The Sebring 12 Hour endurance race is the oldest event of its kind in the United States. Now in its 62nd year, Sebring hosted a new sanctioning body this year called the United Sports Car Series (USCS). The USCS merged the Grand Am and American Le Mans Series (ALMS) into one championship. The Le Mans prototypes (LMP-1) are no longer eligible to compete for the top spot on the podium. Instead the former Grand Am Daytona Prototypes (DP) and the ALMS LMP-2 entries now compete for top honors in the Prototype (P) class. At Daytona the DP Corvettes swept the first four finishing positions. The LMP-2 cars are lighter and have a lot of downforce, which makes them slower on high-speed tracks like Daytona. They qualified almost 4 seconds a lap slower than the Corvette DP's at Daytona. Sebring was a different story. The Action Express Corvette won the pole with a time of 1:51.917. Second fastest went to a former LMP-2 Nissan Morgan with a time of 1:52.086 or 0.17 of a second slower. This tight bumpy circuit seemed to favor the former LMP-2 competitors as predicated.
Corvettes also competed in the GTLM class against Porsche, Viper, BMW and Ferrari. The No. 4 C7.R of Gavin/Milner/Liddell was Fourth in class, 0.29 seconds behind the pole winning Porsche. The No. 3 Corvette driven by Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe was Fifth fastest 0.31 seconds behind the Porsche. Both Corvettes started in 29th and 30th positions.
A large starting field of 64 competitors in four classes took the green flag at 10:10 a.m. under mild clear skies. The first hour saw a variety of yellow flags caused by spins and crashes. The initial one was due to a high-speed spin at 19 minutes and the car was unable to continue. During the yellow flag Antonio Garcia came together with another car and damaged the nose of his No. 3 Corvette. At the same yellow flag the No. 33 GTD Viper caught on fire causing further delay. The No. 3 took this opportunity to pit for a 6:19 minute stop to repair the nose damage. This pushed the No. 3 down one lap in the GTLM class. The race resumed at 11:34 a.m. after a 1h 18m delay. Yellow flags became a pattern for the remainder of the race. In the Prototype class, five cars battled for the top position. Only one Corvette DP from Action Express was able to keep pace with the competition.
The GTLM battle was fierce between Corvette, Porsche, Ferrari, BMW, and Viper. The No. 4 Corvette stayed at or near the top of the class from the 6th to the 11th hour. Unfortunately, a couple of spins and an engine going off song pushed the No. 4 down into the Sixth place finishing position in 17th place, one lap behind the class winner. Porsche took first followed by Viper, BMW, Ferrari, Porsche and Corvette. The No. 3 C7.R was doing quite well until it had to pit at 8h 43m to change a fuel pump. Shortly after Magnussen resumed racing he had to return to the pits to serve a stop and go penalty. It was for too many people over the pit wall during the repair stop. The No. 3 finished 8th in class and 19th overall.
When the checkered flag fell at 10:10 p.m. a Ford Riley was First, a Honda LMP-2 (P) Second, and the No. 5 Action Express Corvette took Third. All three were on the same lap and after 12 hours of hard racing the Corvette was only 8.97 seconds behind first place. The new series is providing some exciting racing, but the numerous yellow flags were a distraction for the fans. Overall the USCS merger looks like a successful move and we wish them continued success.
Action at the Corvette Coral
If you own a Corvette and you like to take your pride and joy to races here is a tip for you. Sign up to park at a Corvette Corral. Chevrolet and Corvette Racing opened a well thought out Corral at the recent 12 Hours of Sebring. It is located near the circuit's entrance and offers safe parking and a perfect view of the track action. The first 100 owners are invited to take a parade lap around the famous Sebring racecourse on Thursday. Besides the parking, grandstands and a large tent to help you stay out of the sun, another treat is available. The Corvette Racing paddock is open for owners to visit and inspect the awesome C7.R race car.
Many noted guests put on presentations throughout the weekend. This year Tadge Juechter and Harlan Charles were on hand to answer questions about current and future Corvettes. Drivers also visited to add their autographs to posters, hats, car models, shirts, etc. If you are planning on attending a United Sports Car event, make a reservation to see the races at a Corvette Corral. It's a great way to meet other owners and enjoy the company of people who share your Corvette passion. (202)