What they’re saying: IMSA drivers, teams head to Sebring

Photo courtesy of IMSA

This week marks the start of the rest of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, following the kickoff that is the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida is a more representative test of the season as the first permanent road course following the infield road course/oval combination that is Daytona.

There’s also new Balance of Performance adjustments this race, following Daytona, and it will be interesting to see which cars rise or fall based on those changes.

The Prototype Challenge class also has these electronics updates set to debut, following a test carried out by CORE autosport and JDC/Miller Motorsports last month:

  • A new electronics package, consisting of a new engine control unit (ECU); new gearbox control unit (GCU); new power distribution unit (PDU); and a new chassis loom
  • New telemetry
  • Traction control
  • A new dash panel and display
  • A new engine configuration, which is 25 pounds lighter with a lighter crank, rods and pistons to allow for better weight distribution while not reducing the overall minimum weight of the car

Anyway, here’s a roundup of what some of the teams and drivers are saying heading into Sebring this week:

Michael Shank, Team Owner, No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda (P)

“We made a nice progression at the Sebring test last month. The car wasn’t as good as we had hoped it would be off the trailer, like we’ve typically been in the past. But we worked on it the whole time and now we are really happy with it. The BOP really affected us, they’ve taken the wick out of our fire after Daytona but we’re going to look at that and analyze it just like IMSA will also.

“From a chassis standpoint, with 17 corners, there is much more chassis stuff going on here at Sebring compared to Daytona, and we made a lot of great progress and I think we’re in decent shape from a balance standpoint. Sebring is very rough here on the car. We’ve had a bit of a tough run at the longer races recently, but I think the car is perfectly capable of a good result.”

Christian Fittipaldi, Driver, No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP (P)

“Sebring is probably the most difficult race of the year for our series. You have the perfect storm of challenges when you think about the warm temperatures, the age of the track surface and just the beating that both the drivers and the car take for 12 hours.”

Joel Miller, Driver, No. 70 Mazda Prototype (P)

“We were disappointed at Daytona [after dropping out of the race], but we left there with a smile because we immediately began looking forward to Sebring. It’s a track that seems to suit our cars because it rewards high downforce, and I think we can show a lot of strength. We know the car is competitive, so we’re itching to show we can do it. We’ve done a lot of testing there, we have a proven car and we know how to get the most out of it.”

Jon Bennett, Team Owner, Driver, No. 54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09 (PC)

“Certainly, we will match the traffic much better on cold tires and in the rain. In normal competition, the new enhancements will make the PC a bit faster and easier to drive quickly.  How each team and driver adapts over the next few races will be interesting to watch.”

Bobby Rahal, Team Co-Owner, Nos. 25 & 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM (GTLM)

“I was impressed with the M6 and its systems reliability at Daytona. While we had a mechanical issue on the No. 100 car, the No. 25 car ran without a hitch and that makes me confident. On top of that we have had several tests at Sebring and once again the systems and mechanical durability of the car seems to have been borne out. It will be as it is always there, you can never go into that race feeling too good about your chances just because of the demands the track puts on everything but I do think that we will be prepared for those demands.  There is no reason why we can’t have a good race.”

Mario Farnbacher, Driver, No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R (GTD)

“We won Sebring last year, but that is in the past. Last year’s win was amazing, but we are focused on this weekend. I am guessing the traffic situation will be big again this year. The PC, GTLM, and GTD cars are much closer together on pace than last year. Rule number one, stay out of trouble, be around for the last two hours and go for a second win.”

Bryan Sellers, Driver, No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 (GTD)

“Sebring is one of the events I looks forward to every year. The atmosphere of the race is something special. It was one of the very first sports-car races I attended, so it holds a very special place in my heart. Our guys at Paul Miller Racing have been flat-out prepping for the event, trying to ensure we have every tool necessary to perform. This is a race that is won or lost as a team, and we are all up for the challenge.”

Christina Nielsen, Driver, No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 (GTD; car’s U.S. debut)

“Sebring is a super tough track on the car, so it is of course important to have a car that can handle the distance. Testing has proven so far that it is a strong long distance car. Speed is always important – and based on testing, I believe we have that – but handling all the traffic and staying consistent will be key at Sebring. The car is very good over a stint, and this will give us an advantage being able to be consistent and keep good lap times even as the tires get used more and more. Hopefully we can exploit this advantage and continue Ferrari’s success at Sebring.”

IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):

Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans