Continuing the 2016 IMSA season with another endurance race in Florida, the 12 Hours of Sebring kicks off this weekend for a once-around-the-clock sprint race at an old airfield. This is one of the best races of the year, as the course really takes its toll on the cars, the drivers, and the teams. When you roll up to the grid at Sebring, literally anything can happen, and you have to be prepared for all of it. Back in January, we saw another Daytona 24 that Porsche would soon rather forget, but they're hopeful for a Sebring rebound like they saw in 2015, taking the win in GTD, at least. Both GTLM cars looked strong here last year, but suffered fluke faults that kept them out of victory lane. Now is as good a time as any to rebound and rally around the Porsche teams. Most everything, give or take, is about the same as it was in Daytona, with most teams dropping to a 3 driver team in GTD, and Frickadelli went back to Europe. No matter, Porsche has some of the greatest driver lineups in history at Sebring this year.
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PORSCHE IN THE GTLM CATEGORY
#911 and #912 - Porsche North America with CORE autosport
Porsche has a lot of experience running at Sebring, and they have a lot of experience with this 991 chassis RSR, with this being their third time with this generation car at the Sebring 12. This is the third year that Porsche has brought out a pair of 991 RSRs to take on all comers in the GTLM category at Daytona. As the higher of the two GT categories, GTLM is set up for a very good year of competition, so Porsche had better bring their A-game if they hope to work in another victory. 2015 saw a lot of success from this program, including multiple championship victories and ending the season on the highest of notes with an endurance race overall victory at Petit Le Mans. Porsche's RSR program has been quite good, and there should be no reason to believe otherwise for 2016. As good as Porsche has been, though, the competition keeps getting stronger.
In the 911 car, Porsche has Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, and Kevin Estre. In the 912 car slots Earl Bamber, Fred Mako, and Michael Christensen. The teams have shown that they can work together well, and even though they didn't win at Daytona, they played near the front all day, and ended up only 12 seconds shy of the victory. Consistency, speed, and staying out of trouble seemed to work pretty well at Daytona. Corvette played it just a little bit better, though. With some patience, and just a little bit of speed, Porsche could nab this one. It won't be easy, but what endurance race is?
PORSCHE IN THE GTD CATEGORY
#22 and #23 - Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle
Like at Daytona, the #22 AJR car has one of my favorite lineups in GT racing history, and they just keep going from strength to strength. Cooper MacNeil remains one of the better so-called amateur drivers out there, and when you team him with Lehman Keen, and Gunnar Jeannette, you have a wickedly quick lineup. Shane Van Gisbergen, unfortunately has prior engagements in the V8 Supercars series 'Down Under'.
As predicted, at Daytona, the 23 car actually finished ahead of the stunning 22 team, just by staying consistent and staying out of trouble. That wasn't enough to get them the win, but it got them 5 laps ahead of their team. Ian James, Mario Farnbacher, and Alex Riberas return to the team with impressive results. Porsche handed them Wolf Henzler for the Rolex 24, and sadly he isn't with the team for Sebring, as cool as that would have been. Hopefully they'll do alright without him.
#73 - Park Place Motorsports
Park Place is a team that has really improved since they were introduced to the Porsche world a few years back. For this season, Porsche has been generous enough to lend them Jörg Bergmeister as a third driver, which certainly cannot hurt. Norbert Seidler drops from their roster for Sebring, leaving Bergmeister to work with Pat Lindsey, and Matt McMurry. This is a perfectly capable lineup for Sebring, and we wish them well.
#540 - Black Swan Racing
Black Swan was the biggest story of the Daytona 24 hour race, as they were fighting close to the front, and managed their strategy quite well in order to finish second while cars ran out of fuel all around them. I'm still not sure how Rene Rast managed to find extra fuel in his Audi to pull out the victory, but just a couple more stumbles and Black Swan would have won the laurels. Porsche tossed factory driver and mega-talent Patrick Long into the car as well, nearly ensuring excellent results. Joining Pat are Nick Catsburg and Andy Pilgrim, as well as team owner Tim Pappas. Tim seems like a good guy, but he's definitely the slowest of these four drivers. As long as he limits his own time in the car again, this quartet will most likely finish quite well.
WHO'S PORSCHE'S COMPETITION
As we saw at Daytona, the new cars for BMW, Ferrari, and Ford all proved to have teething issues, some more catastrophic than others. That said, every single one of them had stellar speed over a single lap. If they can work out the kinks, they could easily be contenders for the win. Not to mention the fact that all three of those manufacturers are now using turbocharged engines, which could provide an advantage in the cool evening air as sun sets just before the finish at Sebring. Corvette and Porsche had similar strategies at Daytona, which was to run a quick steady pace and stay out of trouble. No doubt the same will be true at Sebring. Don't count anyone out, as the whole field can win the GTLM class. Stacked full of amazing drivers and quick cars, this is a tough class.
Porsche had five cars at Daytona and will only have four at Sebring this weekend in the GTD class. The class features a whopping 22 cars, and absolutely every one of them is a contender for the class victory. The balance of performance is very close, and the driver talent runs about as deep as any Sebring 12 hour has ever seen. With this year's regulations allowing the use of FIA GT3 cars, this class is pretty much a roll of the dice for who your favorite might be to win. The Audis and the Lamborghinis were very fast at Daytona, though the Lamborghinis have been neutered a little bit after it was found they were outside the rules a bit. Look for Magnus to try to defend their Sebring title, and extend their success from Daytona this year into a 36 hours of Florida victory. This is an exciting category, and that's the understatement of the century.
RESOURCES AND HOW TO WATCH/FOLLOW ALONG
The 12 Hours Of Sebring On Twitter For Porsche Fans
Entry List: Click Here
Timing and Scoring: Click Here
IMSA Mobile App: Click here
Andy Blackmore's annual spotter's guide: Click Here
- 10:30 AM - Noon Eastern: Fox Sports 1
- Noon - 7 PM Eastern: Fox Sports 2
- 7 PM - 10 PM Eastern: IMSA.com
- 10 PM - 11 PM Eastern: Fox Sports 2