Le Mans USA. Major Endurance Test for Porsche at Sebring.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Porsche faces a huge sporting challenge at Sebring International Raceway between March 13 – 16. The GT factory teams  will field four "works" race cars in two long-distance races. Two of the ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR race cars will race over more than 1,000 miles at round six of the World Endurance Championship (WEC) on Friday, with another two identical pair tackling the twelve-hour IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race on Saturday. The "#SuperSebring" race weekend requires a massive effort from Porsche in terms of personnel and logistics – comparable to Porsche's largest ever GT undertaking at Le Mans in 2018.

The Sebring weekend also serves as preparation for this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Porsche will again field four works cars against five other manufacturers in the fiercely competitive LMGTE-Pro category. As it did in 2018, Porsche will field two entries each from its North American-based works team, CORE autosport, and its WEC-entry prepared by Manthey Racing.

At the "Super Sunday" race weekend in Florida, 17 of a possible 25 Porsche factory drivers will share driving duties in the factory cars and customer team 911 racers.

In the World Endurance Championship, which was first contested in 2012, sports prototypes and GT vehicles compete in four classes: LMP1, LMP2, LMGTE-Pro and LMGTE-Am. All classes are on-track together in one race but are classified separately. The Porsche GT Team contests the GTE-Pro class, while the customer teams Dempsey Proton Racing, Team Project 1 and Gulf Racing fight for honors in the GTE-Am class.

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship has been contested in North America since 2014. The series originated from the merger of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) and the Grand-Am Series. Sports prototypes and sports cars start in four different classes: GTLM (GT Le Mans), GTD (GT Daytona), Dpi (Daytona Prototype international) and LMP2 (Le Mans Prototype 2). The Porsche 911 RSR runs in the GTLM class while the Porsche 911 GT3 R contests the GTD class.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of Motorsport.
"The Sebring weekend is a massive undertaking for Porsche Motorsport. We have to transport our entire WEC crew including the cars and all the equipment over the Atlantic. That alone presents a logistical challenge. On top of this, our IMSA team competes at the same location on the same weekend. Two factory cars have to tackle each of these two important endurance races successfully. Everything has to be right. The cooperation between the two teams, the exchange of data and information, and not least the perfect organization of spare parts are fundamentally important. When we contested Le Mans in 2018 with four works cars we finished up with a victory and second-place. So we know how it works. Now, 'across the pond', we aim to demonstrate the perfect synergy between the teams – in a race over twelve hours and another over 1,000 miles."

Pascal Zurlinden, Director of GT Factory Motorsport.
"This will undoubtedly be one of the most intense race weekends of the year. The schedules of both series are so tight that we can only use few personnel on both sides. Basically, the two races add up to a marathon of over almost 24 hours. That's definitely on a par with Le Mans, especially on this extremely demanding racetrack. We'll have a 30-strong crew for each of the WEC and IMSA series, plus an additional 15 people for the GT3 and GT4 customer sport program in the USA. The combination of both works teams is already working brilliantly. One example of this: While the IMSA team was testing in Sebring, the WEC squad used Core autosport's workshop to set up their two 911 RSR. They have everything that's needed there. That's how teamwork should be." 

Go for Two. Porsche GT Team Targets Second-Consecutive Sebring IMSA Win. 
Porsche would like to repeat last year's victory at the upcoming Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. The second round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is scheduled for March 16 at Sebring International Raceway. The Porsche GT Team factory program will field two of the ca. 510 hp Porsche 911 RSR in the venerable twelve-hour race in Central Florida. Like at the season-opening round in Daytona, the GTLM class entered machines will carry a modern interpretation of the legendary Brumos Racing design. In the GTD class, the three customer squads will each run a Porsche 911 GT3 R.

The Sebring International Raceway is both famous and infamous. The well-used term "respect the bumps" gives a very clear indication of what drivers and teams are up against on the 3.74-mile (6.02-kilometer) track with its 17 corners. The circuit, whose layout was crafted from a former World War II airfield, features brutal washboard-like bumps particularly in the final seventeenth turn. About a third of the circuit is from the original concrete laid in 1941 for Hendricks Army Airfield runways. The result of the bumps and the surface requires intensive work to find the best vehicle setup in order to prepare man and machine for the demands of the 12-hour race. One of the most famous curves, "Sunset Bend", is a tight and very bumpy right-hander onto the start-finish straight. In addition to the races at Daytona, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta, the 12 Hours of Sebring counts towards the IMSA North American Endurance Cup (NAEC).

Patrick Pilet (France), Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Frédéric Makowiecki (France) will again share the No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR. In 2018, the trio won the long-distance races at Sebring and "Petit Le Mans" at Road Atlanta. Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium) and Mathieu Jaminet (France) drive the sister car. At the season-opening round in Daytona, the three scored a podium finish with the No. 912. In GTD, the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R Pfaff Motorsports customer team features Porsche development driver Lars Kern (Germany) and two Canadians, each an IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada Champion, Scott Hargrove and Zacharie Robichon. Porsche works driver Patrick Long (Manhattan Beach, California) and his compatriots Patrick Lindsey (Santa Barbara, California) and Nicholas Boulle (Dallas, Texas) share the cockpit of the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R. 

