COVID-19 pushed the 12 Hours of Sebring from its typical March date to the end of the season in November, and somehow it ended up being an even more exciting endurance classic than it usually is. Rather than ending just after dusk, the fall date meant more than a third of the race ran in the loaming of the evening or the proper darkness of night. With a bit of bad luck on the part of its GTLM class competitors, and a strong showing from the 911 RSR for its last race in the IMSA series, Porsche managed to bring home a proper 1-2 victory. And the cherry on the sundae is that the Wright Motorsports entered Porsche 911 GT3 R in the GTD class also managed to find victory lane for the German marque.
While Porsche didn't necessarily have the quickest car at the 12 Hours of Sebring this year, the team didn't put a single wheel wrong all race, and that made all the difference. With both of the championship-winning Corvettes failing early, it was a knock-down drag-out fight between the two 911 RSRs and the two BMW M8 GTEs. In the end it was the Porsche crew which managed to find victory lane with a 1-2 finish. Nick Tandy, Fred Mako, and Earl Bamber managed to bring the #911 car home in first. The #912 car with Laurens Vanthoor and Neel Jani, plus a double-duty Earl Bamber, came home in second. It's pretty impressive that Bamber managed to finish both 1st AND 2nd at Sebring this year.
Both Porsche racers had found their way onto the podium in the closing stages of the race, which included a late-race caution period which didn't go green until about 17 minutes remaining in the 12 hour event. BMW had held the lead, and looked to have the legs on the Porsche in the cool of the night. The leading BMW, however, got caught up in a GTD contact shemozzle and cut a tire, dropping it a lap at the end, and down into third. This promoted Porsche into the all-important 1st and 2nd positions at the end of the race. No matter how it got there in the end, Porsche had the car and the drivers to keep everything together for 12 hours!
Another side benefit of that late race GTD class shemozzle meant that Porsche also won the GTD class. When the runners ahead came together in the final minutes of the race, Porsche's Patrick Long managed to nurse a struggling machine to the finish in first place in class. It was a monumental effort, but one that deserves a huge round of applause. Teaming with Ryan Hardwick and Jan Heylen, Patrick Long and the Wright Motorsports team nearly managed to take the championship, losing out on the GTD champ by 2 tiny points.
Thank you Porsche for delivering us an incredible 6 seasons of 911 RSR competition in the IMSA series. It's been great. Wish it didn't have to end.
Comments on the race
Steffen Höllwarth (Head of Operations IMSA Championship): “I’m incredibly proud of the team. This weekend wasn’t easy for us. Because of the upcoming farewell, the mood was different than usual, but everyone coped just fine. We weren’t the fastest in the field, but we were the ones who made the least mistakes – and that’s how things like this happen. Suddenly you find yourself at the front. After three straight wins at Sebring, I’d say that this track has become our turf. Now it’s time to celebrate!”
Frédéric Makowiecki (Porsche 911 RSR #911): “I can’t believe it! This is the third win in a row for Nick and me at this 12-hour classic. It’s a very special and unforgettable achievement. We may not have been the fastest today, but at such moments, that’s precisely the time to throw our hat into the ring. We worked flawlessly, the crew did a perfect job and as such we virtually forced our luck. I’m over the moon.”
Earl Bamber (Porsche 911 RSR #911/#912): “It feels somehow very strange to be called on to the podium as the winner and runner up at the same time. You don’t get that every day. I contributed only in a minor way to the victory of number 911 car, my main task was to do the stints in ‘my’ number 912 car. Our 911 RSR could never match the pace of the sister car, but we still didn’t give up. A one-two at the finale – there’s no better way to bid farewell to a racing series. It’ll remain in our memories forever.”
Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche 911 RSR #912): “There’s nothing better than such success at a farewell. This is a dream result for Porsche, of course. At the same time, I’m a little disappointed. Our No. 912 was never really up with the play in the race. We were very strong in the practice sessions, so we thought we’d have a good chance of winning. But at least it stays within the family.”
Patrick Long (Porsche 911 GT3 R #16): “At times we tried to calculate theoretically because in certain phases of the race we were actually on track to claim the championship. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite enough. It wasn’t our fault, because we made the most of it with this victory. We’re thrilled about this success. We’ll take that as a motivation boost into the upcoming season.”
Result GTLM class
1. Tandy/Makowiecki/Bamber (GB/F/NZ), Porsche 911 RSR #911, 332 laps
2. Vanthoor/Bamber/Jani (B/NZ/CH), Porsche 911 RSR #912, 332 laps
3. Krohn/Edwards/Farfus (FIN/USA/BR), BMW M8 GTE #24, 331 laps
4. Spengler/De Phillippi/Herta (CDN/USA/USA), BMW M8 GTE #25, 330 laps
5. Garcia/Taylor/Catsburg (E/USA/NL), Corvette C8.R #3, 323 laps
6. Gavin/Milner/Fässler (GB/USA/CH), Corvette C8.R #4, 293 laps
Result GTD class
1. Long/Hardwick/Heylen (USA/USA/B), Porsche 911 GT3 R #16, 319 laps
2. James/de Angelis/Turner (USA/CDN/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 319 laps
3. Farnbacher/McMurry/Michimi (D/USA/J), Acura NSX GT3, 319 laps