The 12 Hours of Sebring was held March 17, 2012 at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.
The 60th anniversary Sebring endurance race, the opening round of the 2012 FIA World Endurance Championship, was an event full of tension all the way to the finish. After covering 325 laps at Sebring International Raceway, it was the Audi team of Tom Kristensen (DEN), Allan McNish (GBR) and Rinaldo Capello (ITA) that repeated their 2006 and 2009 victories. The FIA WEC LMP2 class proved surprisingly strong with three entries finishing in the overall top-five. In the GT class, the win was not decided until the last one hundred meters, after Joey Hand (USA) barely steered his BMW past the Ferrari of Olivier Beretta (MCO).
Perfect Florida weather allowed a sell-out crowd in Sebring to enjoy fierce competition in all FIA WEC classes. Combined with sports car racing in the American Le Mans Series, a total of 62 cars took the green flag at 10:30am – fine proof of the popularity of endurance racing. Starting the race as favorites, the Kristensen/McNish/Capello Audi team was in charge for the complete duration of the race. Despite a few minor issues, two of the three German cars finished first and second overall: their first double in Sebring since 2005.
For Tom Kristensen it was his sixth win at the Florida raceway; the Rolex Testimonee is now by far the most successful driver in the event’s sixty-year history. “Sebring over the years has become a tradition and I am humble and honored to win the anniversary edition of this great American sports car race. After celebrating sixty years of Sebring, we now look forward to new technology with the introduction of hybrid,” said the Danish driver after his win. “This year marked 50 years of Daytona, 60 years here and 80 years for the big one, Le Mans, in June: 2012 is an important year for sports car racing and it feels fantastic to start it on top,” continued Kristensen.
Chasing the Audi team all day, the Pescarolo–Judd team (Bouillon/Collard/Jousse) finished third in the LMP1 class and sixth overall. Third overall, as well as fourth and fifth, were the strong LMP2 entries of Honda. Part of the winning LMP2 team was Scottish driver Ryan Dalziel, who also set pole at the 50th edition of the Rolex 24 At Daytona earlier this year.
While Audi’s win was never challenged, the traffic on the track made it far from easy and the GT competitors also had an incredibly exciting race. At the finish, the BMW of Hand had an advantage of just a few meters over the Ferrari of Beretta. For the last three hours of the race these two, and the Corvettes, had a memorable battle. Going into the last lap, Hand was just ahead of Beretta, however the Ferrari driver passed the BMW and stayed ahead until the last corner. Hand overtook the Ferrari at the line after the red car had encountered a puncture a few hundred yards earlier. The top four teams in the GT class finished on the same lap.
Joey Hand said, “After my very long final stint all I can say is this: Once more I put everything on the table. Now I feel really exhausted, but obviously very happy. My left knee aches from braking. My tyres had hardly any grip left but I knew that we could make it. We didn’t have the ultimate performance today, but our consistency and our great pit stops had already been our big strength last season. This was the same today – and now we can celebrate.”
In its 60 years of history, the 12 Hours of Sebring saw several close finishes; in 1955, Mike Hawthorn (GBR) was just 25 seconds ahead of the Ferrari of Phil Hill (USA). The Brit later won Les 24 Heures du Mans as well, being the first driver to win both races in the same year. Fifteen years later, Mario Andretti (USA) finished a mere 23 seconds ahead of the Porsche shared by Peter Revson (USA) and American movie star Steve McQueen. And last year in Sebring, the winning Peugeot had a narrow win of just 31 seconds over the second-place HPD-Honda.
12 Hours of Sebring 2012 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture and description)
12 Hours of Sebring 2012 – Race Results
1. Capello/Kristensen/McNish, Audi R18 TDI 325 laps
2. Bernhard/Dumas/Duval, Audi R18 TDI – 4 laps
3. Potolicchio/Dalziel/Sarrazin, HPD-Honda – 6 laps
4. Tucker/Bouchut/Barbosa, HPD-Honda- 6 laps
5. Nicolet/Lahaye/Pla, Morgan-Judd – 7 laps
6. Collard/Boullion/Jousse, Pescarolo-Judd – 7 laps
7. Perez Companc/Kaffer/Ayari, Oreca – 8 laps
8. Dyson/Smith/Kane, Lola-Mazda – 8 laps
9. Zugel/Gonzalez/Julian, Zytek – 9 laps
10. Leventis/Watts/Kane, HPD-Honda – 9 laps
World Endurance Championship
GTE Pro class
1. Bertolini/Beretta/Cioci (I/MC/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 307 laps
2. Lieb/Lietz/Pilet (D/A/F), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 306
3. Mücke/Fernandez/Turner (D/MEX/GB), Aston Martin Vantage, 291
4. Fisichella/Bruni/Vilander (I/I/SF), Ferrari F458 Italia, 215
5. Melo/Makowiecki/Vernay (BRA/F/F), Ferrari F458 Italia, 183
GTE Am class
1. Ried/Roda/Ruberti (D/I/I), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 298 laps
2. Bourret/Gibon/Belloc (F/F/F), Chevrolet Corvette, 297
3. Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy (F/F/P), Chevrolet Corvette, 288
4. Kaufmann/Waltrip/Aguas (USA/USA/P), Ferrari F458, 283
5. Krohn/Jönsson/Rugolo (USA/S/I), Ferrari F458 Italia, 265
6. Binnie/Palttala/Camathias (USA/SF/CH), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 251
American Le Mans Series
1. Hand/Müller/Summerton (USA/D/USA), BMW E92 M3, 307 laps
2. Magnussen/Garcia/Taylor (DK/E/USA), Chevrolet Corvette, 307
3. Gavin/Milner/Westbrook (GB/USA/GB), Chevrolet Corvette, 307
4. Müller/Auberlen/Alzen (D/USA/D), BMW E92 M3, 306
5. Maassen/Miller/Bell (D/USA/GB), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 302
6. Brown/Segal/Lazzaro (USA/USA/USA), Ferrari F458 Italia, 302
7. Law/Neiman/Lally (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 302
9. Henzler/Sellers/Ragginger (D/USA/A), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 289
10. Bergmeister/Long/Holzer (D/USA/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, 251
1. Sweedler/Bell/von Moltke (USA/USA/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 291 laps
2. Keen/Dumoulin/MacNeil (USA/CAN/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 291
3. Faulkner/Bleekemolen/LaSaffe (IRL/NL/USA), Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, 290
[Source: Rolex Motorsports; photo credit: Rolex / Stephen Cooper; Ferrari; Porsche; Audi; BMW]