With 18 overall victories, Porsche is by far the most successful brand at the twelve-hour race in Florida. The sports car manufacturer has been strong throughout the storied event, which was contested for the first time in 1952, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s. Between 1976 and 1988, Porsche netted 13 outright victories in a row. Racing legends Hans Herrmann and Jo Siffert scored the first win for Porsche at Sebring in 1960. The most recent overall win was in 2008 thanks to Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) and Emmanuel Collard (France) at the wheel of a Penske Racing Porsche RS Spyder.

Pascal Zurlinden, Director GT Factory Motorsport.
"After the podium result at the season-opener at Daytona, we'd now like to follow up with win. And the conditions look favorable. We won at Sebring in 2018 and now we want to repeat that. The car is very well suited to this classic and famously bumpy circuit. Our drivers are very experienced and we've celebrated many successes here already. Because the WEC is also being held here at Sebring, we're facing a huge race weekend, which requires an effort similar to what we had at Le Mans with our four works cars. We want to wrap up this extraordinary event with a great success."

Steffen Höllwarth, Program Manager IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. 
"I'm really looking forward to the Sebring race, it's one of the biggest challenges in motor racing. The track demands absolutely everything from the drivers, teams and cars. It's hard to win there. We're coming to Sebring as last year's winners, so essentially we know how to tackle this task. At a test with the two cars we were able to prepare well for the different conditions. It's important that the cars run well in the heat and also perform strongly at the end in the cooler temperatures of the night."

Sebastian Golz, Project Manager 911 GT3 R.
"The 12 Hours of Sebring is a whole new challenge. At its first test miles, the new Porsche 911 GT3 R demonstrated very well that it can handle the special requirements of the track with its uneven road surface. We head to the second long-distance highlight of the 2019 season feeling confident and we'll fight for the podium at Sebring with our teams." 

Patrick Pilet, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"Our win last year showed just how important good teamwork is at such a race. Neither the team nor the drivers allowed ourselves to make a single mistake. We were careful at the right moments and we pulled out all stops when it came down to the wire. That was the key. Twelve hours on such a bumpy circuit is really exhausting. We'd like to reward ourselves for this ordeal again this year with a win."

Nick Tandy, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"To be honest, for many years Sebring wasn't one of my favorite racetracks, but our victory last year changed that. It's not only the washboards that make this event special. It's also the changing conditions driving into the night – and not least the masses of crazy motorsport fans at the track. I'm very much looking forward to the race. It's a real endurance classic. Of course we want to do as well as last year."

Frédéric Makowiecki, Driver, No. 911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"The 12 Hours of Sebring is definitely the most difficult race on the North America calendar – and this is precisely why I'm really excited about it. The circuit demands everything from man and machine. When it gets dark towards the end of the race, the visibility is anything but good because there's not a lot of lighting there. Last year we mastered these difficulties well. We aim to repeat this achievement and climb to the top of the podium."

Laurens Vanthoor, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"The Sebring circuit suits our Porsche 911 RSR. We came third last year and our sister car won. Therefore, I assume that we'll again have the best chances. The racetrack with its bumps is more brutal than any other circuit in the world. If your car is not perfectly set up, then your life as a driver will be extremely difficult. That makes it all the more important to work on even the tiniest details in our set-up. We made good progress in this regard at our test in mid-February."

Earl Bamber, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"After coming third last year we now want to do better. We've known that the Porsche 911 RSR is a powerful weapon in fierce competition since winning here in 2018. We have to use our heads and carefully consider in which phases of the race we can push to the absolute limit. If we're tactically clever and stay out of trouble, then we have the best chances of scoring a top placing in the dark at the end."

Mathieu Jaminet, Driver, No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR.
"I contested the GTD class here in Sebring last year in a Porsche 911 GT3 R run by a customer team. Now I'm finally getting the chance to drive the 911 RSR. One thing that's certain though: Sebring is one of the world's toughest races. No other racetrack shakes you up like here. Porsche finished on the podium last year with both works car, and that's what we'd like to achieve again this year."

Patrick Long, Driver, No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
"The racetrack pushes teams, drivers and cars to the absolute limit. It's truly brutal. You always have to stay focused and be prudent at all times. Ultimately, it's all about maintaining a good position over the last few hours in the dark. If you succeed in this, then anything is possible at the finish. Our season began really well at Daytona. Now we want to add as many points as possible."

Lars Kern, Driver, No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
"After a difficult start to the season at Daytona, we're looking forward to the twelve-hour race in Sebring. We're well prepared and we hope to finally underline the full potential of our 2019 Porsche 911 GT3 R. For me personally, Sebring is another highlight. To contest such a historic race is always something very special for a racing driver."