FIVE PORSCHE RS SPYDERS, FIVE PORSCHE 911 GT3 RSRs, AND 40 PORSCHE 911 GT3 CUP RACE CARS TO CHALLENGE COMPETITION AT MOBIL 1 TWELVE HOURS OF SEBRING WEEKEND
SEBRING, Florida - March 8, 2008 - For the Porsche owner and race fan, the 2008 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring brings the best of the past and present in Porsche Motorsport all in the same place at the same time next Saturday, March 15, at 10:00 AM EDT at Sebring International Raceway.
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring will be telecast on Saturday, March 15, live on SPEED TV, starting at 9:30 AM Eastern Daylight Time (the green flag drops shortly after 10:00 AM EDT). Live radio broadcast, plus live scoring and pit notes, are available at www.americanlemans.com, starting with qualifying on Thursday, March 13. Follow the progress of Porsche teams and view photos at www.porschemlotorsport.com.
56th Running of Sebring
As the 56th running of America's longest-running sports car race, Sebring history and Porsche racing history are very much parallel, with Porsche's first racing victory in Austria in 1948. Porsche owns all the major manufacturer records at Sebring, including 17 overall wins, but perhaps the most telling statistic is that at least one Porsche has competed at Sebring every year since 1953 - 54 straight races (there was no race in 1974). No other manufacturer is close to that record.
For 2008, Porsche competitors come into the American Le Mans Series - the feature 12-hour race of the weekend - with ten cars in two classes, plus five cars in the SPEED TV World Challenge and 32 identically-matched Porsches in the newly-named IMSA Challenge by Michelin.
The American Le Mans Series, which starts its new season with Sebring 12 Hours on the bumpy airfield circuit in central Florida, is the longest and toughest race of the year and presents the greatest challenge for drivers and teams.
"At this race we're all at our limits," says Porsche works driver Timo Bernhard (Germany), defending LMP2 co-driving champion in the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder prototype. "Those who are not optimally prepared have no chance."
Also, a good finish at Sebring is important for the championship chase for the rest of the season. Due to its race length, more points are allocated at Sebring than at the majority of the other races, so success at the season-opener can give an excellent boost in the race for the title.
"Our objective with the RS Spyders in Sebring is to win the fiercely competitive LMP2 class," says Porsche head of motorsport Hartmut Kristen. "We've made improvements to several areas of the RS Spyder. The aerodynamics have been upgraded, the fuel consumption optimized. We think we are excellently prepared for Sebring and the challenges of this season."
Kristen pointed out that the Honda-powered Acura LMP2 cars have also improved for 2008, and that they outlasted the RS Spyders at Sebring a year ago.
Porsche RS Spyder
In 2007, the Weissach-developed and built sports prototype set the benchmark in the LMP2 class of the American Le Mans Series. Its impressive balance of success: eight overall wins and eleven class victories. With this, Porsche not only won the drivers title with Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas (France) but was also undisputedly the most successful manufacturer.
With factory support from Porsche, Penske Racing, winner of the team title in the last two years, again fields two RS Spyders in the LMP2 class. This is the most fiercely contested class in the American Le Mans Series. It features almost twice as many starters as the second sports prototype LMP1 class and offers fans the most exciting fights for positions. The RS Spyder with starting number six is shared by Sascha Maassen (Germany) and his new team mate Patrick Long (USA). The pair receives support from Ryan Briscoe (Australia) in Sebring. Manning the number seven RS Spyder are Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Emmanuel Collard (France) joins the duo as the third driver for the season-opening round.
The US privateer Dyson Racing team, supported by Porsche as part of its successful customer racing program, enters its second season running two RS Spyders. Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) share the cockpit of the #16 car. Butch Leitzinger (USA) and Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) pilot the #20 RS Spyder. Providing back-up in Sebring is Andy Lally (USA).
