12h Sebring 2008
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Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring

Sebring 15 March 2008

The 56th annual 12 Hours of Sebring took place under predominantly clear blue skies and high ambient temperatures on 15 March 2008. The 12 Hours is the US equivalent of the Le Mans 24 Hour race, with its atmosphere almost equally provided by the attendees as the on track action, which this year numbered some 100,000 plus. One advantage that the Florida venue has is almost guaranteed great weather, although there has been the occasional glitch over the years with heavy rain, which this year fell on the Friday evening, which had little effect on proceedings apart from giving the campers an involuntary shower!

... Qualifying images >>>

During race week the whole infield section of the track becomes what may be best described as a shanty town, with all manner of temporary structures, barbecues, beer bottle mountains, temporary and sometimes rickety viewing platforms, together with any number of “colourful” characters, creating a special atmosphere that is the antithesis of the serious racing action on the track. Then of course there are the obligatory attractive young ladies promoting a variety of wares in the paddock area, who always brighten up the scene and attract a miscellany of males wanting their photograph taken with them, no doubt to impress friends back home!
The event had an extensive support race back up, with no less than nine other races ranging from the Skip Barber National Series for single seaters, through IMSA Lites, Star Mazda, SPEED World Challenge Touring and GT car races, plus “rolling thunder” in the form of historic TransAm cars, which provided a real spectacle, both aurally and visually. Add in numerous corral parade laps for various marques, and it can be seen that there was an extensive and full programme for the motor sport enthusiast. As with Le Mans, the “social” activity is such, that were it not for the raucous sound of racing engines (apart from the almost silent Audi and Peugeot diesels) a fun time could be had without going trackside. Another always popular feature of both the ALMS and LMS events is the autograph session the day before the race, which enables the public to get up close to the drivers. One delightful young blonde took the closeness to new levels, by getting her scant chequered top autographed on the “protrusions” by a number of the drivers, who naturally willingly obliged!
LMP1 Qualifying cancelled after a BK Motorsports Lola accident
This first round of the ALMS was the first confrontation between the diesels from Audi and Peugeot in the LM “P1” category since Le Mans last summer. There the Peugeots had proved faster but fragile, but had since gone on to win the LMS crown, despite their frailty drawing out the conclusion to the final round at Interlagos in Brazil. However, this was without Audi opposition, which they will have this year, although judging by events at Sebring, both manufacturers have reliability issues that need to be addressed if they are to stay ahead of the opposition. In practice and qualifying the sole Peugeot generally had the edge over the pair of Audis, but when the qualifying session was red flagged after just over eight minutes running, due to an accident at turn 1 which saw the # 8 BK Motorsports Lola BO7 46 Mazda beached astride the tyre wall, it was the Audi duo that occupied the front row of the grid, as the ALMS rules resort to practice times if this sort of incident occurs. To equalise things the trouble free GT qualifying session was also annulled, and their practice times used to establish the grid positions. The overall result of this was that the # 7 Penske Porshe RS Spyder took the LM “P2” pole, the O’Connell / Magnussen / Fellows Corvette C6R took GT1, with the GT2 pole going to the # 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GTC of Melo/Salo/Bruni.
Peugeot and Audi battled with reliability problems
From the rolling start at 10.05 on Saturday morning the Peugeot jumped the Audis and easily held them at bay during the early stages, until the first of five safety car periods allowed them to close in again, particularly after the pits opened and the Audis elected to change tyres whilst the Peugeot stayed on old rubber. However, the Audis then suffered a couple of glitches, firstly when the # 1 car driven by Rinaldo Capello was adjudged to have punted the # 46 GT2 Porsche into the barriers and was given a Stop-Go penalty for “avoidable contact”, whilst the # 2 example driven by Marco Werner went off the track on consecutive laps at the hairpin. Then it was the Peugeot’s turn to be delayed, this time with a hydraulic problem on the gearchange system which necessitated a replacement pump. This would be the story of the race for the two top teams, with a variety of problems affecting their progress, the # 2 Audi needed to have a turbocharger replaced and the # 1 example had a suspension problem, then needed new front brake discs, whilst the Peugeot suffered a wheel bearing problem, something that afflicted them during 2007 in the LMS, and also suffered body damage. However, it certainly had the legs on the Audis when it was running, in the order of a second a lap quicker.
Capello / McNish / Kristensen Audi inherited the final podium position
Thus with the trials and tribulations of the main protagonists it was the P2 Porsche RS Spyders that benefited from their misfortune, whilst the Acuras proved a thorn in their side, particularly the Andretti Green Racing example, when in the hands of Marco Andretti. The P2 cars had a close battle to the flag, with overall and class victory eventually going to the Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder of Bernhard/Dumas/Collard ahead of the Dyson Racing example of Leitzinger/Franchitti/Lally, after the # 15 Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01B was excluded for failing the stall test after the race, due to a cracked airbox. Thus the Capello/McNish/Kristensen Audi inherited the final podium position, with the sister car finishing 6th, and the Peugeot came home 11th after using the latter part of the race as a test session.
Aston Martin DBR9 takes podium postion in GT1
In the GT1 class, barring problems, it was always going to be a Corvette benefit as they were some 5secs a lap quicker than the sole other contender in the class, the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin DBR9. The # 4 Corvette suffered a rare drive coupling failure early on in the race, which effectively handed the class victory to the # 3 sister car of O’Connell / Magnussen / Fellows, although the Aston Martin completed the race to fill the podium, despite rear brake problems.
Jaime Melo hands GT2 class victory to Porsche
In the GT2 category, the pole sitting Risi Competizione F430 GTC was a lap ahead of its pursuers approaching half distance when it all went horribly wrong. There had been a lengthy safety car period to effect barrier repairs, and on the first green flag lap, Jaime Melo seemed to vent his frustration by going too deep into the hairpin to try and pass the 2nd in class # 87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche, careered across the apex making heavy side to side contact with the Porsche, breaking the suspension and radiators on both cars. Although they both tried to hobble back to the pits, neither made it and were abandoned trackside. Thus the Flying Lizard Porsche team were able to take their revenge for the frantic Ferrari GT2 victory in 2007, with their # 45 car of Bergmeister/Lieb/Henzler taking the class win from the # 44 sister car of Law/Neiman/Davison, the only consolation for the Risi team being the final podium position for their # 61 car of Krohn / Jonsson / van de Poele.
Keith Bluemel

Ferrari Entries GT2 Class
Race # Model Chassis# Colour Entrant Drivers Pos.OA Pos.CL
48 F430 GT 2460 Red-White Corsa Motorsport G. Jeanette / J. Mowlem / R. Kelleners DNS DNS
61 F430 GT 2438 Lime-Blue Risi Competizione T. Krohn / N. Jonsson / E. van de Poele 14th 3rd
62 F430 GTC 2606 Red Risi Competizione M.Salo / J.Melo / G. Bruni DNF DNF
71 F430 GTC 2608 White-Blue Met. Silver-Red Tafel Racing D. Farnbacher / D. Mueller / R. Bell 20th 7th
73 F430 GTC 2610 White-Blue Met. Silver-Yellow Tafel Racing A. Simonsen / J. Tafel / P. Ehret 15th 4th

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