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

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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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.”