12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – Day into Night

March 19, 2011

12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – Day into Night

March 19, 2011

Simon Pagenaud has starred in the No. 01 Highcroft HPD ARX-01e. He looks to capture a win for Duncan Dayton's team at Sebring. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

It’s officially night at the 59th 12 Hours of Sebring. With an hour and 40 minutes remaining, the evidence of the cooler track and temperatures is present with Michelin tire engineers reporting 77 degrees Fahrenheit ambient and only 80 on track. The action in GT has heated up as both of the leading BMWs have been into the pits in the last 20 minutes, one unexpectedly.

The No. 55 BMW collided with the No. 04 Corvette, which caused a left front puncture on the BMW and caused the car to pit off-sequence. Misfortune for one of the cars benefits others, and the polesitting No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT is now the Ferrari with a shot at the win.

Risi has had a pair of frustrating stops, one with an unexpected driver change from Toni Vilander to Jaime Melo. Melo has now just departed the car with back pains and Mika Salo has taken over in the new Ferrari F458 Italia. Salo left his pit without turning the headlights on and had to adjust that. Unfortunately it is likely to take the two-time defending class champions at Sebring out of contention for the win.

The top three overall and in P1 continues to cycle between the two Peugeots (No. 8 Peugeot Sport Total 908, No. 10 Oreca Peugeot 908 HDi FAP) and the Highcroft HPD ARX-01e. The Highcroft car has ran slightly longer stints on fuel than the Oreca car; Highcroft runs on E10 ethanol while the Oreca is a diesel Peugeot. Highcroft and driver Simon Pagenaud are hoping to make the finish on just one more pit stop.

Dane Cameron in the Genoa Racing LMPC car leads that class from Frankie Montecalvo of CORE Autosport.


Cars pass under the Mobil 1 bridge as the sun set at Sebring. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

Nine hours are complete, and three-quarters of the distance is run in the 2011 12 Hours of Sebring. Yet there is still more than a normal American Le Mans Series race time frame of 2 hours, 45 minutes, to go. Past 7 p.m. local time, Michelin tire engineers reported ambient temperatures of 84 degrees Fahrenheit and 90 on track.

The transition is beginning from day to night. Visibility fades. Ambient and track temperatures cool while the drama begins to intensify in all the classes.

Peugeots have alternated at the front of the field depending on pit stops, with either the new generation No. 8 908 or the previous generation No. 10 908 HDi FAP run by Oreca out front. Highcroft HPD remains on the overall lead lap in third place with its ARX-01e.

The factory No. 8 Peugeot now has an issue on its hands, as it pitted to replace its front nose assembly. Pedro Lamy took over the car and spun out on his out lap at Turn 3, but recovered.

The GT battle is a back-and-forth struggle as well between BMW and Ferrari. The top five cars remain on the lead lap with both of the two BMWs neck-and-neck with the AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT and Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia. The No. 03 Corvette Racing Corvette ZR1 is also in the mix, while the sister No. 04 is still one lap down after its early contact with the No. 045 Flying Lizard Porsche.

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