12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – The Start

March 19, 2011

12 Hours of Sebring – Live Race Blog – The Start

March 19, 2011

The shattered rear end of the No. 001 Extreme Speed Ferrari F458 Italia after its accident. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

We’ve crossed into the third hour, with more than two in the books. Much of the last hour has been spent behind the Jaguar safety car with the second and third full course cautions.

Nearly a half an hour passed after the No. 052 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09 stopped on track. The car’s reserve fuel tank stopped working, which caused driver Ryan Lewis to run out of fuel past Turn 7.

In the last half hour, a much more serious accident has drastically jumbled the GT field.

On the restart, the No. 045 Flying Lizard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR hit a bump in the middle of Turn 17 and collided with the No. 04 Corvette Racing Corvette ZR1. The two spun into a series of synchronized spins, and when the Corvette came around it hit the No. 001 Extreme Speed Motorsports Ferrari F458 Italia, with no place to go.

Drivers at the time were Patrick Long (Porsche), Jan Magnussen (Corvette) and Johannes van Overbeek (ESM Ferrari), van Overbeek getting the worst of it after backing into the barriers and suffering substantial rear damage. Magnussen brought the Corvette in for repairs to fix the right rear suspension. Long has just been given a one minute stop-and-hold penalty under green for causing avoidable contact.

“It’s a classic close racing, Sebring event, with two cars for same spot,” Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan told the live ESPN3.com feed. “They both kind of pirouetted around, the Ferrari came around with no place to go. We’ll be back.”

Most of the field came in for a second round of stops under the second caution, many cars changing drivers. As the race has just restarted, Peugeot’s No. 8 still leads overall ahead of the Oreca Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, with GT now paced by the No. 062 Risi Ferrari.

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Race start at Sebring. Photo credit: Rick Dole for Michelin North America

We’re a little over one hour into the 12 Hours of Sebring. Temperatures are reported at 80 degrees ambient and 95 on track.

The two factory Peugeot 908s led overall from the two Audi R15 TDIs for most of it, but the No. 1 Audi has just gone behind the wall to fix rear bodywork and left rear quarter panel damage.

There was a hairy moment not long after a restart from the first caution flag, caused when the No. 008 West Lamborghini Gallardo stopped off course after apparent mechanical issues. The field resumed with two of the three OAK Racing Oak Pescarolo Judds up front, but the diesels quickly carved their way through.

In GT, Corvette’s No. 04 (Oliver Gavin) and Risi Ferrari’s No. 062 (Jaime Melo) have led most of the way, with the two BMWs also factoring into the equation. One of them though, Dirk Mueller in the No. 56, had a left front puncture and pitted out of sequence. The No. 56 BMW also had a collision with the No. 098 JaguarRSR Jaguar XKR.

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