ENDURANCE WINNERS CONQUER THE CHALLENGES
After 12 hours of intense racing, the winners of the 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring were greeted by fireworks as they crossed the finish line at Sebring International Raceway. America's oldest circuit is also one of the world's most challenging, in part owing to the flat and featureless landscape. Long straightaways, tight corners and switchbacks contribute to driver fatigue making concentration paramount to staying on the bumpy track which itself generates tremendous stress on the suspension and produces a skittering effect under braking. A handful of laps on this track requires skill and talent, 12 hours of racing on it demands superior endurance from both driver and machine.
After trading first and second throughout the race with their teammates in the #2 car, the #1 Joest Audi R18 e-tron Quattro, that had started from pole position, took the P1 win by a mere 7.68 seconds. Winning driver Benoit Treluyer (Alecon, FRA) shared the car with Marcel Fassler (Gross, SUI) and Oliver Jarvis (Burwell, GBR). The #2 car, driven by Lucas di Grassi (MON), Tom Kristensen (DEN) and Allan McNish (GBR) finished second. Taking third, five laps behind the leader, was the #12 Rebellion Racing Lola B12/60 driven by Nicolas Prost (Fechy, FRA), Nick Heidfeld (Monchengladbach, GER) and Neel Jani (Jens, SUI).
'For me, a fantastic week and a fantastic couple of months,' said Jarvis with a nod to his GT win in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in the #24 Audi R8. 'It's been a fantastic start to the year for me. I could never have dreamed of this. To win at Daytona was unexpected, but to come here and win again is a dream come true. It was a privilege to be invited to race here. When I got the call I put the phone down and started jumping. I've had two races in America and two wins. I hope to come back in the future.'
Fassler, who had earned the pole during qualifying, noted that winning the pole was a great thing, but that it was just one lap compared to a 12 hour race. 'The Race is always quite tough,' said Fassler. 'To leave Sebring as a winner is a great feeling. Sebring is well known in Europe and to win a big race is good for a driver.'
Treluyer, who brought it home tonight, gave credit to his co-drivers. 'Marcel did a really great job on the pole position and Oliver did a great job through the night…he pulled away, and I just had to keep the gap.'
In the P2 class the victory was also claimed by the pole starting car. The #551 Level 5 Motorsports HPD ARX-03B, driven by Scott Tucker (Leawood, Kan.), Marino Franchitti (Edinburgh, GBR) and pole winner Ryan Briscoe (Sydney, AUS), finished ahead of their teammates in the #552 car driven by Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Simon Pagenaud (Montmorillon, FRA). Third in class was the #41 Greaves Motorsport Zylek Z11SN with the driving team of Tom Kimber-Smith (Reading, GBR), Christian Zugel (Holmdel, N.J.) and Eric Lux (Williamsville, N.Y.).
With Tucker driving stints in both the #551 and #552 cars, he takes home not only two trophies, but also a Rolex watch which each driver in the five class-winning cars were presented. Additionally, he is the fourth driver in the race's history to win the 12 Hours of Sebring four years in a row.
The PC class win went to the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry driven by David Cheng (Samamish, Wash.), Mike Guasch (Pleasant Hill, Calif.) and David Ostella (CAN), followed by the #8 BAR1 Motorsports car driven by Kyle Marcelli (CAN), Chris Cumming (CAN) and Stefan Johansson (Los Angeles, Calif.). The #500 Performance Tech Motorsports car driven by Tristan Nunez (Boca Raton, Fla.), Charlie Shears (Houston, Texas) and David Heinemeier Hansson (Chicago, Ill.) took the third spot on the podium.
Oliver Gavin (Northhamptonshire, GBR), Tommy Milner (Leesburg, Va.) and Richard Westbrook (London, GBR), in the #4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1, edged out the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Gianmaria Bruni (Rome, ITA), Olivier Beretta (Monte Carlo, MON) and Matteo Malucelli (Meldola, ITA) for the win in the GT class. Taking third in class was the #17 Team Falcon Tire Porsche 911 GT3 RSR driven by Wolf Henzler (Nürtingen, GER), Bryan Sellers (Atlanta, Ga.) and Nick Tandy (Bedford, GBR), 'It certainly seemed like we were making it harder for us than we wanted to at times,' said Gavin. 'We had some issues with the car and got a lap and a bit down and then we got a penalty for something, I'm not entirely sure what, but that cost us 60 seconds. The crew were absolutely fantastic today, but more so Tommy and Richard drove fantastically, especially Tommy at the end of the race, he was amazing. He put so much pressure on the Ferrari that towards the end the Ferrari made a mistake and we took the lead. It was an amazing 12 hours of us never giving up. I'm delighted for everybody at Corvette Racing.'
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Richard Westbrook said that it was clear from the beginning that they had a good car. 'When I had the problem with the dashboard it put us two laps down, but after a few yellow flag periods and great driving stints by these two guys we got back on the lead lap and of course thanks to those two great pit stops we managed to get in the lead. At one point I was concerned because we weren't getting the expected yellow flag periods and in fact I think we had, at one point, five hours of green flag running and it was then that I felt maybe this is just not going to be our day. Then came the amazing pit stops and Tommy's great driving at the end. On the balance of things I believe we deserved this win, we did it the hard way.'
Eleven Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars ran in the GTC class with the win going to Alex Job Racing's #22 car driven by Cooper MacNeil (Hinsdale, Ill.), Jeroen Bleekemolen (Monte Carlo, MON) and Dion von Moltke (Coral Gables, Fla.). Nelson Canache Jr. (Caracas, VEN), Spencer Pumpelly (Atlanta, Ga.) and Brian Wong (Newport Beach, Calif.) were second in the #45 Flying Lizard Motorsorts entry, followed by Henrique Cisneros (Miami, Fla.), Marco Seefried (Wemding, GER) and Sean Edwards (MON) in NGT Motorsport's #30.
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Tommy Milner acknowledged that the team was off to a great start to the season. 'I'm still a bit lost for words. After my first stint we were about a minute behind the Ferrari and I wasn't able to close the gap much but when we made our next two pit stops our Corvette crew did an absolutely incredible job. I think the first one was about 20 seconds and the second one was 10 seconds. After the first one it gave me so much confidence I just kept pushing, it was an unbelievable finish.'