Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sebring Results

LMP1: Big surprises here. Before the race started, the pole Audi R10 (#2) didn't make it to the grid and had to start from pit lane after all the cars passed by, 33rd of 35. Frank Biela in the #1 Audi led the pack around the track for the first few laps before retiring at 4:29 with overheating problems. Either the #1 or #2 Audi led the entire way - the first lap being the first time a diesel powered race car led a race of this caliber. The #2 came from 33rd to win the race and LMP1. The #16 & #20 Lolas had problems with a sensor in the engine shutting the engine down. The #16 finished 5th overall, second in class, 13 laps down. The #20 belched smoke every time it started and, despite finishing third in class, finished 27th overall, 176 laps down, parked behind pit lane.

LMP2: The new #6 & #7 Porsche RS Spyders had problems. Both dropped to below 20th at times for repairs, but this car is fast. The #6 had a third place overall spot, and was closing in on second, before a spin out at Hairpin curve kept them from the flag with about a 1/2 hour to go. They still placed second. The #37, with Liz Halliday and the Fields on board, took the class win ahead of the Porsche after starting last place on the grid, 32nd of 35. (I love seeing a privatering team take down Porsche, one of the most storied manufacturers in motorsports history) 3rd went to the #41 Zytek Lola. The Mazda retired due to overheating, the #7 Porsche due to Mechanical problems - drivetrain I think it was.

GT1: WOW! The #4 took it, followed by the 009 1:29 back on the same lap. But after 12 hours of racing, the fight for third place between the #3 and 007 was literally down to the final corner. Tomas Enge may have blocked Max Papis a little, and Papis almost spun him out on the final corner, but didn't, letting the 007 Aston Martin take the 3rd spot.

GT2: Amazing. Utterly amazing. After 12 hours of racing, the top three cars were separated by only 49 seconds, the top two by 5.365 seconds. That's close! The #50 Panoz took it and performed beautifully the entire way. In the straights, next to a GT1 Corvette, the Panoz didn't loose an inch. These cars are finally here. Second place went to my favorite Porsche team, Flying Lizard: the #45 took the podium while the teammate #44 took 4th. Third went to the #62 Ferrari. They would've had the win if the didn't have a problem with one of the lug-nut guns in pit lane which added 15 seconds to each stop, and about 5-7 minutes overall. Unfortunately, the #21 and #22 BMWs had problems, both dropping out. The #21 was doing very well before a brake problem that kept them in the pit for a few hours, then a gearbox failure did them in. The #80 Panoz took 5th, showing just how strong these cars are. The highest placed Spyker was 7th. Wolf Henzler's Porsche retired with a gearbox failure.

Overall: This has never happened before: 1) a Diesel has never won a race of this caliber, 2) an Audi LMP1 car dropped out of a race (The Audi R8, in 70 some races, never retired once), 3) the top three cars - #2, #37, and #4 - were from LMP1, LMP2, and GT1: three classes on the overall podium hasn't happened since... I don't remember it ever happening at Sebring or Le Mans.

The Race: Started with 35 cars. After 12 hours, 21 cars finished. It wasn't a bloodbath like I predicted. There was only one contact penalty to the 007, and most of the 14 retired were due to driver error or mechanical problems: thankfully racing is still a respectful sport. Flying Lizard showed very well, but the focus in GT1 was definitely on the drastic off-season turnaround of the Panoz cars. It's great to see them doing well finally. In GT2 the battles were incredible all day. Both the #3 and 007 cars had problems and still ended on the same lap, fighting to the final corner. In LMP1 only 2 cars finished. Disappointing, but Sebring is a tough course. In LMP2 the #37 was magical. Loved seeing the only woman in the field take the #37 car home, claiming class win and 2nd overall.

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