Thursday, 17 March 2016

49 cars on the grid for the 64th Sebring 12 Hours in Florida

Once in a year, the spirit of Le Mans gets to central Florida for the legendary 12 Hours of Sebring, which has its 64th running this year.  The Sebring 12 Hour race is the second encounter in the WeatherTech Sportscar Challenge and the second round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. 

Photo : IMSA.com 
Take a 49 car grid, the hot and sunny Florida weather, add some stunning driver line-ups with some of the best endurance racers around, and you're set for a great weekend of racing. The track is known to be very hard for both drivers and cars, and always provides some great challenges during the race. 

Among the drivers joining in the regular WeatherTech Sportscar Challenge line-ups are Rubens Barichello (#10 Corvette DP), Pipo Derani who returns to the ESM line-up after their win at Daytona last month and 2011 Sebring winner Nicolas Lapierre who joins his fellow Frenchman Nicolas Minassian at Dragonspeed. Mike Rockenfeller will join the #3 Corvette and Filipe Albuquerque gets into the #5 Corvette DP. 

The 49 car grid at Sebring is divided in 4 classes : 
Prototype (P) : combining Daytona Prototypes, LMP2 cars and the Deltawing prototype.
Prototype Challenge (PC) : Formula Le Mans spec class prototypes
GT Le Mans (GTLM) : GT cars comparable with the GTE cars in WEC and Le Mans
GT Daytona (GTD) : GT3 cars

12 cars will race in the prototype class, including the debut of the Oreca 05 Series in the USA with Dragonspeed. The 2015 Sebring winners Action Express Racing in the #5 Corvette DP lead the field and will face some fierce competition from Daytona 24 Hours winners ESM in the Honda powered Ligier JSP2. Other LMP2 cars are the Dragonspeed Oreca05 and Michael Shank's Ligier JSP2 and both Mazda prtotypes. All other cars are DP's with a Corvette or Riley chassis. 

Next to the prototypes, GTLM will be the battle to watch with 10 factory backed cars.  Ford, Ferrari, BMW, Corvette and Porsche each fielding 2 cars in the class. Defending Sebring champions Corvette racing has the momentum after their Daytona 1-2 finish. Ford returns to Sebring with the new Ford GT, will they have had enough time after Daytona to resolve the problems they've encountered after their first race ? Other new for this season cars are the Ferrari 488 and BMW M6 GTLM. Porsche North America also fields 2 Porsches 911 RSR. 

The 20-car GT Daytona field which from this season races under GT3 regulations will be a battle between Audi, Lamborghini, BMW, Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Viper. We have 6 Lamborghini Huracans, 4 Audi R8 LMS GT3, 4 Porsches 911 GT3 R, 2 BMW M6 GT3'sn 2 Ferrari 488 GT3, and a single Dodge Viper and Aston Martin Vantage GT3. 

The PC class features 7 prototypes, the Oreca FLM9, an upgraded version of the LMPC class cars which also raced in the ELMS a few seasons ago. From this weekend on, the PC cars will have a new upgrade package with a new electronics system and a larger engine. 

3 practice sessions will be run today, including night practice. A fourth session completes practice on Friday morning, with qualifying on Friday afternoon. The green flag will be waived Saturday at 10.40 am. 

Useful links : 
Schedule (US time)

Kristof Vermeulen

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