainwright and Ben Barker share driving duties with Thomas Preining in the #86 Gulf Racing 911 RSR.
The #56 Porsche 911 RSR was severely damaged by fire during the second day of pre-race testing at Sebring over the weekend. Fortunately, Jörg Bergmeister, who was at the wheel at the time of the fire, escaped uninjured. Unfortunately, the car is beyond repair at the circuit, and the team has had to fly a replacement car to the circuit in the hope that it will be ready for the opening practice session today. The damaged 911 RSR will be returned to Germany where a thorough investigation will be undertaken to determine the cause of the fire. Crucially, with 84 points this season, the Project 1 team holds a sizeable 20-point advantage over their nearest rivals in the GTE Am class, so getting their replacement car up to speed quickly will be crucial.
Fritz Enzinger (Vice President Motorsport): “The race weekend in Sebring is very special for us. With the WEC and IMSA series being run as a joint event, the effort is huge.”
Pascal Zurlinden: “Thanks to the excellent results from the first five races of the current season, we’re travelling to Florida as leaders of the manufacturer’s and drivers’ championships. We want to continue this great run. Our victory last year at the IMSA race in Sebring has clearly shown that the Porsche 911 RSR is very competitive on this special racetrack.”
WEC Round 6 schedule
Round six of the season at Sebring gets underway on Friday, 15 March 2019, at 16h00 local time (20h00 GMT, 21h00 CET) and is contested over a distance of 1000 miles (or eight hours).
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Round 2, Sebring
Porsche aim to repeat last year’s major success at the upcoming IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Sebring. The factory team will field two Porsche 911 RSRs in the twelve-hour race in Florida. Like at the season-opening round in Daytona, the vehicles in the GTLM category will sport a modern interpretation of the legendary Brumos Racing design. In the GTD class, two customer squads will each run a Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The Sebring International Raceway is both famous and infamous. The well-used term ‘respect the bumps’ gives a very clear indication of what drivers will be up against on the 17-corner, 6.02-km track. The circuit, which was remodelled from a former military airfield, features brutal washboards. About a third of the circuit is not paved to modern standards, but instead consists of old concrete slabs. This requires intensive work to find the best vehicle setup in order to prepare for the demands of the 12-hour race.
Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frédéric Makowiecki will again share the #911 Porsche 911 RSR, while Earl Bamber, Laurens Vanthoor and Mathieu Jaminet drive the #912 sister car. behind the wheel of the #9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R customer team is Lars Kern and the two Canadians Scott Hargrove and Zacharie Robichon. Porsche works driver Patrick Long and his compatriots Patrick Lindsey and Nicholas Boulle share the cockpit of the identical #73 vehicle model run by Park Place Motorsports.
With 18 overall victories, Porsche is by far the most successful brand at the twelve-hour race in Florida. Held for the first time in 1952, the sports car manufacturer has dominated the event, particularly through the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1976 and 1988, Porsche amassed 13 outright victories in a row.
Pascal Zurlinden: “After the podium result at the season-opener at Daytona, we’d now like to follow that up with win. And the conditions look favourable. We won at Sebring in 2018 and now we want to repeat that. The car is very well suited to this classic and famously bumpy circuit.”
Steffen Höllwarth (Programme Manager IMSA SportsCar Championship): “I’m really looking forward to the Sebring race, it’s one of the biggest challenges in motor racing. The track demands absolutely everything from the drivers, teams and cars. It’s hard to win there.”
Sebastian Golz (Project Manager 911 GT3 R): “The 12 Hours of Sebring is a whole new challenge. At its first test kilometres, the new Porsche 911 GT3 R demonstrated very well that it can handle the special requirements of the track with its uneven road surface.”
In addition to the races at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, the 12 Hours of Sebring counts towards the North American Endurance Cup (NAEC).
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Round 2, Sebring schedule
The race takes off on Saturday, 16 March, at 10h40 local time (15h40 GMT, 16h40 CET) and can be viewed live outside the USA and Canada on www.imsa.com.
Edited by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Werkfoto