After a two hour, fifteen minute red flag due to rain and lightning, the 64th running of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring is heading for another dramatic climax with under four hours to go.
With eight hours in the books, the Prototype class and overall winner for 2016 at the 3.7 mile Sebring International Raceway is likely to be a Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype, the question now is which one of four in contention will take the honor? At the time of press, Wayne Taylor Racing’s Max Angelelli held the top spot, followed by defending Sebring winners Action Express Racing in second and third. Joao Barbosa, driving this weekend despite suffering from a fractured wrist had the No. 5 entry in the runner-up spot, just ahead of Eric Curran in the No. 31 entry. The last of the Corvettes belonging to Visitflorida.com Racing with Ryan Hunter-Reay at the controls, rounded out the top four.
If an LMP-2 eligible prototype is to backup the win by Tequila Patron ESM in January at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Scott Sharp-run squad appears to be the lone hope at this point. At time of press the No. 2 Ligier-Honda coupe was fifth overall with Johannes van Overbeek at the wheel, yet still on the lead lap.
In Prototype Challenge, CORE autosport’s Colin Braun took control of the event following the red flag stoppage, charging from fifth in PC to the top spot in less than one hour. At time of press with Mark Wilkins at the wheel, the No. 54 ORECA FLM09 held a one-minute plus lead on the PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Jose Gutierrez. Starworks Motorsport’s Maro Engel rounded out the top three, but was a full lap off the class lead.
The story in the GT Le Mans division changed dramatically during the seventh hour, when Porsche North America’s Kevin Estre and Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen crashed out of the event at turn one whilst fighting for the class lead. Magnussen had gotten alongside Estre at turn 17, and the two went on to split on both sides the slower Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 as they headed for turn one. Neither giving in and with the Audi in the GT Daytona class not giving way either, the GTLM leaders collided and spun, each making heavy contact with the tire barriers. Neither driver suffered injuries in the accident, but both cars were eliminated from the event.
With the mishap, BMW Team Rahal’s pair of M6 GTLMs have reassumed the 1-2 positions they held in the first hour. At time of press, Bill Auburlen in the No. 25 entry held a seven-second lead on the sister No. 100 machine of Lucas Luhr. Also within close range of the lead were the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 of Giancarlo Fisichella in third and the sole remaining Porsche North America entry of Frederic Makowiekci in fourth. After suffering through a myriad of difficulties at Daytona, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GT project has fared well so far with Scott Dixon taking over the top spot following the Corvette-Porsche accident. At press time, Ryan Briscoe had the No. 67 machine in fifth in GTLM, yet still on the same lap as the leader.
Finally in GT Daytona, Stevenson Motorsports despite their semi-involvement in the above incident held two of the top three spots with under four hours to go. The team’s No. 9 Audi R8 LMS with Dion von Moltke was in the top spot, with teammate Robin Liddell holding third in the No. 6 car. Splitting them was the Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Corey Lewis, who like the Audis has been a consistent frontrunner for the past several hours.
Will Turner’s BMW squad also has a shot at victory in the final hours as Markus Palttala had the team’s No. 97 M6 in position number four with AF Corse’s Ferrari 458 with Raffaele Giammaria completing the first five. There are still several contenders in the lower grand touring class within shouting range of the winner’s circle with an amazing 14 cars still on the same lap as the leader.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for a full recap following the checkered flag.