2016 Sebring 12 Hours Race Day Updates

Photo: Tony DiZinno
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SEBRING, Fla. – Good morning from Sebring International Raceway. Today marks the 64th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida, second round of both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup 2016 seasons.

We’ll have pertinent updates throughout the day in a rolling format, in this post, with the most recent updates at the top of the post.

9:15 p.m. ET: A handful of interesting driver tweets and updates:

8:40 p.m. ET: The big change with two hours to go involves Change Racing in GTD, which has led most of the race in a tightly packed class.

Corey Lewis was leading in the No. 16 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 but incurred a stop plus four minute, six second penalty for an improper passaround.

It dropped Lewis from the lead down to 11th place, with the top 10 all on the lead lap.

Up front, the Action Express Racing and Visit Florida Racing Corvette DPs are joined by the three newer LMP2-spec cars – two Ligier JS P2 Hondas and the DragonSpeed Oreca 05 Nissan – and the DeltaWing.

PC is putting on a scrap for the lead with Mark Wilkins and Tom Kimber-Smith doing their best to uphold the class’ honor.

And GTLM sees Corvette Racing up front, courtesy of a particularly strong drive from Tommy Milner.

Oh, and we might have more rain.

7:15 p.m. ET: Jan Magnussen has a quote about the accident, below, as distributed by Corvette Racing:

“It’s such a huge shame for everyone on the team really. The weather made it really difficult out there. The decision to go to slicks felt wrong, but we did it. After awhile I could see that times were coming down and I could build a little bit of temperature. I kept working at it. I don’t know how far back we were but we were a long way but caught everything up. We got into the lead there for a very short while and then it all went south. It’s a shame. (Kevin) Estre (911 driver) came and apologized. That’s nice enough but it doesn’t change the fact that we are in here building the car. I really, really feel bad for the crew because man we were fast.”

Meanwhile, Eric Curran just locked up and spun at Turn 10 while running second overall in the No. 31 car. He’s dropped to fifth.

The No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports had another spin although it appeared to have help from the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry.

Just after that, the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R stopped on track at Turn 1 with a mechanical issue. Jan Heylen was driving and it’s an unfortunate end of the race for that car.

6:00 p.m. ET: It’s the eighth hour of the race and the biggest accident has happened thus far, when Kevin Estre took it three-deep into Turn 1 in his No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR against Lawson Aschenbach in his No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS – who was trying to stay out of the way in the middle – and Jan Magnussen in his No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.

With Estre going up the inside, it caused a sizable two-car accident as both he and Magnussen careened across the road into the tire barriers, and has brought the race under another full course caution. Here’s a link to the accident, via the @SPEED Twitter account.

They were running first and second in class. It promotes the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT to the lead in class with Scott Dixon now behind the wheel.

One of Magnussen’s co-drivers, Antonio Garcia, was less than pleased with the results.

Meanwhile, the snark is flowing between myself and RACER.com reporter Marshall Pruett with regards to Magnussen’s condition.

5 p.m. ET: The race is halfway, and a quick report from the six-hour mark is linked here.

3:55 p.m. ET: Five hours are in the books and the race is back to yellow flag conditions after a two-hour, 15-minute red flag.

Also, the first round of Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup points came out at the four-hour mark, with the race under red flag conditions.

Class leaders are the same four as below – the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR, the No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports Oreca FLM09 and No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

2:45 p.m. ET: With the worst of the weather passed, it’s looking like a 3:45 p.m. at best for a restart.

IMSA has allowed two crew members per car to head to each car to warm up the engines, and is aiming to restart the race in one hour.

The race clock is still running, and is now past the four-hour mark in this race. A race is declared official once it is past the 50 percent mark; so it would need to be six-hours plus complete in order to make this one official.

1:30 p.m. ET: Just before the three-hour mark, the red flag has come out for track conditions and lightning in the area. Per IMSA Radio, camera operators were asked to stand down.

There are 67 laps complete.

Here’s the running order.

RedFlagOrder

Just prior to the red, Dirk Mueller went off line at Turn 1 in the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. There’s been no word from the team yet on what the reason was for the accident. Mueller, per IMSA, has been evaluated and released.

12:45 p.m. ET: Two hours are in the books. Leaders are Christian Fittipaldi (overall and P in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP), Giancarlo Fisichella (No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GTLM), Robert Alon (No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09, PC) and Madison Snow (No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, GTD).

However the leaders aren’t the stories – the rain is.

At the one hour, 20 mark, the rain went from spitting to intensifying and things got a bit batty.

NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell suffered the worst of it with a heavy accident at Turn 17, preparing to pit the No. 11 Change Lamborghini Huracán GT3 on the next lap. He hydroplaned and lost control, smashing into the barriers on a wet track – and the impact was enough to damage the barriers. Fortunately for Bell he got out on his own and was evaluated and released from the infield care center.

CORE’s No. 54 car also had a spin and resumed.

There were a number of cars that opted to take on wet tires – the Nos. 23, 22, 20, 60, 81, 38, 0, 67 and 66 at least – while others soldiered on on slicks.

It was a fraught few minutes at one point for Keiko Ihara in the No. 70 Mazda Prototype. She spun in Turn 17, moved onto the racing line, reversed out and then backed up onto the outside of the corner without hitting anything or anyone else. Once in the pit lane, however, she then spun her tires – a no-no. The other Mazda, the No. 55 car, also received a penalty for a speeding in the pit lane.

