I LOVE U.S. RACING
SEBRING, FL – The 12-Hour at Sebring was an emotional race for Team ORECA Matmut. Running an older Peugeot 908 turbo-diesel, the once dominant team was expected to be an “also-ran” in the 2011 race competing against the 2010 race-winning Peugeot “works-team” running the latest generation 908 and the mighty Audi Sport Team Joest R15 entries. But as Providence would have it, Team ORECA ran a splendid race and crossed the finish line first for the overall win. The favored Peugeots and Audis ran into a rash of bad luck with the #1 Audi of Rockenfeller experiencing two tire failures early in the race. Then, the R15 piloted by Capello collided with the #7 Peugeot of Marc Gene putting them both in the garage for extensive repairs. Finally, while running in first place, the front louvers of the #8 Peugeot were damaged, requiring a lengthy pit-stop to replace the nose with only three hours to go. By running a well-planned and flawless race, Team ORECA was able to capitalize on the misfortunes of their rivals winning the race. Commenting on the final moments of the race, following a late-race pit stop for fuel, driver Loc Duval said, after that, the car was perfect and we managed to keep the gap between us and the [HPD], it was tough and we had a lot of pressure because I don’t think we would be in this position, to be honest. As Hugues [de Chaunac] said before, we were building and building during the race. And then at the end, the car was perfect.”
Before the race, deChaunac reflected on Oreca’s history and American-style racing, "In Europe, the focus is on the technical aspect. In America, it focuses more on the show. That's what appeals to me. Whatever the discipline, we have had a popular success. That's what excites me! I remember spectacular and exciting racing, but also very close to the fans. Oreca burned bright and wrote one of the most beautiful chapters of its history with the Dodge Viper. Oreca had two incredible years. This experience has enabled us to discover a new world, a new conception of racing. We enjoyed this adventure which has affected us."
The other amazing story at Sebring concerned the defending ALMS champs Honda Performance Development. Receiving their new car, the ARX-01e on Friday, a week before the race, in Florida, the HPD crew had a lot of sorting and setup to do to make the car worthy of the 12-hour duel. The car ran for the first time on Saturday, and was still involved with testing on Monday. The team must have done remarkable work almost winning the race against the mighty turbo-diesels finishing second less than 32 seconds behind Team ORECA. The expectations will be high for the team come May at Le Mans.
LMP2 was won by the Level 5 Motorsports Honda-powered Lola B11/40 driven by Diaz, Hunter-Reay and Tucker. This was remarkable following a mid-race incident during which a loose wheel-nut caused the car to lose a wheel resulting in the car stopping on the track. The ORECA entry Nissan piloted by Mailleux, Ayari and Ordonez, placed second with the Oak Racing Judd rounding out the podium.
In the competitive GT class, BMW finished 1 and 2 despite the first place M3 of Hand/Muller/Priaux suffering a tire puncture in the first hour of the race caused by rubbing contact with the Level 5 Honda-Lola. A later incident involving a Jaguar XKR-GT caused a spin while at the hand of Muller. Nonetheless, the BMW reclaimed the lead by the 3rd hour of the race. The Auberlein/Werner/Farfus BMW placed second followed by the Corvette Racing C6.R of Beretta/Milner/Garcia. The #4 Corvette driven by Gavin/Magnussen/Westbrook placed 4th and the Risi Competion Ferrari F430 placed fifth. The performance by the BMW puts the team 9 points ahead in the Manufacturer’s Cup, followed by Corvette Racing.