Sebring: Rahal Letterman Racing race report

AFTER ROUGH START RAHAL LETTERMAN'S GT2 PROGRAM IS IMPRESSIVE AT SEBRING SEBRING, Florida - Rahal Letterman Racing's GT2 Porsche program debut got off to a rocky start when the No. 18 Bell Micro Porsche was involved in first lap contact in...

AFTER ROUGH START RAHAL LETTERMAN'S GT2 PROGRAM IS IMPRESSIVE AT SEBRING

SEBRING, Florida - Rahal Letterman Racing's GT2 Porsche program debut got off to a rocky start when the No. 18 Bell Micro Porsche was involved in first lap contact in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The contact ruptured the radiator and required the RLR car to be taken behind the wall to be repaired. By the time Porsche returned to the historic 3.7 mile course, RLR had been served a sizable 12 lap handicap. With ample time on their side the RLR trio of Ralf Kelleners, Tom Milner and Graham Rahal began clicking off the laps and climbing their way through the ultra competitive GT2 class.

RLR cracked the top-ten half-way through the race and moved into the top-six with just over two hours to go. All three drivers drove double stints (2 hour shifts) and pushed RLR back into contention.

"It is really unfortunate that Ralf [Kelleners] got caught up in that first lap incident, because we showed we had a pretty good car," said Tom Milner who drove in his second 12 Hours of Sebring. "The start is always a tough situation because one car spinning can cause a chain reaction. He didn't have anywhere he could go and we ended up with a ruptured radiator. It was just bad luck there. Had we not had that incident I have no doubt we would have finished on the podium."

"We had a rough start as a team, getting hit on the first lap, which put us down by 12 laps, but the car ran very solid from then on," said Graham Rahal. "Overall we patient as a team and took advantage of opportunities when they presented themselves and moved forward. It is always awesome to race at a race as rich in tradition as the 12 Hours of Sebring, but being here with my Dad's team and trying to win the same race that my Dad and my Grandfather won, makes it even more special."

Ralf Kelleners was behind the wheel of the No. 18 Bell Microproducts Porsche on that fateful opening lap. "Everyone was trying to give each other some space, but we were still close enough together that when the Panoz (Team PTG) car in front of me spun I had nowhere I could go and the Porsche behind me (Farnbacher Loles Motorsports) clipped me from behind," said Kelleners. "There simply was no place to go to avoid the contact. Overall I think the team showed its strength today. A start like that can derail a lot of teams, but from top to bottom the team did a great job of patiently working to get back in the race. I am not surprised that a team with this kind of depth and leadership can overcome a tough start and produce a positive result."

The winning car for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring was the Audi LMP1 entry of Audi Sport North America which thwarted the faded late race challenge of Andretti Green Racing's LMP2 Acura which driven by IndyCar Series regulars Tony Kanaan, Bryan Herta and Dario Franchitti. Corvette Racing swept the top two slots in GT1 while Risi Competizione's Ferrari edged the Flying Lizard Motorsport's Porsche for top honors in the GT2 class.

The American Le Mans Series will return to the track in two seeks for the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg as part of the Grand Prix of St. Pete (March 30--April 1).

-credit: rlr

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