images and words by David H. Brady, Jr.

2010 12 Hours of Sebring race report for CAVALLINO magazine

Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT Wins Sebring, Again

The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida was the opening round of the 2010 American LeMans Series presented by Tequila Patron. It was the 58th running of this classic endurance race around an airfield in central Florida. Change was an ever present theme at the track and was especially evident in the composition of this year’s field.  

For the first time in a decade Audi was absent from the top P1 class.  The German manufacturer was unable to complete an update program for its R-15 TDI in time to accomplish the testing program necessary to assure competitiveness with the archrival French Peugeot 908 HDI FAP. As a consequence the P1 class was somewhat deficient, with a total of five entrants - two of the Peugeot 908 HDI FAPs, two Lola B09 60s (one Judd powered from Drayson Racing the other Aston Martin powered from Aston Martin Racing) and an AER powered Lola B09 60 for Autocon Motorsports.

The smaller displacement P2 class was small, as well, and saw only three entrants, a Honda Acura-powered ARX-01c, a Porsche RS Spyder and a Mazda-powered Lola B09 86.

Rounding out the prototype classes would be six of the new LMPCs.  These are very fast, cost-containment influenced, one-design, Chevrolet V-8 powered Oreca FLM09 prototypes.

The GT1 class, recently dominated by Chevrolet’s Corvettes, has disappeared. With GT1 gone the multi-marque action was left to the GT2 class. Competitors in the class included four Ferrari F430 GTs, three Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, two Chevrolet Corvette ZR1s, two BMW E92 M3s, a Ford GT and a Jaguar XKRS.

Multiple Sebring and LeMans winning Risi Competizione entered two Ferrari F430 GTs. Brazilian Jaime Melo, Italian Gianmaria Bruni and Swiss Pierre Kafer would be sharing the cockpit of red number 62. Americans Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonson would be joined by Belgian Eric van de Poole in the green number 61 showing Krohn Racing sponsorship. Risi Competizione must be considered preeminent in the preparation of racing Ferrari F430 GTs today.

The second pair of Ferrari F430 GTs came from the new Extreme Speed Motorsports team recently formed by American Indy Car racer Scott Sharp. These were 2008 models bestowed with the latest updates and sporting handsome black and bright green liveries for sponsor team and event sponsor Tequila Patron Spirits. Sharp would share driving chores in number 01 with Californian Johannes van Overbeek and German Dominik Farnbacher. Joao Barbosa of Portugal would team with Floridians Ed Brown and Guy Cosmo in the number 02.

In another cost-containment influenced, one-design class called GTC, seven Porsche 911GT3 Cup cars would round out the field. A total of 34 entrants would contest the 2010 race.

Seven minutes into the first practice session Pierre Kaffer caused a red flag after he tried to knock down the tire wall with his #62 Ferrari 430 GT while exiting the esses. Heavy damage was reported to the driver side door. Fortunately the damage was limited to the door and seals but now Risi Competizione would have to complete repairs to their lead entry. Pierre Kaffer, “I wish I could say what happened but honestly I don’t know. I wasn’t going fast, and I knew I was on cold tires, and it just got away from me. This is not normally my style and I am so sorry for the team, especially for my teammates. I am so disappointed and I hope I can find out what happened.”

The BMWs were fastest in three of four practice sessions. In the fourth practice Jaime Melo driving the repaired #62 F430 GT was able to better the bimmers by a scant .016 seconds. In the qualification session one BMW and a pair of Porsche 911 RSR were faster than the Melo/Bruni/Kaffer Ferrari. However, the BMW failed technical inspection and was relegated to the back of the starting grid. So, Ferraris would be gridded in the following order - Melo/Bruni/Kaffer 15th, Sharp/van Overbeek/Farnbacher 18th, Brown/Cosmo/Barbosa 20th and Krohn/Jonsson/van de Poole 23rd.

A pre-race assessment would find the BMWs to be fast but with unproven reliability. The Porsches are always fast and very reliable.  The Ferraris did not qualify at the top of their class but possessed good reliability. The Corvettes came from a team with a great track record, were faster than all but one Ferrari but their reliability was untested in this new class. The improved Ford GT and new Jaguar XKRS were unknown quantities. The race in GTS class would be very interesting, for sure.

