Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 911 GT3 Cup Customer Teams, Factory Drivers to Contest Multiple Classes at the 59th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring
Atlanta – March 14 – All eight Porsche factory drivers, more than 50 Porsche race cars, and even the winners of the 1971 race will converge on the small Central Florida city of Sebring this weekend for the 59th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, March 19, at 10:30 AM (Eastern).
Porsche 911 GT3 RSR Teams
As reigning GT champions of the American Le Mans Series, Porsche factory drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) enter this prestigious endurance race with their factory driver teammate Marc Lieb (Germany). The trio with the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Flying Lizard Motorsports spearheads Porsche’s customer teams in their GT class campaign against strong opposition from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar, Ford and Lamborghini.
The other Porsche factory pilots in the GT Endurance class are Wolf Henzler (Germany) for Team Falken Tire with co-drivers Bryan Sellers (USA) and Martin Ragginger (Austria); Richard Lietz (Austria) for Proton Competition with co-drivers Gianluca Roda (Italy) and Christian Ried (Germany); and Marco Holzer (Germany) for Flying Lizard Motorsports with co-drivers Darren Law and Seith Neiman (both USA).
René Rast (Germany), current Porsche Mobil 1 Supercup champion, celebrates his first ever USA race in the 911 GT3 RSR of Paul Miller Racing with co-drivers Bryce Miller (USA) and Sascha Maassen (Germany).
Audi also receives support from two Porsche works drivers: Le Mans winners Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) contest the LMP1 sports prototype class with the Audi R15+. Bernhard and Dumas, along with former Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller, took the Audi TDI diesel to victory this past year at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The same duo, along with former Porsche factory driver Emmanuel Collard, won the 2008 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder – the last Porsche to win Sebring overall.
The race – a rich history
The world’s most famous 12-hour race debuted on March, 15, 1952, -and, together with the 24 hour events in Daytona and Le Mans, is one of the most traditional long distance classics. Immortalized on the winners’ list are racing legends like Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti. Race mad Hollywood stars have also competed, like Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who finished second overall in 1970 with a Porsche 908.
Last year, Porsche driver Hans Herrmann visited the circuit in celebration of the 50th anniversary of Porsche’s first win at Sebring, as he and co-driver Olivier Gendebien won the race in 1960 in a Porsche RS60. This year is the 40th anniversary of the Porsche 917K win by Vic Elford and Gérard Larrousse, and both drivers will be at the track Friday to sign autographs and participate in the festivities.
With 18 overall and 64 class victories, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the Sebring 12 hour race. In addition to the 1960 Hans Herrmann/Olivier Gendebien win, Porsche went on an unprecedented winning streak from 1976 to 1988, with 13 overall wins in a row with drivers like Hurley Haywood, Al Holbert, Brian Redman, Bob Wollek, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Rahal and Hans-Joachim Stuck. In 2008, Joerg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb secured GT2 class honors with the 911 GT3 RSR run by Flying Lizard Motorsports, while Greg Pickett, Klaus Graf, and Sascha Maassen won the Sebring LMP2 last year in the Muscle Milk Porsche RS Spyder.
“Sebring is a real highlight for Porsche not only for the history we have here – and the 18 overall wins – but because it is an important beginning to a season where the GT class champion must finish well here to compete for the title. Not scoring maximum points at Sebring can ruin your title chances right at the start,” said Jens Walther, president of Porsche Motorsports North America, Inc.
Walther also pointed out that the ALMS GT Challenge class, plus the support races of the IMSA GT#3 Challenge by Yokohama – both featuring the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race car – have been an important part of the emergence of Porsche customer teams in the American Le Mans Series.
“As a development series for both young drivers and amateur competitors, the IMSA GT3 Challenge has seen a number of drivers such a Bill Sweedler, Brian Wong, Bob Faieta, Henrique Cisneros, Carlos Kauffmann, and Peter LaSaffre move un into GT Challenge, and former GT3 and GT Challenge driver Bryce Miller move into ALMS GT. This progression is part of the Porsche Motorsport goal to help development world-class sports car drivers,” said Walther.
Hartmut Kristen, Porsche Head of Motorsport worldwide, added that this will be the first real test of the results of improvements added to the cars over the winter.
“Sebring is a real highlight with which to kick off the new season. The race is the first important chance to see where we stand on a very demanding circuit. I think we’re all quite interested to see what the work over winter has yielded,” said Kristen.
