12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – The Afternoon

March 19, 2011

12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – The Afternoon

March 19, 2011

While some of the diesels have faltered, the Rebellion and Oreca prototypes have advanced up the leaderboard. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

We’re under the eighth full course caution and past the seven-hour mark in the 12 Hours of Sebring. The timing of the caution hurts overall leader Franck Montagny in the No. 8 Peugeot 908, which last stopped on lap 155, while the No. 10 Oreca Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and No. 01 Highcroft HPD ARX-01e both stopped on lap 181.

With the latter two of the top three now in the catbird’s seat to take the lead, a couple of their drivers reflected on their unexpected positions at this stage in the race.

“We certainly didn’t expect to be at this spot right now,” said Olivier Panis, co-driver of the No. 10 Oreca Peugeot with Nicolas Lapierre and Loic Duval. “Compared to the new car, we know we have the reliability and the product at the moment. A good run so far.”

Highcroft’s Marino Franchitti told the ESPN3.com broadcast what the team has lacked in outright speed it has made up for with strategy.

“It’s tough to watch the deals streak away, but really exciting to pass Panis on the first restart,” Franchitti said. “The guys have been very smart with the strategy. That we can stay on the lead lap says a lot, as the car’s only a week old today. I’m real happy with the package. I’ve been a bit rusty, haven’t been in the car since Petit (Le Mans, last October).”

In LMP2, the leading No. 33 Level 5 Motorsports Lola HPD coupe went to the paddock needing repairs, the right rear control arm being replaced. It entered the paddock with a 12-lap lead on the No. 26 Signatech Oreca 03 Nissan but that is quickly being erased. Dane Cameron in the No. 036 Genoa Racing entry still leads the LMP Challenge category by a healthy margin.

GT still sees No. 56 BMW leading the Risi Ferrari, with the Falken Porsche now running a quiet but steady third place in class. The AF Corse Ferrari is next ahead of the No. 55 BMW, the two Corvette Racing Corvette ZR1s and the No. 002 Extreme Speed Ferrari, prior to the next round of pit stops.

Temperatures hover at 87 degrees Fahrenheit ambient but now 93 degrees on track, Michelin tire engineers report.

Past seven hours, in the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge, cars with diesel and Cellulosic E85R ethanol have an advantage in Sebring’s “race within a race” that rewards the manufacturers and teams who travel the fastest, the furthest and with the least energy consumption.

Audi’s No. 2 and 1 R15s are several laps down to the leaders but are 1-2 in the MICHELIN® GREEN X® Challenge ahead of the No. 8 Peugeot. All runs Shell GTL diesel fuel. In GT, the two BMWs lead the No. 004 Robertson Racing Ford GT-R, with all three of those on E85R.


The No. 01 Highcroft HPD ARX-01e enjoyed a brief stint in the lead as the 12 Hours of Sebring crossed the halfway mark. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

The biggest moment of the race as the clock ticks past halfway, with more than six hours complete in the 12 Hours of Sebring, came shortly after the last update. Going into Turn 17, Marc Gene in the No. 7 Peugeot 908 made a move to the inside of Dindo Capello in the No. 2 Audi R15 TDI. Capello defended, but Gene collected him and spun him out. Gene’s car moved into the barriers, and both cars went behind the wall for repairs.

With two of the leading contenders out of contention, the opportunity arose for Highcroft Racing to take advantage. Simon Pagenaud did in the HPD ARX-01e adorned with signage of the Michelin Man and the new MICHELIN® Pilot Super Sport ultra high performance tire, making a dart to the right at the immediate right moment to pass Pedro Lamy for the overall lead.

Pagenaud’s time in the cockpit was all the more impressive given he ran a triple stint on his set of Michelins, before handing over to Marino Franchitti for the Scotsman’s first stint.

After another caution, the No. 8 Peugeot resumed at the lead of Franchitti in the Highcroft HPD and the No. 10 Oreca Peugeot 908 HDi FAP. Those three are the only cars on the lead lap.

In GT, Jaime Melo in the Risi Ferrari F458 still leads a tight battle over the two BMWs, the AF Corse Ferrari F430 and No. 03 Corvette Racing ZR1.

The field is now under its seventh full course caution as it crosses the halfway mark. Luis Diaz in the P2 class No. 055 Level 5 Motorsports Lola HPD open-top prototype stopped on track at Turn 2.


The two Peugeots have led most of the early portion of the race. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

We’re a quarter of the way home at the 12 Hours of Sebring. More than four hours are complete and the field has been slowed by two more yellow flag periods in the last two hours, the fourth and fifth of the race.

Temperatures rose from the start of the race to well north of 100 degrees on track. Most recently, after 2:30 p.m. ET, the ambient was 87 degrees Fahrenheit with track temperatures at 109, Michelin tire engineers reported.

With the No. 1 Audi out of contention, but back on track six laps down, the top five overall and in LMP1 remain on the lead lap. Polesitter Stephane Sarrazin in the No. 8 Peugeot 908 held off a challenge from Tom Kristensen in the No. 2 Audi R15 TDI. Both are out and now Pedro Lamy and Dindo Capello have taken the reins.

Peugeot’s No. 7 car, along with Oreca’s No. 10 Peugeot 908 HDi FAP and the No. 01 Highcroft HPD ARX-01e have all been on the pace as well. Level 5’s No. 33 Lola HPD coupe leads the LMP2 class, with Genoa Racing running 1-2 in the LMP Challenge class.

In GT, BMW has vaulted to the top of the leaderboard with both of its M3s, but the No. 062 Risi Ferrari F458 Italia, No. 03 Corvette ZR1 and No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F430 GT have been in the picture as well.

Both cautions were caused by GTC class Porsches. The No. 032 GMG Porsche was briefly on fire, but the flames were extinguished, and the No. 023 Alex Job Porsche stopped on the backstraight.

There was an interesting moment under the first of the two most recent cautions. An easy-up tent blew across the track on the backstraight, splitting the Jaguar pace car and No. 2 Audi. No cars were hit, as a tent that costs tens of dollars very nearly affected million-dollar machinery!

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