The Sebring International Raceway, the legendary airfield circuit in the heart of Florida, plays host to the 12 Hours of Sebring on 19 March. Last year, 140,000 spectators travelled to America’s oldest and toughest sports car race. The Porsche North America works team campaigns a pair of Porsche 911 RSR in the GTLM class at the 64th running of the classic on the storied and notoriously bumpy racetrack. With 18 overall victories and 70 class wins, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the Sebring 12-hour race. Porsche tackles the second round of the IMSA SportsCar Championship as the points’ leader of the North American Endurance Cup, a competition encompassing the four long distance races at Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit Le Mans.
Immortalised on the winners’ list are racing legends such as Juan Manuel Fangio, Dan Gurney, Hans Hermann, Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti. Hollywood stars Paul Newman and Steve McQueen, who finished second overall in 1970 with a Porsche 908, have also fulfilled their racing dreams in Sebring. Built on a former airfield, the circuit with its 17 corners is 5.954 kilometres long and hosted the inaugural race on 31 December 1950.
The Porsche drivers
Six Porsche works drivers compete for Porsche North America at Sebring in the GTLM class. In the cockpit of the #911 Porsche 911 RSR is the reigning IMSA GT champion Patrick Pilet (France), the outright Le Mans winner Nick Tandy (Great Britain) and Kévin Estre (France). Sharing driving duties in the number 912 racer is the other overall Le Mans winner Earl Bamber (New Zealand), Frédéric Makowiecki (France) and Denmark’s Michael Christensen, who has recently been elected “Driver of the Year” in his homeland. In the GTD class, factory pilots Jörg Bergmeister (Germany) and Patrick Long (USA) compete for Porsche customer teams with the Porsche 911 GT3 R.
The Porsche racing cars
The 911 RSR received not only a new factory finish for the 2016 season. The 470 hp winning racer from Weissach, which is based on the seventh generation of the iconic 911 sports car, received modifications to the aerodynamics to comply with the new regulations. The position of the rear wing was moved further to the back, with the rear diffuser now considerably larger. Moreover, the 911 RSR received a modified front spoiler lip as well as wide side sills. The new 911 GT3 R celebrated its race debut at Daytona mounted with the new ultra-modern four-litre flat-six engine with direct fuel injection. Porsche built the 500 hp customer sports racer, based on the 911 GT3 RS production sports car, for GT3 series worldwide. In developing the vehicle, the engineers at Weissach paid special attention to lightweight design, better aerodynamic efficiency, reducing consumption as well as improved handling.
The first outright victory for Porsche in Sebring came in 1960 courtesy of Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien in the Porsche 718 RS/60; the most recent overall win in 2008 was clinched by Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard with the Porsche RS Spyder. Porsche’s list of successes also includes no less than 70 class wins at this race. The most recent success was last year with the Porsche 911 GT America fielded by the Alex Job Racing customer team. In 2014, Jörg Bergmeister, Michael Christensen and Patrick Long scored class victory at the wheel of a Porsche 911 RSR.
Porsche Press Release