Stuttgart. The 12 Hours of Sebring is the oldest and toughest sports car race in the USA. The 65th running of this classic event at the Sebring International Raceway on the legendary airfield circuit in the heart of Florida will be held on 18 March. The Porsche GT Team tackles round two of the IMSA SportsCar Championship with a pair of 510 hp 911 RSR in the GTLM class. Porsche customer teams contest the GTD class with the 911 GT3 R. With 18 overall victories and 70 class wins, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the storied and notoriously bumpy racetrack. Porsche also travels to Sebring as the points’ leader of the North American Endurance Cup, a competition encompassing the four long distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans.
The race is as legendary as its winners. Immortalised on the winners’ list are racing greats such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Dan Gurney, Hans Hermann, Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti. Hollywood stars Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who finished second overall in 1970 with a Porsche 908, have also fulfilled their racing dreams on the Sebring International Raceway. Built on a former military airfield, the circuit with its 17 corners is 5.954 kilometres long and hosted the inaugural race on 31 December, 1950.
The Porsche drivers
Six Porsche works drivers contest the GTLM class with the new 911 RSR for the Porsche GT Team. Sharing the cockpit of the #911 vehicle are Patrick Pilet (France), Dirk Werner (Germany) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France), who kicked off the season with second place at Daytona. In the #912 car are Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), Kévin Estre (France) and Richard Lietz (Austria). In the GTD class, two other works drivers compete for Porsche customer teams with the 911 GT3 R: Daytona winner Michael Christensen (Denmark) for Alegra Motorsports and Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) for Park Place Motorsports.
The Porsche vehicles
The 911 RSR, which celebrated its race debut in January at Daytona, is a completely new development: the suspension, body structure, aerodynamic concept, engine and transmission have all been designed in Weissach from scratch. Depending on the size of the restrictor, the motor, which is now positioned in front of the rear axle, puts out around 375 kW (510 hp). Thanks to the particularly large rear diffuser combined with a top-mounted rear wing, the level of downforce and the aerodynamic efficiency were significantly improved. The new factory design of the 911 RSR with the basic colours white, red and black has further developed the clear and dynamic design language of Porsche Motorsport. The 911 GT3 R celebrated its race debut a year ago in Daytona mounted with the new ultra-modern, four-litre, flat-six engine with direct fuel injection. Porsche had designed the more than 368 kW (500 hp) customer sports racer for worldwide GT3 series on the basis of the 911 GT3 RS production sports car.
Porsche is the manufacturer with the most Sebring victories. The first of 18 outright victories for Porsche on the Sebring International Raceway came in 1960 courtesy of Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien in the Porsche 718 RS/60. The most recent overall win in 2008 was clinched by Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard with the Porsche RS Spyder. Porsche’s list of successes also includes no less than 70 class wins at this race. The most recent success was in 2015 with the Porsche 911 GT America fielded by the Alex Job Racing customer team. Prior to that, in 2014, Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Patrick Long scored class victory at the wheel of a Porsche 911 RSR.
The 12 Hours of Sebring takes off on Saturday, 18 March, at 10.40 hrs local time (15.40 hrs CET) and can be viewed live outside the USA on www.imsa.com.
Dr Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport: “Our new 911 RSR celebrated a successful race debut at the season-opening round in Daytona. From this we gained a great deal of important insights that we now want to turn into an even better performance against very strong opposition. This alone will not be easy because this airfield course is a very special race track that puts huge demands of drivers and cars. However, as the most successful manufacturer in the history of the classic race, we have a reputation to uphold. With our customer teams, who started the season at Daytona with a GTD-class win, we’ll do our very best to achieve this.”
Marco Ujhasi, Overall Project Leader GT Works Motorsport: “After Daytona, Sebring is the second classic of the season. This race is a brutal challenge. It’s only half as long as Daytona, but much harder because of the heat and the incredibly bumpy track. We’ve completed many test kilometres in Sebring with our new 911 RSR and line up on the grid very well prepared. And the prospects look good for a gripping fight for victory, particularly in the GTLM class.
Sebastian Golz, Project Manager GT Customer Sport: “The 911 GT3 R’s win at Daytona was a perfect start into the season for our customer teams. In contrast to Daytona, the primary focus in Sebring is not so much on top speed, but on brake wear. The balance between brake wear and brake performance plays a major role, because one extra pit stop to change the brakes costs precious time and this could make the difference between victory and defeat.”
Patrick Pilet (911 RSR #911): “Sebring is a very intense race. Unlike Daytona, where you have to keep something in reserve over first two-thirds of the race in order to have a strong car for the final hours, in Sebring you pull out all stops right from the start. It’s one of the big races in the USA that I haven’t yet won. So the motivation to win is huge, particularly as I’m convinced that the circuit is very well suited to our 911 RSR.”
Dirk Werner (911 RSR #911): “I like this demanding track. With all the bumps it’s not only the drivers who face a huge challenge. The stresses on the cars are greater than at almost any other race. I’ve never won at Sebring so in that regard I still have a score to settle.”
Frédéric Makowiecki (911 RSR #911): “Sebring is very special and alongside Le Mans it’s my favourite race. The masses of fans know their stuff when it comes to motorsport and they display the sort of spirit that I very much like. I’m looking forward to enjoying a huge motorsport party and I hope that we have reason to celebrate when it’s all over.”
Laurens Vanthoor (911 RSR #912): “I only know this race from television and from the stories my team mates have shared. It has a great history and I’m looking forward to being a part of that. I got to know the course during our testing here. It was an impressive experience.”
Kévin Estre (911 RSR #912): “Sebring is a really cool race with masses of spectators and a great atmosphere. They celebrate St. Patrick’s Day big time here so everyone’s already in a great party mood. We’ve done some extensive testing in Sebring and the car feels very good.”
Richard Lietz (911 RSR #912): “Sebring is one of my favourite tracks. It’s very challenging and the many bumps make it extremely difficult for drivers to clock consistently fast lap times. The tests with the 911 RSR there were very encouraging. I think Sebring is a very good race track for our new car.”
Michael Christensen (911 GT3 R #28): “Sebring is a real classic. Winning this race in 2014 was one of the highlights of my career. Driving at the limit on this bumpy track for hours on end is very demanding on drivers. But it’s also great fun. And after our success at Daytona the team is, of course, feeling very motivated.”
Jörg Bergmeister (911 GT3 R #73): “To have any chance on this track you have to drive flat-out right from the start. Sebring is completely different from Daytona. The race is just half the duration, but twice as difficult. And the fans are great too. The mood that they create is better than at virtually any other race.”
This is the IMSA SportsCar Championship
The IMSA SportsCar Championship is a sports car race series contested in the USA and Canada, which was run in 2014 for the first time. The series was formed from the merger of the American Le Mans Series and the Grand-Am Series. Sports prototypes and sports cars start in four different classes: GTLM (GT Le Mans), GTD (GT Daytona), P (Prototype) and PC (Prototype Challenge). The new Porsche 911 RSR runs in the GTLM class, with the Porsche 911 GT3 R contesting the GTD class.