Audi wins classic Sebring 12 Hours
18 March 2012
Audi returned to victory lane at Sebring International Raceway for the first time since 2009 with a convincing win in the 60th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours courtesy of Dindo Capello, Tom Kristensen and Allan McNish.
The veteran trio completed 301 laps of the Florida airfield circuit in their R18 to win by four laps in the opening round of both the American Le Mans Series and new FIA World Endurance Championship.
Audi also finished 1-2 at Sebring for the first time since 2005, while Kristensen extended his Sebring record with a sixth overall victory. Capello has won five times and McNish four, as the triumphant trio gained control in the second half of the race, once gearbox problems beset the pole-winning #1 Audi and the second-place R18 suffered contact with a slower car in the last hour.
Dyson Racing took advantage of fuelling issues at Muscle Milk Pickett Racing and won the ALMS P1 class, with Chris Dyson, Guy Smith and Steven Kane moving into the class lead with 30 minutes remaining. Their victory came within a week of testing the new Lola-Mazda for the first time, but left the Muscle Milk crew devastated by their final hour problems as the HPD ARX-03a of Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and Simon Pagenaud had run in overall podium contention for much of the race's second half.
Starworks Motorsports's trio of Ryan Dalziel, Stephane Sarrazin and Vicente Potolicchio won in P2 with their HPD ARX-03b, but the final two hours produced a back-and-forth affair with Level 5 Motorsports before the Starworks car could finish third overall. Sarrazin and Level 5's Joao Barbosa swapped the lead multiple times within the last 90 minutes, but the Frenchman began to drive away in the final 20. It still was a successful opening round in Level 5's ALMS title defence, however, as Barbosa, Christophe Bouchut and Scott Tucker were the highest-finishing ALMS team in the class and overall standings. The result was reward for the team's efforts in bouncing back from a huge crash in Friday qualifying that left Bouchut in the outside tyre wall at turn one and saw the car begin the race from the rear of the field.
Black Swan Racing placed second among the ALMS runners in class in its first P2 race since moving up from GT Challenge, as Tim Pappas, Bret Curtis and Jon Fogarty completed 298 laps in their HPD-powered Lola B11/80 coupe. They came home ahead of Conquest Endurance, which finished third among the ALMS P2 finishers in the team's first race in the series with Martin Plowman, Jan Haylen and David Heinemeier Hansson at the wheel of its Morgan-Judd.
CORE Autosport opened the defence of its Prototype Challenge championship with a first victory at Sebring. Indycar ace EJ Viso teamed with Alex Popow and Burt Friselle to bring the ORECA FLM09 to a one-lap victory over PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports. Butch Leitzinger, Rudy Junco and Ken Dobson finished second in another class fight that went down to the final hour, while CORE also took third on the class podium with Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and Eric Lux.
Joey Hand produced a daring pass on the last turn of the last lap to claim GT class victory for BMW Team RLL, the team's second straight Sebring victory with the BMW M3 GT. It was a frantic race for much of the second half, with six cars in position for the lead. Hand appeared to lose the advantage on the final lap when he was forced off the road by Olivier Beretta's AF Corse Ferrari, but regained the track without losing the lead thanks to a remarkable recovery.
Corvette Racing's trio of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor also got around Beretta at the finish and ended the race 6.3secs behind the BMW. Beretta, Andrea Bertolini and Marco Cioci placed third in their Ferrari F458 Italia.
In GTE-Am, Team Felbermayr-Proton's Christian Ried, Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti won by a lap in their Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The Felbermayr team placed second last year, but finished ahead of Larbre Competition's Corvette of Christophe Bourret, Pascal Gibon and Jean-Phillippe Belloc to claim a maiden Sebring success.
Alex Job Racing won in GT Challenge at Sebring for the second time in three years, as Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Dion von Moltke outlasted the field for a one-lap victory over the team car of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and JP Dumoulin. The winning Alex Job car recovered from a mid-race spin and stayed steady as other challengers fell by the wayside in the race's second half. AJR won at Sebring for the eighth time. Green Hornet Racing's trio of Damien Faulkner, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen and Peter LeSaffre placed third.