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Super Sebring: Friday Paddock Notes

Notes before the WEC sace starts (at 16:00 local)

Media briefing update

An extensive media briefing took place today at Sebring with representatives from the FIA, WEC and ACO, revealed a number of talking points around the future LMP regulations, future plans for the Le Mans 24 Hours, and a potential expansion of entry numbers.

A potential for review of the selection process and the organisation’s thoughts on the Super Sebring meeting also formed part of the discussion.

There will be a number of stories on DSC in the coming days, covering all of the above, in depth.

Clearwater out of the 1000 Miles

Clearwater Racing will not take the start in today’s Sebring 1000 Miles, it’s Ferrari 488 GTE deemed irrepairable by the team after Luis Perez Companc’s shunt in Qualifying yesterday.

A full report of qualifying is available HERE >>>

Gallery of Legends

Renamed in honour of sportscar racing’s late, great torch-bearer, Thursday evening saw the unveiling of the Don Panoz Gallery of Legends. A prominent feature of the Sebring paddock area, DSC took a short tour of the venerable machinery on display ‘for the fans.’

The collection spans over 50 years of U.S. sports car competition, from the 1950’s through to the renaissance sparked by Dr. Panoz and the ALMS into the new millennium.

First up, a perfectly restored and a still competing race car, this 3.8 litre 1952 Jaguar XK120 Coupe is similar to the two coupes that ran in the 1953 12 Hours of Sebring.

Into the ‘60s with a very pretty little Austin Healey Sebring Sprite. This lightweight factory prototype was an entry in the 1964 12 Hours in the “GT under 1.3 Liters” class. A lightweight aluminium body means the car weighs less than 1230 pounds and exceeded 130 mph in the race.

The first American muscle comes from, of course, Corvette. This 1963 Split Window version did 25 professional races between 1969 and 1974, won the first-ever IMSA Camel GTO Championship in 1972 and finished 11th out of 72 starters in the 1973 Sebring enduro.

1969, and the Lola T70 Mk3 B that won the South African Springbok championship for Frank Gardner and Mike DeUdy, before contesting the 12 Hours of Sebring with DeUdy and Mike Hailwood in 1972. Sold to Steve McQueen’s Solar Productions, the car was used in the making of the ‘Le Mans’ movie.

Winning the 1975 Sebring 12 Hours, this 3.0 CSL Group 4 was the first to be developed under the BMW Motorsport banner. One of five chassis that competed in the ’75 and ’76 seasons with legends including Brian Redman, Sam Posey, Ronnie Peterson, Dieter Quester and Hans Stuck among others.

No race car collection is complete without a Porsche, the Stuttgart brand well represented here. The ‘oldest’ early 1970s 911 S example is actually a tribute car to multiple Sebring racer and local constructor Dave White.

Into the 1980’s with Porsche and Group C. This Lowenbrau liveried 962 finished second and third at Sebring in 1985 and 1986 respectively, driven by Al Holbert, Derek Bell and Al Under Jr., then raced by Al Holbert and Chip Robinson for second place in 1987.

The eponymous Panoz name takes pride of place, the distinctive and iconic 2002 LMP Roadster S competitive at Le Mans and the American and European Le Mans Series. This particular chassis won the 2002 Washington DC ALMS race for David Brabham and Jan Magnussen and finished third behind the two Audis in the LMP900 championship.

Powered by a ‘smaller’ 5.0L Ford V8, the Panoz Esperante GTLM took the GT2 class victory at Sebring in 2006 for Scott Maxwell, Sebastian Bourdais and David Brabham and was the longest running GT car in the history of the ALMS, competing between 2004 and 2009, including two appearances at Le Mans.

From the same era, the Flying Lizard Porsche 996 GT3 RSR was a fan favourite. Debuted at the 2005 Sebring 12 Hours and third in class at Le Mans in 2005, this car never finished outside the top ten in class in 2005 amid big GT grids and had a long list of solid results through 2006.

This is the BMW V12 LMR that won here at Sebring in 1999 for Tom Kristensen, JJ Lehto and Jorg Muller, its sister car victorious in the Le Mans 24 Hours the same year.

As a closing statement, the unique and technically progressive DeltaWing was a typically bold project for the Panoz marque. Proposed but turned down as an IndyCar concept its radical design reduced drag and halved weight while maintaining speed and handling characteristics. Competing at Le Mans in 2012 the car ran steadily until crashing out after 75 laps and was then campaigned in the ALMS and USCC series until 2016.

Aston drivers weigh in before the race

DSC spoke to Alex Lynn and Marco Sorensen yesterday ahead of the big WEC race at Sebring.

For Lynn, the outright winner of the 12 hours in 2017, Sebring is a special place, but the focus here this weekend is clearly on using that experience to extend the factory Aston Martin team’s development in the FIA WEC Super Season.

“Looking back from my side I think Sebring 2017 was the biggest win of my career so far still. I had an amazing day with the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac crew and I get a great feeling rolling back into this place.

“I think the new car improves every time we go racing. The nuances of this WEC super season means technically the car’s only really raced five times, which really isn’t a lot, and so we are still learning every time we take the car out, but there is clear progression each time.

“I think we were actually quite controlled in our approach. We made a step forward from where the car was over the Saturday/ Sunday test, and we hope to make some further steps forward tonight, but Friday is where the money’s focused. There’s a lot of attention on suspension and tyre degradation – kerb strike is an important consideration here; everyone talks about the bumps and it’s really one for the chassis designers.

“I think a good combined corner entry and corner exit combination is what we need, it’s a lot of braking and turning here, then accelerating and turning, so it puts a lot of lateral loads on the car as well as kerb strike and suspension bouncing. It’s a tough one for an engineer to set up a perfect race car and there’s always a compromise. I think the track is fairly self-policing but we’ll respect the Sebring tradition of keeping it open. The new pit-in could throw a few people too.”

“A podium would be a realistic and nice result for us, particularly in the #97 car, which has shown well so far. We’ve had a really positive few days, quickest in both sessions, and I and Maxime are well overdue a good finish.”

From the other side of the Aston Martin Racing garage, Sorensen reflected on his Sebring experience and the loss of momentum since taking the new Vantage’s first class victory at Shanghai:

“The long winter has been really frustrating, I’ve been really motivated after the result and months out of the car is just too much for me so I’m just happy to get started, the last time I was in a car was actually at Shanghai.

“Here we are three in the car so the seat time won’t be as much as I would like but Darren brings so much I think we should soon be up to the race pace, he has been readjusting to this category but now he’s matching everyone. We are working hard on settling the car down and trying to stay out of trouble.

“I’ve never raced here and I have done five test days in all, that’s not a lot in total. It’s hard to relate to that though once everything gets started properly; that night session yesterday is the first baseline you get for what the race conditions might be like. The main thing is to see if we can get the tyres to last and what their performance is like over a stint.

“During the test, we had some really heavy traffic conditions and that makes you realise how tough this track can be, particularly where it is quite narrow. We’re going to see some guys struggling with that in the race, even in the LMP cars.”