Saturday the green flag dropped at the traditional 10:30 am starting time.

Fifty one minutes of the race had passed when Risi Competizione called #62 to the pits for fuel, 4 tires and a change of drivers. Mello got out and Bruni in. Melo had started on the same tires used in qualification and it was causing the Ferrari to lose positions to rest of the class. His visit to the pits was among the earliest in class but proved fortuitous as four minutes later when the first yellow flag of the race was displayed the pits were closed. The pit closure came at a critical time in the race when most of the remaining GT2 cars were in their first pit stop window for tires and fuel.

Just as the yellow flag period ended the running order showed the #01 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F430 GT fifth in class behind the two Corvettes and two Porsche 911 RSRs. The second Extreme Speed Motorsports team car #02 was a minute back and followed closely by the #61 Risi Competizione Krohn Racing F430 GT. The Auberlin/Werner/Milner BMW M92 M3 was eighth in class with the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT in ninth.

The pits reopened and the leaders in GT2 all pitted. This promoted the Auberlin piloted #92 BMW M92 M3 to first in class and the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT with Bruni aboard second and close on the BMWs heels.

About fifteen minutes later and with the fresh tires allowing increased pace Bruni’s F430 GT caught Auberlin’s M3 on the long back straight. The Ferrari got alongside under braking entering turn seventeen and held a tighter line through its exit to cross the timing stripe in front of the BMW and take the lead in GT2 class. For the first time in this race the red #62 Ferrari F430 GT was first in class.

As the race progressed the challenge from other GT2 competitors would dissipate after penalties and a collision in the pits befell the Corvettes, and two of the leading Porsches were involved in an unusual incident when a detached right rear wheel from one took the left rear corner off the other. The battle with the two BMWs remained tight, although they eventually fell one lap down to #62 by race finish. 

The Krohn Racing sponsored Risi Competizione entered #61 F430 GT suffered an intermittent electrical issue through the middle hours of the race and would have an on track encounter with the other Risi entry. In driver Tracy Krohn’s words, “I saw him (#62) coming behind me and moved over. I thought he was going to pass me on the inside.” Instead the #62 passed Krohn on the outside and was knocked off the pavement by #61 for a wild ride in the grass, but lost no position.

The #01 & 02 Extreme Speed Motorsports entries would run trouble free for most of the race but couldn’t keep up with the #62. About 40 minutes from the checker and with Scott Sharp at the wheel a massive fire broke out in the engine compartment of #01. Sharp brought the fireball Ferrari to a stop near a corner marshalling position and bailed out as one very courageous marshal, with a single fire extinguisher, assaulted the fully alight Ferrari. He had the fire out by the time IMSA’s fire truck reached the scene. In an interview following the incident Sharp agreed that a large bottle of his sponsor’s best Patron Silver Tequila ought to be awarded to that brave marshal.

The #62 F430 GT lost the class lead to the Bergmeister/Leib/Long Porsche 911 RSR during pit stops under a second lot of yellow flags but was undeterred. Just past the halfway mark of the race it would return to the head of the class when Bruni bettered Bergmeister at the hairpin turn. #62 regained the class lead and would retain it through the remainder of the race culminating in a brilliant GT2 win and 6th overall finish.

This would be Risi Competizione’s third Sebring victory in four years. The race win extended a six-race winning streak of endurance classic victories which began in France in 2008 encompassing Le Mans, Petit Le Mans and Sebring,

2011 12 Hours of Sebring race report for CAVALLINO magazine

Seven Ferrari for Sebring, F430 wins GTE

Seven Ferrari competed in the 2011’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. Four would be brand new Ferrari F458 Italias. Extreme Speed Motorsports would field a pair in GT class. Driver/owner Ed Brown (USA) would be teamed with Guy Cosmo (USA) and Rob Bell (GBR) in #002. Scott Sharp (USA), Johannes van Overbeek(USA) and Dominick Farnbacher (GER) would pilot the other, #001. Risi Competizione’s 458 would also contest GT class with Jamie Melo(BRA), Tony Vilander(FIN) and Mika Salo(FIN) doing cockpit duties in #062. Luxury Racing would run another 458 as #59 in GTE Class (Pro) for Stephane Ortelli(MCO), Fredric Makowiecki(FRA) and Jean-Denis Deletraz(CHE).

Four Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs, two Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1s, two Jaguar XKRs, two Doran Ford GTs, a Lamborghini Gallardo LP 560-4 and the new Panoz Abruzzi completed a nineteen car GT field.

In GTE (Am) class the #57 Krohn Racing F430 cockpit would be shared by Tracy Krohn(USA) Nic Jonnson(SWE), and Michele Rugolo(ITA). Another F430, #62, from CRS Racing would also compete in GTE (Am) with drivers Pierre Ehert(FRA), Shaun Lynn(GBR) and Roger Wills(NZL). AF Corsa would race a F430 as GTE (Pro) class, #51, with Giancarlo Fisichella(ITA), Gianmaria Bruni(ITA), and Pierre Kafer(GER) onboard.

Two BMW M3 GTs, and Chevrolet Corvette C6-ZR1, 911 RSR and, Aston Martin Vantage filled the GTE field.

Four F458 Italias and three F430s were the most Ferrari entered in the 12 hour race since 2003 when 3 550 Maranellos and 5 360 Modenas were entered.

LMP1 class would have three Peugeot - two new, factory entered 908s and a privateer ORECA 908 HDi-FAP prepared to 2011 specifications. Two Audi Sport Team Joest R15 + TDI would make a last appearance before replacement by the R18 coupe. Two Oak Pescarolo Judd would come from Oak Racing. There would three Lolas. An Aston Martin B08/62 Coupe would wear Muscle Milk Racing colors. Dyson Racing would switch to Mazda power in their B09/86 and Rebellion Racing would prepare a Toyota powered B10/60 Coupe. A spanking new and untried HPD ARX-01e ‘developed in the digital domain’ by Wirth Racing from last season's LMP2 championship winning Honda HPD ARX-01c would be entered by Duncan Dayton’s Highcroft Racing.

LMP2 had a five car field consisting of Level 5 Motorsports’ Honda powered Lola coupe and spyder, an Oak Racing Pescarolo Judd, a Signatech Nissan Oreca 03 and LNT’s Ginetta Radical SR9 from.

The factory-backed Peugeot 908 of Montagny/Sarrazin/Lamy qualified on pole in LMP1. Signatech’s Nissan powered Oreca 03 would do likewise in LMP2.

Gianmaria Bruni in the AF Corsa F430 was the best of the GT classes. Ferrari, Corvette then BMW were the top three in class separated by only.3 second. The first eight GT qualifiers were covered by 1 second.

In the one-design classes the fastest LMPC Oreca FLMO9 was that of Peterson, Cameron and Gausch. The fastest GTC was Swedler, King and Wong’s Porsche 911GT3 Cup.

Peugeots dominated from the drop of the green flag, although, not without some physical harassment from their arch-rival Audi over the course of the race. The Wirth HPD ARX-01e would be an unexpected, race-long contender. Although it first turned a wheel only seven days prior it would remain on the same lap - within seconds of the leaders – for the duration of this year’s contest over Sebring’s concrete runways.

At the end of the first hour and through the second Risi Competizione’s 458 Italia with Salo, Melo and Vilander was leading the GT class. When Ferrari, BMW, Porsche and Corvette weren’t nose to tail they would be shoulder to shoulder. On at least one unfortunate occasion they would get even closer.

Two hours into the race Patrick Long’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSR lost traction through bumpy turn seventeen and bounced into Jan Magnussen’s Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1. Both would spin. The Corvette’s trajectory took it into the path of Johannes van Overbeek in the #002 Ferrari 458 Italia. The Ferrari was sent about a meter airborne in a glancing collision that severely damaged its right rear suspension and bodywork. After landing, backing into and ricocheting off the tire wall it would come to rest in the racing line. When the Tequila Patron #001 458 came upon the scene evasive maneuvers were required to avoid collecting its teammate. The damage accumulated by Extreme Speed Motorsports handsome black and green #002 458 was sufficient to cause withdrawal.

“I didn’t want to be the first guy to wreck a 458 in the world. Not a lot of spare parts are out, and I really feel bad for everyone on the team and (sponsors) Patron. The Corvette and Porsche were getting pretty frisky. It didn’t look like Jan gave Pat a lot of room. That combined with the big bump sent them both spinning. I thought I was going to get through it,’ said van Overbeek.