Here’s a few tweets of note:

And just now we’ve had a raft of penalties, recapped here. Yes, I’m aware my handwriting is pretty poor.

Basically the first column is Stop + 60 for service in a closed pit, the second is Stop + 60 for going out in front of the red light, the third is Stop + 2 minutes for committing both violations, and the penalties to the No. 50 and 540 cars are for improper passarounds, although note the No. 540 penalty is a longer one.

As for the race? GTLM is doing GTLM things.

11:45 a.m. ET: The first hour is in the books with the first full course caution having occurred 54 minutes into the race. Two Lamborghinis are in trouble, albeit with separate issues.

The No. 11 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3, which had a thrash to even make the grid in the hands of Bill Sweedler, pulled off course driver’s right on the curb at the inside of Turn 10. Townsend Bell and Richard Antinucci share the car, and the car did make it back to pit lane.

Meanwhile the new Lamborghini from Dream Racing stopped on course on the back straight before Turn 17.

There was also drama for what had been the GTD-class leading No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R in the hands of Jeroen Bleekemolen. A driveshaft failure has taken the car out of contention and the Bill Riley-led crew repaired the car to get it back out.

The likable Dutchman, who suffered a heartbreak here last year in the final 10 minutes when a mechanical failure cost he and the team a chance to win, was less than happy with the situation but thankful the ViperExchange.com team – in Gas Monkey Garage colors – worked its magic to get the car back out.

Olivier Pla continued to lead overall in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda with other class leaders Misha Goikhberg (No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports, PC), Tommy Milner (No. 4 Corvette C7.R, GTLM) and Patrick Lindsey (No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, GTD), with Lindsey owing a pit stop as he was the last to pit on the first pit stop sequence.

Meanwhile, it appears the rain is about to hit the track.

“It’s starting to rain, John,” IMSA Radio’s pit reporter Shea Adam told colleague John Hindhaugh just after the one-hour mark.

11:15 a.m. ET: Here’s the unofficial weather report for what’s about to happen, and some tweets below are forecasting the worst.

11 a.m. ET: The race is underway under overcast skies, which was a change from pre-grid when it was sunny out.

Here was my view of the start.

At 11 a.m. ET, we’re 20 minutes in with the race having started at 10:40 a.m. local time.

Dane Cameron made an early move on Pipo Derani for second behind Olivier Pla, the polesitter. Pla had about five laps of clear traffic in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda before catching the tail end of the GTD field.

Meanwhile there was a bit of trouble for three of the six Lamborghinis. The No. 27 Dream Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 spun at Turn 17 but resumed without damage; the No. 28 Konrad Motorsport Huracán received a black flag to serve a penalty for starting in the pit lane (but as of 11 a.m., driver Christopher Bruck hadn’t served it despite repeated wavings), while the No. 21 Konrad Huracán didn’t start at all following a fire in morning warmup.

Right now the best lead battle has been in GTD, where Jeff Segal in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 has held off the advances of Jeroen Bleekemolen and the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R.

Other class leaders early on are Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry in PC and the two BMWs in GTLM, with Bill Auberlen’s No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM ahead of John Edwards in the No. 100 BMW.

9 a.m. ET: The big story line going into the race? That would be rain. It’s expected not long after the race start and figures to seriously jumble the order.

Here’s how to watch: FS1 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. ET, FS2 from 12 to 7 p.m. ET, IMSA.com from 7 to 10 p.m. ET, and 10 to 11 p.m. ET for the finish on FS2. The entire race will be streamed via FOX Sports Go. IMSA Radio will also have flag-to-flag coverage uninterrupted via radiolemans.com.

Watch for tires to be a big story. From Michelin’s pre-race advance, as Michelin wets were fastest overall in qualifying in an abnormal qualifying at Daytona and also helped propel Porsche North America to an overall victory at Petit Le Mans in October:

“In dry conditions, the timing delta is expected to be 6-8 seconds per lap from the more powerful, lighter, more aerodynamic Prototypes to the slower production based GTLM class entries. In the wet however, Michelin teams have been as much as 2 to 3 seconds per lap quicker than the Prototypes in many wet conditions. The resulting shift in the timing delta of between 8 and 10 seconds per lap is extraordinary.”

Continental Tire is also well prepared for the rain – assuming it arrives – with new rain tires. From its release:

“WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams racing on Continental tires will have new rain tires beginning at Sebring. The Prototype classes will have a brand new configuration while the GTD class will move to the previous Prototype configuration.”

Warmup is in the books. The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP led an otherwise meaningless session.

One big change to the grid: the PC polesitting entry from CORE autosport will now start at the back of the class field, as Jon Bennett and not qualifying driver Colin Braun will start the No. 54 Oreca FLM09. Otherwise, no changes.

Here is the official grid.

Also, after failing to qualify on Friday, the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS has changed its gearbox and will start from the rear of the field. Connor De Phillippi joins that car’s full-season pairing of Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell for Sebring.

Look for Kaka – a major soccer star – to be here today as a guest of Rubens Barrichello. Barrichello qualified and will start the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP eighth overall, in the car he shares with Max Angelelli, and Jordan and Ricky Taylor.

On a social note Friday night, B.o.B “rocked the grid” with the Rock the Grid show. We’ll have a separate post up on that later today, courtesy of a great effort from Rebel Rock Racing’s Jim Jonsin and IMSA to put the show on at Sebring.

More updates to follow throughout the day.