2011 Sebring 12 Hours Preview
With a resident population of less than 25,000 Sebring is usually a sleepy town in central Florida and yet, every March, Sebring comes alive to the sound of engines and race fans. This year sees the 59th running of the 12 hours race at Sebring, which this year not only marks the beginning of the American Le Mans Series, but also the results will count towards the new Intercontinental Le Mans Cup (ILMC). The ILMC is the new competition that the ACO (Automobile Club de L’Ouest) hope will grow to become the new world championship for sports cars. This means that the entry list this year reads like a who’s who of endurance racing, and will hopefully act as an appetizer for the season to follow, and the big race itself; The Le Mans 24 Hours.
As a circuit Sebring is unique, both for spectators and drivers. The track is a former US Air Force base, and the former runways that now form the track are made up of large slabs of concrete. This makes the driving difficult as the circuit is short, windy and quite bumpy compared to some of the other circuits we are familiar with. For the thousands of spectators who descend on Sebring each year, the entertainment on the infield is as ferocious as the racing is on the track, and the views are good for those who fight to get trackside.
Peugeot won at Sebring last year, although it was a hollow victory in the absence of Audi, but this year Peugeot are returning to debut 2 of its new 908 cars. Oreca-Matmut will be adding a third Peugeot to the grid, but this will be the 908 HDi-FAP from last year. Audi are bringing 2 cars to Sebring this year, but sadly these will not be the new R18. Instead Audi are competing just this one race in a modified R15+ with the new car set to debut at the next ILMC round at Spa.
The absence of Aston Martin from Sebring (the new AMR-ONE is not yet race ready) is disappointing but this should be an opportunity for some other teams to make their presence felt. Fans of the American Le Mans Series will be familiar with the teams from Highcroft Racing, Muscle Milk and Dyson Racing whilst Rebellion Racing will feature at Sebring with a Toyota powered Lola whilst Oak Racing will take to the grid with 2 Pescarolo Judds.
There is a much smaller field in the LMP2 class. Signatech is a new name with a new Nissan powered Oreca 03 chassis. Oak Racing back up their LMP1 entries with a BMW powered Judd Pescarolo and then Soctt Tucker’s Level 5 Motorsports are aiming to be present with 2 Honda powered Lolas with one open topped and the other a coupe. Only one of these cars is entered in to the ILMC but it remains to be seen which one.
24 cars make up the GT entry at Sebring this year, and several manufacturers have a good chance of winning. BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, Corvette, Ford, Aston Martin, Jaguar and Lamborghini all have entries in either the Pro or Am categories.
BMW are the defending American Le Mans Series champions, and return with a 2 car entry, and it looks like they will be challenged all the way by the Corvette team who also have a 2 car entry. Corvette will be looking to avoid a repeat of last year’s race that was ruined when both cars collided in a confused pit lane. Ferrari and Porsche have always been rivals in this category over the years and Ferraris will outnumber the Porsches on the grid this year. The Risi team will be one of the entries parading the new Ferrari F458 while elsewhere Krohn Racing have entered their F430 for the ILMC season. The Porsches will no doubt be lead by the 2 cars from the experienced Flying Lizard team and the Proton Competition team who have also entered the full ILMC season this year.
The Full entry list for this year’s Sebring 12 Hours is one of the best ever and should really point the way for the season ahead.
Don’t forget to follow out twitter account @lemansrace for news and views from the circuit, as well as our blog for a behind the scenes view from our people in Sebring.