As racetracks in the United States go, Sebring must be a favorite among the Porsche Motorsport folks in Weissach. Porsche, as luck would have it, has more wins at the 12 Hours of Sebring than any other manufacturer, 18 overall victories in total. As endurance races go, Sebring has to be among the top 3 events in the world, historically, and Porsche has a long history with the race. Their amazing record streak of 13 consecutive overall victories from 1976 through 1988 won't be surpassed anytime soon.
Following an excellent batch of racing at the famed Rolex 24 at Daytona, Porsche came away with the GTLM victory, but their strength-in-numbers couldn't get them the GTD victory. You can rest assured that Porsche will be aiming for a repeat victory, and will certainly stop at nothing to ensure a double-class win at Sebring. The Daytona winning Porsche Motorsport North America cars will be returning for a run at the "36 hours of Florida" GT Le Mans class victory (being back-to-back wins at Daytona and Sebring) and the Falken Tire team will be debuting their new 911 RSR at Sebring as well. A whole host of 991 GT Americas will be joining them to tackle the GT Daytona category.
There are those that say that 12 hours driving around the Sebring track is more grueling than 24 hours driving around Le Mans. In the past, when LMP1 teams competed at Sebring, they would use it almost as an endurance test in preparation for Le Mans. This is among the most excruciating races in the world, and attrition is a huge factor at Sebring. The level of talent among the driver pool is second to none, and it should be among the best Sebring races to date. As the first 12 Hours of Sebring run under TUSCC jurisdiction, there are sure to be some teething problems, but the racing shouldn't disappoint.
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Porsche in the GTLM Category
#17 - Team Falken Tire
Falken, having had to sit out the Daytona 24 for lack of testing time after receiving their new 991 RSR, will be coming to Sebring with a brand new car and a lot of development time for the circuit. The driver combination for the 2014 season consists of the returning dynamic duo; Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers. They will be teaming with another Porsche factory driver in the form of Marco Holzer. Traditionally, the Falken team has been a driving force in endurance racing, and Sebring should be no different. Last year, Falken grabbed a podium at the 12 hour classic, and the new car is a known performer. Keep an eye on this blue and green machine.
#911 and #912 - Porsche North America with CORE autosport
The 911 car famously held off the competition to win the Daytona 24 hour in January. Drivers Patrick Pilet, Richard Lietz, and Nick Tandy are coming to Sebring with an aim at retaining their points lead in both the United Sports Car Championship and the North American Endurance Challenge. Tandy and Lietz are teaming for the full season, with Pilet stepping in again to assist with driving in the Sebring 12 hour. This car is packed with hungry drivers, and a repeat victory isn't an impossibility.
The 912, meanwhile is to be again piloted by Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Long, and Michael Christensen. At Daytona, the 912 was just slightly slower than than 911, and ran strong in second place until it retired after daybreak on Sunday. Long and Bergmeister have become something of a superstar pairing in the past, and are known quantities, with lots of seat time in Porsche GT cars. Christensen was the new kid in the car at Daytona, and served quite well by keeping the car's nose clean and keeping up competitive lap times.
In pre-Sebring winter testing, the Porsche Motorsport North America pairing took the top spot in all four sessions. Both cars managed to dip below the 2 minute mark around the Sebring International course. Again it was the 911 car that took the fastest lap of the two, but 912 was not far behind. While Porsche was slow at Daytona, winning on endurance more than speed, it seems like the 911 RSR teams will have both speed and endurance on their side. This will be a good race, don't miss it.
Trivia to impress your friends - Porsche has instituted a 6-car Werks racing team in the form of two TUSCC 911 RSRs in GTLM, a pair of WEC 911 RSRs in GTE Pro, and two WEC 919 Hybrid in the LMP1 category. All six cars share a single uniform livery, displaying the merits of Porsche Intelligent Performance.
Porsche in the GTD Category
#18 and 19 - Muehlner Motorsport
Muehlner Motorsport arrived at Sebring with the same two cars they brought to Daytona, but after driver Nico Verdonck suffered a heavy crash in Thursday night practice, the team will only be running the #19 car in the race.
Drivers Earl Bamber, Kyle Gimple and Ruggero Melgrati will be representing the team, and it is likely that Norbert Siedler will be transferred from the 18 to the 19 for the 12 hour endurance. A good driver lineup and a good team.
#22 and #23 - Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle
AJR came off of Daytona with a seventh place finish in their primary car, and a relatively disappointing 14th for the Team Seattle car. The positive takeaway was that both of their cars were still running at the end, and stayed in the hunt all weekend. Alex Job Racing is a known quantity at Sebring, having taken nine wins there, including four in a row between 2001 and 2004. Having that team back in a Porsche GT car is certainly a boon for p-car fans. Team members, Cooper MacNeil, Lehman Keen, and Philipp Frommenwiler will be sharing the #22 car next weekend. AJR does a great job of selecting drivers, and this trio should do well.
The #23 car is officially entered by Team Seattle, with support from Alex Job. Team Seattle runs endurance race events to raise money for the Seattle Children's Hospital, which they've been doing since 1997. Ian James, Alex Riberas, and Mario Farnbacher (brother of SRT Viper driver Dominik) will continue to partner for the 12 hour.
Trivia to impress your friends - Team Seattle is supported by Gabe Newell, co-founder of the Valve Corporation; producer of successful video games like Portal, Left 4 Dead, Half-Life, etc.
