The Twelve hours of Sebring in 2014, was one of controversy and immense levels of frustration for fans, partners and teams alike. It really was an incredibly poor edition, and in my opinion one of the poorest races of 2014, so the hope is that 2015, is the year of redemption.
The 2014 edition, I had been excited for, created all the wrong headlines from officiating disasters, caution period lengths, parity and a whole host of other issues. Many of which highlighted those in which the series had to remedy for the remainder of the 2014 season to the forefront of attention.
Now, in 2015, it is time to remember that this is the 63rd edition of the Sebring 12 Hours, not the second and that Sebring has far more glorious history passion and interest behind it by fans, teams and drivers than what happened at last years race. What Sebring means to race fans overall is no better captured than in John Sutherland’s fantastic “Turn 10 – Sebring” documentary, which was released online a couple of years ago.
Many changes have occurred from last year from the series perspective, within IMSA’s Tudor United Sportscar championship and I think the evolved series we have this year, will redeem Sebring after the events of 2014, as was evident in the Rolex24 this year back in January, year two of the “merged” series is finally showing positive momentum back towards being a strong series.
Sebring has Forty-Five entrants over four classes with fourteen Prototypes leading the field, although It is possible that only thirteen will actually start now. Rolex24 winners, and the winners of the 2014 edition here are Chip Ganassi Racing, running just the single entrant in this years edition, with Scott Pruett and Joey Hand alongside Indycar star Scott Dixon driving for the team this weekend.
The team additionally has demonstrated a new livery that will be carried forwards from this round of the championship featuring far more prominent branding from Ford. Given the links between Chip Ganassi Racing and Ford are expanding in a few areas of the sport. The new livery isn’t really a surprise, though it is interesting from the perspective of what strengths the links between Ganassi and Ford may eventually reach?
Elsewhere in the Prototype class Justin Wilson is joining Michael Shank Racing alongside John Pew and Ozz Negri Jr in a welcome return, for Wilson piloting the Ligier JS P2 entrant.
FP1 showed us the pace of Action Express Racing’s Corvette DP, Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi and Sebastian Bourdais took the team to the top of the timesheets this morning, whilst FP2 saw the Krohn Racing Ligier piloted by Nissan LMP1 driver, Olivier Pla lead the session.
Wayne Taylor Racing meanwhile continues the teams 2015 campaign. Daytona was a mix for WTR of strong pace and a good chance of a win, followed by intense disappointed and a terrible strategy call, which effectively cost them the race. I wouldn’t rule the team out of victory at Sebring.
Extreme Speed Motorsports took the Honda ARX 04 for it’s debut round at Daytona back in January, with the intention of using the new closed-cockpit P2 design for the remainder of the NAEC rounds, and the World Endurance Championship. Unfortunately performance issues, have meant the new ARX 04 has returned to HPD, for further testing, whilst the team will run the older, ARX 03 here, and in the World Championship.
In PC, we have seven entrants overall. Martin Plowman joins the Bar1 Motorsports squad, whilst Conor Daly joins the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports team.
Aston Martin Racing field a single entrant in the GTLM ranks, with Paul Dalla Lana Pedro Lamy and Darren Turner, alongside recently signed Mathias Lauda, the teams driver roster this weekend, maintaining the status quo. Meanwhile at Corvette Racing, Indycar pilot Simon Pagenaud and former Ganassi Indycar driver, Ryan Briscoe continue the NAEC campaign, joined by the Corvette regular season drivers.
BMW RLL have a fantastic livery for this weekend’s race for the anniversary of the 1975 BMW 3.0 CSL winning the Sebring Twelve Hours outright. John Edwards, Lucas Luhr and Jens Klingmann are in the #24 entry this weekend, whilst Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and DTM pilot Augusto Farfus race in the #25. Meanwhile recent BMW North America signing, Ashley Freiberg continues her racing commitments in the Continental tyre series, also running at Sebring this weekend, with Fall-Line Motorsports.
The GTLM Ferrari entrant, comes from Risi Competizione, with Giancarlo Fisichella continuing his commitments, joined by Pierre Kaffer and former FIA GT1 champion Andrea Bertolini.
Porsche North America hopefully will have a stronger weekend at Sebring compared to the unfortunate events of the Rolex24 which saw both cars damaged in contact with one another. The driver lineup this weekend, comprises of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz in car #911, whilst Jorg Bergmeister, Earl Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki pilot the sister #912.
Finally, GT Daytona make up the largest contingent of cars with sixteen cars on the entry list. Pirelli World Challenge regular, Mike Skeen joins Damien Faulker Michael Avenatti and Kuba Giermaziak at GB Autosport. Meanwhile Three-times World Touring Car champion Andy Priaulx continues his NAEC campaign with Turner Motorsport in the BMW Z4 alongside Markus Paltalla, Boris Said and Michael Marsal.
Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas meanwhile led this mornings opening practice session, for the Team Seattle – Alex Job racing #23 entrant.
Whilst Sebring has some redeeming to do from last years edition. My overwhelming thoughts going into this years edition is one of excitement. The race has many star names in it’s entry list and unlike last year the series has had chance to grow, and remove, or at least develop past some of the issues, which plagued this race last year.
The race is live on the Fox Sports family of channels in the USA, whilst IMSA.com and MotorsTV will provide coverage internationally and in the UK respectively.
Full Entry list