It may only be half the length of Le Mans or Daytona, but that doesn’t make the Sebring 12 Hours an easier race – far from it, in fact. The event has the hashtag ‘Respect The Bumps’ – that’s not just a gimmick, because the bumps on the airfield circuit (Sebring is the USA’s oldest road course) are properly savage, testing the limits of both the cars and the drivers.
You didn’t have to wait long for the first incident of the race because it happened right at the start when the two guys battling for the lead, Tristan Vautier and Olivier Pla, made contact in the first corner. Of a 12-hour endurance race!
Pla got going but the impact had ruined the gearbox, putting the car out without having even completed a lap.
Just 20 minutes later, Sebastian Saavedra span on the vicious bumps of the infamous Turn 17 and in the process clipped the Ferrari 488 GT3 of Frankie Montecalvo. That caused Montecalvo to flip and slide into the barriers on his roof, though thankfully he was OK.
Here’s a slightly better angle.
Then, a few hours in came the bizarre occurrence of a gazebo blowing onto the track, bringing out a caution for debris.
It almost seems mandatory in IMSA races that at some point, someone has to go off and collect one of the big advertising hoardings that populate the grass, and of course that happened here. Dominik Baumann had the small problem of a damaged bonnet hindering his vision and promptly ploughed through one of them. After some comical wiggling, he finally dislodged it.
Turn 17 claimed some more victims when those pesky bumps contributed to an incident between the No.5 Cadillac of Joao Barbosa and the No.38 Oreca of James French. This one’s made all the more interesting by the fact that French’s teammate, Patricio O’Ward, was in the commentary box at the time of the accident.
Night fell with a couple of hours to go, but Turn 17 wasn’t done claiming victims yet. Tristan Vautier understeered into the tyre barriers on the outside of the corner and had a sizeable shunt. Vautier went for a check at the medical centre but was released shortly afterwards. Other cars were also lucky to avoid the incident as clumps of tyres scattered across the pit straight.
Incidents aside, it was actually a very close race with all three classes going down to the wire and overall victory going to the No.22 ESM Ligier of Pipo Derani, Nico Lapierre, and Johannes van Overbeek.
Next year, Sebring will host something of a ‘double feature’ – after IMSA’s 12-hour race, the WEC will host it’s own 12-hour, 1,500 mile race the day after. Yeah, that’s going to be fun!