#27 and #28 - Dempsey Racing/Konrad Motorsport
After an arduous and unsuccessful Daytona 24, Dempsey is ready to return to the track at Sebring. For this year, Dempsey is committed to racing 100%, and it shows in his on-track improvements. Teammate Andrew Davis has long been a good choice to drive, and should help Dempsey develop in his racing. Rounding out the team for Sebring co-owner Joe Foster.
The #28 car will again be run in conjunction with the Konrad Motorsport group out of Germany. Konrad has lots of endurance racing experience, and this should be helpful at Sebring. The car will be driven by Christian Engelhart and Rolf Ineichen. No other drivers have been announced yet.
#71 and #73 - Park Place Motorsports
The final of the four returning 2-car Porsche teams, Park Place is back for Sebring after a somewhat disappointing Daytona. In January's 24 hour, the #73 car finished 17 laps down to the GTD winner, and the #71 a massive 96 laps in arrears. Both cars had considerable talent aboard, but ran into some issues, and none of the Porsches were particularly competitive. Sebring, though, could be a different story if they can stay out of trouble.
The 71 car will be running with Dr. Jim Norman, Craig Stanton, and Norbert Siedler, while Patrick Lindsey, Kevin Estre, and Connor De Phillippi will pilot the #73 Vess Energy car.
#13 - Rum Bum Racing / Snow Racing with Wright Motorsport
After a promising GTD podium, finishing highest among the scad of Porsches at Daytona, the Snow Racing car showed some excellent speed. Young Madison is quite the wheel man, and he is again joined by Jan Heylen for Sebring. Unlike Daytona, however, the Snow car will be jointly run with Matt Plumb of Rum Bum Racing. Plumb is an accomplished GT driver, and will certainly be an asset for the team.
Matt's brother Hugh Plumb will also be joining the team, creating an interesting four-driver lineup that could do quite well. If they keep their nose clean, this car is fast enough that I expect it to end up on the podium, if not the top step.
Trivia to impress your friends - Rum Bum Racing was founded by Luis Bacardi, descendant of the famed rum producer.
#30 - NGT Motorsport
Venezuelan-American driver Henrique Cisneros will again lead the NGT team at Sebring. Joining Cisneros for 12 hours of fighting in Sebring, FL is Kuba Giermazak, and Christina Nielsen. Against our urging, the MOMO car has not been wrapped in the reflective red and gold that they've used for the last few years, but it is still an attractive and well prepared car.
#44 - Magnus Racing
John Potter's unique Magnus Racing team, a favorite among fans, didn't have a great Daytona 24. They struggled with a slow car and a number of issues, but kept chugging along to the end. They have the distinct advantage of being the first team to take delivery of the all new 991 GT America, and have already had the car out for testing at Sebring previously. They're not only familiar with the car, but they're familiar with the car at Sebring. Potter returns to the driver's seat with Andy Lally, and Marco Seefried, so good results are only a 12 hour drive away, surely.
#81 - GB Autosport
GB Autosport is back for Sebring, and they've retained the same driver lineup they had in January. Team investor Michael Avenatti has again added his name to the entry list, but was removed just before Daytona, so nothing is to say that won't happen again. The team was thrown together in a very short time, as they only just began planning a few months ago. Drivers Damien Faulkner, Bob Faieta, and Patrick Huisman will surely help the team progress.
Who Is Porsche's Competition?
The GTLM class looks very similar to how it did at Daytona with factory teams from just about every manufacturer of Grand Touring Endurance cars. Two C7s from Corvette Racing, two Z4s from BMW Team Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan, two factory backed Vipers, a Ferrari 458 Italia from Risi Competizione, and another 458 from Krohn Racing. The primary difference is that the single entry Aston Martin has dropped out, and the Falken Tire Porsche has taken its place in the field. Porsche Motorsport North America swept all four GTLM sessions of testing at Sebring, so if the #911 and #912 continue their clean driving and keep churning out laps, they are looking good for a repeat.
GTD is nothing like GTLM, as there are again no clear winners in this class. Porsches were quick at the Sebring test, taking the class honors 3 out of 4 times, but minor performance adjustments may still be made to this class before the race starts. As the highest subscribed class, GTD is packed with Porsches, 12 in all. At Daytona, the finish in GTD was close with a number of cars in contention all race long, and this GT class at Sebring is just as good. The talented drivers in this field will continue to astonish at the challenging Sebring track, and their diverse machinery has me unable to predict the finish. Porsche again has the strength in number, and not one of them can be counted out to factor well in the final standings. TRG was also quick in testing with their new Aston Martin program, Extreme Speed Motorsport's Ferrari, or any of the five Audi R8s in the field (GMG, Flying Lizard, Fall-Line, or Paul Miller) are also good contenders. The major change for the GTD class is the withdrawal of the Daytona winning Level 5 motorsport team, though that car will be run at Sebring by the AIM Autosport Racing team.
As always, the name of the game is being as fast as possible while spending as little time as you can in the pit lane. Whoever stays on the racing surface most will likely be crowned the champion of Sebring.
Resources and How to Watch/Follow Along
The 12 Hours of Sebring on Twitter for Porsche Fans
Entry List: Click Here
Timing and Scoring: TBA
IMSA Mobile App: Click here.
Andy Blackmore's annual spotter's guide: Click Here
Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fan Schedule: Click Here
Motor Racing Network: radio streaming of the race
Saturday, March 15th
10 a.m. - 1 p.m. EST on FOX Sports 1
1-10 p.m. EST on IMSA.com
Other Porsche Blog Posts You Will Enjoy
Porsche Well Represented In 2014 Sebring Hall Of Fame Inductees
Video Intro To The Porsche North American Factory Team At Daytona
Introducing “Valentina” Falken Tire’s 2014 Porsche 911 RSR