The 2014 running of the 12 Hours of Sebring was held Saturday, March 15th at the 3.74-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida. Time was the defining element in separating the wheat from the chaff at the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, which came to its dramatic conclusion with the winners being rewarded for their perseverance over the 12-hour endurance contest.
Roughly a half hour into the race a dramatic fire that took out the #33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R marked the first of what would eventually become 11 full course yellows. While the repeated stoppage of racing can frustrate the drivers and interrupt their rhythm, team strategy is often the beneficiary with not only fuel and tires conserved but also the need to pit.
As the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring wound down, race car attrition was apparent. By the time the race had been in progress for eight hours, six cars had retired from the competition, with the total climbing to 13 by the end of racing. Each class bore the effects of a sprint race pace and aggressive tactics, but the Prototype Challenge (PC) class fell victim more than the others as four of the 10 cars in that class were no longer running by the 11th hour of the race. One possible reason is the fact that once a race is underway the cars situated mid-field are subject to congested traffic which creates an intense overtaking situation. The PC class was gridded in positions 12 through 25, just ahead of the GT classes, making them most likely to find themselves in wheel-to-wheel circumstances. Another factor may be the bumpy nature of this track, which limits a car’s stability, as car control is somewhat compromised.
In the end, the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley DP was first across the line as the clock ran out, making the win of the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring the latest achievement for the Ganassi team which has won the Daytona 500, Indy 500 and the 2013 Rolex 24 At Daytona. Scottish driver Marino Franchitti brought the #01 home, sharing the victory with co-drivers Memo Rojas of Mexico and California’s Scott Pruett.
“This is a team effort,” said Pruett who had not driven Sebring in 25 years. “What Memo did, and what Marino did, and what the team did for 12 hours with everyone working together because the car was quite a handful for quite a while. We were struggling just to hold on to it. We kept digging and the Ganassi organization was great. What is so special for me is the last time I won here in class was with Ford in 1986. So it is nice to come back here and win overall with Ford in 2014. This is the race I had never won overall and I never thought I would have the opportunity to do so. When ALMS and Grand-Am came together it gave me the opportunity to give it a try. The future looks really good for sports car racing in this country and it is a pretty special series we have right now. To be a part of it and to be back in Victory Lane is just great.”
In the PC class, the #54 Core Autosport Oreca FLM09 took the win with an all-American driving team, having won the 2014 Rolex 24 At Daytona just six weeks ago.
“It’s really unbelievable,” said Jon Bennett who was in the driver’s seat for the final stint of the race. “At the end of the day I represent a lot of hard work that has gone into our effort on the LMP2 side and also our new partner Porsche Motorsport North America. As for the results of the last two events… there aren’t any words.”
It was a sentiment echoed by co-driver Colin Braun: “To win Daytona and then come here and win Sebring it’s a tough thing to beat. It really comes down to the team and the preparation. It’s such a great job these guys do and then it’s up to us to execute things. We had to work for it this time, that’s for sure.”
Starting from pole, the #912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, driven by American Patrick Long, Denmark’s Michael Christensen and Germany’s Jorg Bergmeister, took the win of the GTLM class.
“The team made all the difference today,” said Long who was at the wheel for the win. “My thanks to my co-drivers Michael and Jorg. We were fighting five cars on the lead lap so I did a double stint. We felt once the sun went down we would have our chance to step it up with the cooler temperatures, and that definitely worked in our favor.”
The GTD class win was taken by the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911 GT with co-drivers John Potter, Andy Lally and Germany’s Marco Seefried.
“We had quite an up and down day,” explained Lally who brought the car home for the win. “A couple of little issues, but they were handled quickly by the Magnus Racing crew so we were able to rebound and get back on the lead lap to fight for position. John and Marco did an awesome job bringing us up through the field which put us in a good spot with about an hour and a half to go. Near the end, with about 45 minutes to go, the team saw a potential for yellow and let me know which resulted in us getting pretty close to the front. I got a good restart and that let me drive my line while Townsend [Townsend Bell in the #555 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 Italia] was fighting traffic. This Magnus Porsche was awesome and I can’t thank my team enough.”
Photographer Michael DiPleco documented the racing action at the 2014 running of the Sebring 12 Hours, offering the following 150 images that highlight the annual endurance race staged in Sebring, Florida.
Twelve Hours of Sebring 2014 – Photo Gallery (click image for larger picture)
[Source: Rolex Motorsports; photos: Michael DiPleco]