IN THEIR OWN WORDS: POPULATION DENSITY
Comparing the car-to-track ratio of Le Mans and Sebring
An impressive grid of 56 cars are entered for the 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. That’s the same size as the field for the 24 Hours of Le Mans but there the similarities end. While the Le Mans circuit spans 8.4 miles, Sebring measures 3.7 – less than half of the famed French track. With that in mind, we asked the drivers how “car density” plays a role in their race at Sebring versus Le Mans.
Allan McNish, Audi Sport Team Joest Audi R15 (LMP1) “This is the most cars we’ve had at Sebring as long as I’ve been coming. I think the last time we were here there were 34 cars in 2009, so we’ve nearly doubled the number of cars. At Le Mans, you tend to overtake the cars on the straights because there are a lot of big, long straights. At Sebring, you don’t have that luxury; you’ve got to overtake anywhere you can and that can be around the outside of Turn 10 or sliding to the inside into Turn 13. So, I think the traffic and anticipating the traffic will be a bigger factor here than it ever will in Le Mans, even though the speed difference is probably bigger at Le Mans.
“The other thing is with Sebring being the first race of the year, there’s going to be drivers there we don’t know and we’ve got to learn them very quickly. We’ve got to learn who’s going to do what - what the actual line of a GTC car is relative to a GT car or where the LMPC is quick and where it’s not so quick. That’s something that we get a little bit of a feel for in testing leading up to the race but in reality, it’s when you get into Hour 3 and 4 of the race that you get a bigger picture.”
Tommy Milner, Corvette Racing Corvette C6.R (GT) “(At Sebring) you’ve got six different classes of cars all racing at different speeds and different levels of drivers. But the biggest difference is you’ve got 56 cars on a smaller race track than Le Mans, so it’s going to be tough for sure. The pit lane here is tight and these races are all about not making mistakes. I want to push as hard as I can, but it comes down to not making mistakes on the track or in the pits. With so many cars it makes it that much harder. We’ll be working hard enough to race everyone in our class without having to think about other cars. It’s the same story in endurance racing, but with so many cars and such a big event like this, it’ll be tough.
“Since it’s the first race of the year, we’ll have a bunch of cars we’ve never seen before. We get used to certain cars and drivers, but then we come here for the first race and we don’t know what to expect from a lot of the guys. It’s a good thing that we have all this practice time so everyone is really prepared when it comes time for the race. That’s a big thing, all the unknowns. You don’t know certain drivers and certain cars. Hopefully after an hour or two, you get in a rhythm and everyone can get going and get into the race.”
Gunnar Jeannette, CORE Autosport ORECA FLM09 (LMPC) “Le Mans has five straightaways that are almost a mile long. It makes passing slower cars much easier when you’ve got a turn and a big straightaway. At Sebring, you’re just trying to hold onto the car in Turn 1 and Turn 17 and now you’re coming up on a GTC car with a 30mph speed differential and you’ve got an Audi or Peugeot behind you with another 20 or 30mph speed differential… we’re going to be very, very busy at Sebring this year that’s for sure.”
Matthew Marsh, Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (GTC) “For somebody like me - who is first and foremost an enthusiast - doing a race like this is because it’s one of the great races in the world. Of course, I have a great respect for the history and for the drivers that make history like the Kristensens and the McNishes and so on, so I feel a great deal of responsibility to those guys when I’m racing. It’s very difficult in a GTC car to keep up with the LMP1s, especially on a circuit like (Sebring) which is very high speed and the vision is difficult here, more so than Le Mans for sure. It’s much narrower here and there aren’t the straights like Le Mans. My first impression is that it will be much more difficult to keep out of the way. The density here is twice as high as at Le Mans. I’m hoping that about 10 hours into the race it might calm down a bit with people dropping out. That’s the big challenge though, to be quick and have a good race without messing up anyone else’s race.”
The 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida is set for 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 19. The race will be shown live and in its entirety on ESPN3.com and americanlemans.com starting at 10:15 a.m. ET. ABC will provide coverage from 12:30 to 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20. Visit the American Le Mans Series’ schedule page for information on tickets and area accommodations.