GT class lead would pass from the #062 Risi Ferrari to BMW Motorsport’s M-3 midway through the second hour.

A little past the fourth hour Marc Gene’s factory-entered Peugeot 908 came together with Dindo Capello‘s Audi R15 ++ TDI under braking entering turn 17. The collision and ensuing garage visits effectively ended both cars' chances for victory. The second R15 + TDI would experience tire troubles costing it any opportunity for a win.

With just over five hours gone Risi Competizione’s #062 458 Italia would resume 1st place in GT when it passed the class leading BMW M-3. It would maintain the lead through the six hour mark and pits nine minutes later under a yellow flag allowing a BMW to take the class lead.

At seven hours twenty seven minutes Pierre Kafer’s #51 F430 from AF Corsa was scored 3.856 seconds ahead of Dirk Muellers’s #56 BMW M-3. At the end of the hour the F430 pitted letting the BMW past. Thirty minutes later when the BMW pitted the #062 Risi Competizione 458 Italia went back to the front of GT class.

Eight hours and forty seven minutes were on the books when #062 Risi 458 Italia next pitted relinquishing the GT lead to the #56 BMW M-3.

Shortly after 8:00 PM with a little more than nine and a half hours raced #56 BMW M-3 would take to the pits and Risi Competizione’s #062 458 Italia would return to the GT class lead. Ten minutes later #062 would pit for fuel and Vilander would hand off to Melo. A fresh starter battery was installed. This would be a hint of the electrical problem that would ruin Risi’s race. #56 BMW M-3 went to the front of GT.

#062 was back to the pits for a new battery a little before 9:00 PM. Minutes later Melo returned to the Risi pits and climbed out.

Risi Competizione Team Manager Dave Sims said, “We’re having electrical problems which, at this stage of the game, means it’s too dangerous to go on. We don’t need to crash the car at this point. We don’t know what the cause of the problem is, but it cuts the main electrical source out which means no headlights or power steering. We tried three types of repair but it’s too dangerous to continue.”

The new Ferrari 458 Italias were exciting in their American racing premier - leading this very competitive GT class several times. In fact, Ferrari, BMW and Corvette would exchange the lead five times.

Disappointingly, at the end of twelve hours the GT class winner did not come from Modena. It was Team RLL BMW Motorsports made-in-Munich M-3s that captured the first and second positions despite an early collision and a spin by the victor. The win was BMW's first at Sebring since their overall victory in 1999. Corvette C6-ZR1s took third and fourth.

First overall was the Oreca Matmut Peugeot 908 HDi FAP anchored by Loic Duval, Nicolas Lapierrre and Olivier Panis. It was Oreca’s first Sebring victory since 2000 when it’s factory-backed Dodge Vipers swept GT. Only 36.868 seconds back Pagenaud, Brabham and Franchitti debuted the very fast, Duncan Dayton Racing Wirth HPD ARX-01e with an impressive second overall and in class. Third place was occupied by the factory 2011 Peugeot 908 of Montagny, Sarrazin, Lamy a scant 13 seconds arrears.

Peterson, Cameron and Gausch won LMPC from pole, finishing a respectable ninth overall.

#51 AF Corsa’s F430 of Fisichella, Bruni and Kafer would be the highest placed Ferrari at fifteenth overall, fifth in GT class.

Nineteenth overall and first in GTE (Am) class, would be Krohn Racing’s #57 Ferrari F430 of Krohn, Jonnson and Rugolo. Krohn’s veteran Ferrari and Proton Competition's Porsche 911 GT3 RSR had traded the lead for the first 10 hours of the event. With two hours to go Krohn’s F430 took control decisively.

Tracy Krohn commented on his first ALMS victory “We haven’t had a single mechanical issue…that’s a tribute to our drivers and team prep. That car doesn’t have a scratch on it. I don’t think anybody put two wheels off the whole day.”

Level 5 Motorsports’ first appearance in LMP2 resulted in first in class, twentieth overall for the Hunter-Reay, Tucker and Diaz Lola Honda. GTC fell to Pappas, Faulkner and Bleekmolen one spot back from the LMP2 winner.

The podiums of the 59th Sebring would be occupied the some experienced veterans and surprising newcomers. In 2012 Sebring celebrates 60.

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