Sebring 12 Hours
12 HOURS OF SEBRING: TOP CLASS RACING FROM START TO FINISH
The 59th annual 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race, the first event on the 2011 ILMC calendar, offered exciting racing and ended with an unexpected winner. Although a tight battle between the Audi and Peugeot works teams was expected, in the end it was the privately entered, older Peugeot of Oreca Racing that crossed the finish line first. Throughout the twelve hours there were constant changes in leaders, not only for the overall position but also in the many classes. In the GT class BMW was victorious, narrowly beating contenders Corvette and Ferrari.
Both the LMP and GT Intercontinental Le Mans Cup classes were not decided until the final laps. In each category, the top-three finishers were all on the same lap at the end of the twelve-hour endurance race. The 12 Hours of Sebring is also the opening race in the American Le Mans Series which is run within the same rules as the ILMC.
For Oreca Racing owner Hughes de Chaunac, a long time team-owner in motorsport, it was his greatest win: “It is huge and historical to win here. We won all by ourselves, it was our own strategy. It was a great job of the whole team and of course the Peugeot is a great car.” Earlier incidents, involving both the Audi and Peugeot work teams also determined the outcome of the race. A “coming together” of Marc Gene’s Peugeot and Dindo Capello’s Audi sent both cars to the garage. In the second Audi, Rolex 24 At Daytona and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller suffered two punctures and lost precious time for repairs. In the end, it was a three-way battle between the Peugeot works team of Montagny/Sarrazin/Lamy, the Highcroft Honda of Brabham/Franchitti/Pagenaud and the Oreca Peugeot of Lapierre/Duval/Panis, and it was the Oreca entry that prevailed with the smallest margin, covering 332 laps on a classic, beautiful Florida day. The Highcroft Honda, which runs in the ALMS championship, was just 32 seconds behind.
In the GT class, BMW took both first and second. The Bavarian cars are built and prepared in Munich but run in America by the team of former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal. The last stint in the winning BMW was done by Joey Hand, bringing the young American another success, as earlier this year at the Rolex 24 At Daytona Hand also was part of the winning team. “We had a difficult start with a cut tyre, but did not lose too much time,” said Hand. “We made some minor mistakes but in all, the reliability counted.” The second placed BMW finished just 37 seconds short. The works Corvettes came home third and fourth. The GT-AM class, the GT class for amateur gentlemen drivers, was won by the Krohn Racing Ferrari. In the LMP2 class, the Lola Honda with Indianapolis 500 regular Ryan Hunter-Reay took the laurels.
Of the 56 starters, twenty cars ran in the ILMC while the others are competing in the American series. The GTC class, in which nine Porsches competed, was won by Black Swan racing with drivers Pappas, Faulkner and Sebastiaan Bleekemolen. Sebastiaan’s younger brother, Jeroen, finished the Sebring event seventh overall driving the Lola Toyota. The LMPC class of the ALMS, was won by the team of Peterson/Cameron/Guasch.
Overall, there were 18 lead changes in an endurance race which also saw nine yellow caution periods for minor incidents.
While the American Le Mans Series will have its next race four weeks from now in Long Beach, California, the ILMC cars will run next in Belgium on May 9 at the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack. Both series will meet again on the first of October when the Road Atlanta in Georgia will host the Petit Le Mans race. The ILMC, for which Rolex is a proud partner, will have its final race in China in November.
Rolex and motorsports Rolex is the Official Watch and Timekeeper for the Intercontinental Le Mans Cup. Rolex has been Official Timekeeper for 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2001 and Title Sponsor of the Rolex 24 At Daytona in North America since 1992. In 1965, Rolex added the name Daytona to the dial of its Cosmograph line in tribute to this great race at the International Speedway. The presence of the Rolex brand in automobile racing has grown steadily ever since.
Rolex supports the tradition of auto racing through events that celebrate design, speed and passion including the Goodwood Revival (UK), the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion (USA), the Pebble Beach Tour D’Elegance presented by Rolex (USA), the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance (USA) and The Quail: A Motorsports Gathering (USA).
Rolex affiliation also extends to two key figures in the sport: Sir Jackie Stewart from Scotland, one of the greatest drivers of his generation, and Danish driver Tom Kristensen, record eight-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.