Factory driver comments
Joerg Bergmeister: “It’s the toughest race of the season. In Sebring, extra points are awarded, so that alone is enough to make a good result especially important. A retirement here would be a real handicap in your bid for the title. We’ve done a lot of testing and are well prepared. The improvements on our 911 GT3 RSR are very promising. But it’ll be in qualifying at the earliest when we see if we’ve done everything right.”
Patrick Long: “This is our third season with Flying Lizard Motorsports, so we all know how to work well together. This is particularly advantageous with pit stops, which can play a decisive role at such a long race.”
Marc Lieb: “Sebring is often full of surprises. It has the fullest grid of the year. Good preparation is important for success, but it’s no guarantee.”
Wolf Henzler: “This is the race with the best drivers and the most spectators. The fans’ enthusiasm is fantastic. Americans simply want to see sports cars. Lots of fans even came and watched us testing.”
Marco Holzer: “This is my first time in Sebring and I can’t wait. I’ve just contested Daytona and now here’s the next classic – that’s the sort of start to the season that every race driver dreams of.”
Richard Lietz: “Fantastic race, fantastic fans. You’re always driving at the limit and you can’t afford to make one mistake. Only then do you have a chance. It’s a great challenge, but one that is huge fun.”
ALMS GT Challenge – Experienced teams do battle
The Black Swan Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup team is back to defend its 2010 GTC championship with a new 2011 car, but car owner Tim Pappas will be missing his experienced co-driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, who has an LMP1 ride for Sebring. However, Pappas has tabbed Jeroen’s brother Sebastiaan to join him and Damien Faulkner for Sebring.
There are no weak links in GTC for Sebring, however, as Kevin Buckler’s TRG team will enter two Porsches – one for Duncan Ende/Spencer Pumpelly/Alain Li and one for Dion von Moltke (other drivers still to be named). Other well-known Porsche preparers also have entries including Alex Job Racing (Bill Sweedler/Biran Wong/Leh Keen); NGT Motorsports (Henrique Cisneros/Carlos Kauffmann/Sean Edwards); GMG Racing (Bret Curtis/James Sofronas/Jam Seyffarth); Kelly Moss Motorsports (Bob Faieta/Andrew Davis/Peter LeSaffre); Magnus Racing (John Potter/Craig Stranton/Matthew Marsh); and JDX Racing (Nick Ham/Scott Blackett/Chris Cumming).
The GT Challenge class is for matched Porsche 911 GT3 Cup race cars.
IMSA GT3 Challenge by Yokohama – 40 entries for Sebring
The IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama features semi-professional drivers racing head to head in the largest single-make series in North America. Powered by one of the world’s most successful race cars, the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, the multi-class structure of the series teaches drivers essential skills for an eventual career in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. The series is divided into two classes; the Platinum Cup, featuring the more powerful 2011 and 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars, and the Gold Cup, which includes 2005½ - 2009 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars.
The largest field in several years – 40 cars – will kick off the season at Sebring with two 45-minute races. Defending Gold Cup champion Henrique Cisneros has moved up to the Platinum class for NGT Motorsports, while 2009 Gold Cup champion Melanie Snow also has a new Platinum class Porsche after taking last year off. For the first time in the series, Melanie’s son Madison will join her on the track, racing a Gold Cup car.
The Porsche 911 GT3 RSR – ALMS GT class
The most successful GT race car in the world since its introduction in 2006 starts the new season with a raft of improvements. The output of the four-liter, six-cylinder boxer engine has increased to 455 hp (335 kW). Priority in the further development of the car was given to the newly designed aerodynamics at the front and rear. Again in 2010, the 911 GT3 RSR won the environmental "Michelin Green X Challenge” classification, as the GT vehicle with the best overall efficiency in the American Le Mans Series.
Porsche 911 GT3 Cup – IMSA GT3 Challenge by Yokohama and ALMS GT Challenge
The 2011 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car, a dedicated race car which starts its life on the passenger car assembly line – the only race car at Sebring this weekend to do so – has important refinements for this year following its major upgrade a year ago. An FT3 safety fuel tank system, modified welded-in roll cage with additional shoulder and door bars, new and optimized carrier plate assembly, optimized fourth and fifth gear ratios, adjustments for rapid oil filling retrofitting, and a larger, 100-liter fuel tank highlight the improvements for this year.