Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.

IMSA: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring update – halfway through the 12-hour event

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We’re halfway through the 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring Raceway in central Florida.

Weather conditions have been perfect, with barely a cloud in the sky, although temperatures have started to climb from warm to borderline hot.

After the significant amount of action during the first three hours, things were somewhat subdued in the second three-hour segment as we head into the second half of the race.

Let’s get started with some of the highlights, follow class-by-class reports.

With about 7 hours, 42 minutes left in the race, the No. 66 Ford GTLM of Chip Ganassi Racing ran into trouble.

Dirk Mueller was behind the wheel when he was clipped on the right rear. A few moments later, the left rear tire blew out.

Somehow, the rear wing assembly also became dislodged on the right side, apparently from the initial contact, prompting Mueller to hit the pits to have the wing replaced.

The team worked on the car on pit road for close to 15 minutes before taking the car to the paddock for further repairs, or potentially retirement from the event.

On the restart, the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD spun with Christina Nielsen behind the wheel. Nielsen was able to get the car righted and resumed, running 13th in GTD and 34th overall.

Here’s how the three classes played out from the start of Hour 4 through the end of Hour 6, the halfway point of the event, which is slated to end at 10:40 p.m. ET.


Helio Castroneves checked out from the pack in the early stages of Hours 4 through 6 in the Team Penske No. 7 Acura DPI.

But by the end of the three-hour segment, Pipo Derani (No. 22 Nissan DPI) leads the pack, followed by Spencer Pigot (No. 55 Mazda DPI), Juab Pablo Montoya (No. 6 Acura DPI), Felipe Nasr (No. 31 Cadillac DPI) and Renger Van Der Zande (No. 10 Cadillac DPI).

About midway through the segment, the No. 32 Prototype of Alex Brundle spun and brought out a yellow flag when he temporarily could not get his car going.

He eventually did and rejoined the race, still in ninth among the 13 Prototypes.

The No. 10 Cadillac DPI has struggled for much of the last couple hours with water shooting out from behind the driver’s compartment, an indication that the car continues to overheat – not a good sign for the remaining six hours.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

Connor De Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW M8 leads the GTLM class at the midway point.

Toni Vilander in the No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE is second, followed by Nick Tandy (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR), Laurens Vanthoor (No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR) and Scott Dixon (No. 67 Ford GT) in fifth place.

GT Daytona

Luca Stolz (No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3) leads, followed by Corey Lewis (No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3), Gunmar Jeannette (No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3), Katherine Legge (No. 88 Acura NSX GT3) and Mario Farnbacher (No. 93 Acura NSX GT3).

Closing in on the end of the sixth hour, Dominik Baumann in the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 had an unusual incident.

It’s unclear if he hit something or whether the hood popped up by itself, making it next to impossible for him to see.

Baumann continued on and then hit a sign on the side of the track, pushing the hood down enough where he could make it back to the pits for his team to put the hood back in place and he was back underway.


There also was a very strange incident during the second three-hour segment..

Just before the event reached the four-hour mark, an apparent wind gust lifted a small canopy used by fans over the fence and onto the run-off area by Turn 10.

The incident brought out a full-course yellow that lasted for about five minutes as track workers removed the canopy.

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