Horag Racing brings the fifth Porsche-assisted RS Spyder to Sebring. The Swiss privateer racing team celebrates its debut in Florida with the sports prototype from Weissach, before returning across the pond to contest all rounds of the European-based Le Mans Series. With Fredy Lienhard (Switzerland), Didier Theys (Belgium) and Jan Lammers (Netherlands) the team has signed on an experienced line-up for their RS Spyder with starting number 27.
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on the 3.7-mile airfield circuit is a tough endurance test for both car and driver. Pilots must not only withstand extreme stresses with the many bumps on the circuit, but over the course of the race must tackle 5,500 corners and make around 7,000 gear changes.
In the face of such torture, Timo Bernhard remains calm. "We train hard to be top fit from the very first race," he says. In preparation for the season, Porsche put its works drivers through an intensive fitness camp on the Canary island of Fuerteventura, where they received both physical and mental training.
Romain Dumas has no problem to start the year with the longest and toughest race. "At least we know immediately where we stand compared to our rivals. Sebring is a fascinating race and an excellent season-opener," he said.
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
Porsche is also well represented in the GT2 class, having captured victories in 911-based cars 28 times. Three teams and five cars will represent Porsche in the Sebring 12-hour event for 2008.
The most distinguishing feature of the new 911 GT3 RSR is the front end which received major improvements to the aerodynamics. The majority of innovations however are hidden under the body, where an optimized air ducting with newly- designed side air outlets generates more down force and reduces drag. Much of the know-how in the GT3 RSR's totally new gearbox, developed by Porsche engineers, has come from the RS Spyder sports prototype. The range of possible suspension set-ups was broadened.
These improvements should make the Porsche very competitive against last year's champions, the Ferrari 430. Although Porsche and Ferrari had classic battles, and the cars were very close in 2007, the Italian marquee won both the driver and manufacturers title. Porsche had won those titles seven of the eight previous years of the American Le Mans Series.
Flying Lizard Motorsports leads the Porsche customer contingent at Sebring with three of the new, updated Porsche 911 GT3 RSR racers. Sharing driving duties in the #45 Flying Lizard Porsche are Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), the 2006 champion and second-place finisher last year, with his new team mate and fellow German Wolf Henzler. Providing back-up is their Porsche factory driver colleague Marc Lieb (Germany). Johannes van Overbeek (USA), current Porsche Cup champion and the new Porsche works driver Patrick Pilet (France) drive the #46 Flying Lizard Porsche, with factory driver team mate Richard Lietz (Austria) as the third driver. In the #44 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, Darren Law (USA), Seth Neiman (USA) and Alex Davison (Australia) will share the driving duties.
Farnbacher Loles Racing, a veteran Porsche racing organization, will carry its championship form to the American Le Mans Series for the first time this season, combining forces with champion drivers Dirk Werner and Marc Basseng. Farnbacher Loles and Werner won the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT team and driver titles in 2007. Basseng adds a European championship. They hope to match that success in the ALMS this year.
Werner, of Kissenbruck, Germany, and Basseng, of Leutenbach, Germany, will drive the team's No. 87 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR in the 11-race series. A third driver will join them for the longer endurance races, with their Sebring choice to be announced in the next couple of days.
Both Werner and Basseng have excelled in international sports-car racing. In addition to his Rolex Series title, Werner won three 24-hour races last year, in Dubai, England and the United Arab Emirates. He also has a class win in the 24H- Rennen Nurburgring and a class podium in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and won the 2006 Porsche Carrera Cup championship. Basseng's results include an overall podium in the Nurburgring 24-hour race, a class win in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the 2003 Renault Clio Speed Trophy title. He competes in several series, is a contract test driver for Porsche and provides television commentary for Porsche Carrera Cup and Porsche Supercup races.
The third Porsche team in GT2 is also a veteran Porsche organization, but also new to the American Le Mans Series. VICI Racing is a Miami, Florida-and Munich, Germany-based racing team with more than 20 years of experience competing at the topmost levels of international sports car racing, in both GT and prototype categories, in Europe and the United States. VICI Racing is a wholly owned subsidiary of the VICI Group, which comprises of technology-led companies. VICI Racing roll call of wins includes GT victory in the Daytona 24 Hours.
VICI has also purchased a 2008 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, and hope to make an impact with 1994 Porsche supercup champion Uwe Alzen, former Grand-Am champion and ALMS Porsche veteran Craig Stanton, and 2006 IMSA GT Cup champion Nathan Swartzbaugh.
IMSA Challenge by Michelin
The International Motor Sports Association (IMSA), Porsche Motorsport North America (PMNA), and Michelin have taken the successful IMSA Challenge by Michelin and expanded it again for 2008. Beginning with the American Le Mans Series' Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring weekend , the IMSA Challenge (renamed from the IMSA GT3 Challenge) will run 14 races at seven venues and will expand into two classes to attract even more participation.
The Platinum Cup championship will be contested by competitors who enter the new 2008 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racers, with its increased horsepower to 420 bhp. The Gold Cup championship is for those racers who own 2005 - 2007 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
Although the two classes will run together n the track - similar to the American Le Mans Series events, there will be two winners, two podium ceremonies, and two sets of championship point standings.
The 2008 IMSA Challenge by Michelin continues to give top semi-professional and gentlemen drivers from the United States and North America the opportunity to compete with such prestigious organizations as the American Le Mans Series and the Formula One in the world's most successful GT car - the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup racer. The latest purpose-built race cars, based on the 2008 Porsche 911 body style, will have sealed engines and transmissions, providing for close racing where the driver's talents are exemplified. PMNA provides technical support for the IMSA series with personnel, parts and expertise both away from and at the track.
Perhaps the best way to measure the success of the series from the point of view of young drivers trying move up the motorsports ladder is to see where some of the series graduates have landed in the three years of the IMSA Challenge.
Lawson Aschenbach, the 2005 series champion, went on to win the SCCA SPEED World Challenge series in 2006, and earned a Cadillac factory seat in that series in 2007, finishing third in the final points. 2006 series champion Nathan Schwarzbaugh is a regular in the Rolex Grand-Am series, and 2007 front-runners Charles Scardina and Bryce Miller were both seen at the recent Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in January with Porsche rides - with Miller securing a season-long contract with the TRG Porsche team.
As the series ran with the Formula 1 event at Indianapolis last year, the 2008 schedule includes two races with F-1's only North American appearance at the Montreal Grand Prix.
Returning drivers for 2008 include last year's champion Bob Faieta, 2007 race winners Dino Steiner and Tom Papadopoulos, and multiple podium-finisher Tom Pank. Familiar Porsche race car preparers Kelly-Moss, AASCO Motorsports, Alex Job Racing, TRG, Orbit Racing, Farnbacher Loles, NGT Motorsports, Werks II/P7 Racing, and Kinetic Motorsports have all signed up for the '08 season with multiple entries.
SCCA SPEED World Challenge
The other Porsche racing event of the weekend, the 2008 edition of SCCA's SPEED World Challenge GT Championship Series, begins in March at Sebring and is scheduled for stops at Long Beach, Miller Motorsports Park in Utah, Watkins Glen, Mid-Ohio, and Mosport. The GT series will conclude the GT season with a double header at the new Thunderbolt track in New Jersey and the season ending race at Road Atlanta 7 days later.
Defending 2007 World Challenge GT Drivers' Champion Randy Pobst, of Gainesville Georgia, will return to action along with five-time World Challenge champion Michael Galati of Olmstead Ohio, who was 4th in points in 2007, driving the K-PAX/3R team Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
Dino Crescentini, in the Global Motorsports Group Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; team owner James Sofronas in the team 911 GT3 Cup; Philip Martien in the At Speed Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; Tim Mckenzie in the TR Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; Paul Brown in the 911 Design Porsche GT3 Cup; teammate Eric Olberz in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; Sean Allen in a Porsche 911 GT3 Cup; and John Bourassa in Porsche 911 GT3 Cup round out the Sebring Porsche World Challenge entries.