Saturday, March 17, 2007

Sebring notes, Part 4

We're now nearly 6:40 into the 55th annual 12 Hours of Sebring, and what a race so far. The Audis running practically unopposed in P1 are having starter issues (which sucks for them, since every pit stop requires that the engine be shut off, for safety's sake). So, as predicted, the front-running P2 car (currently the Andretti Green Racing/Acura ARX-01A) with Dario Franchitti at the wheel, is kicking ass and is only a single lap down from the overall lead.

The competition in P1 and GT1 is... dead. There's nothing there, really. Audi has two cars against... well, nothing! And in GT1 the Corvettes have only token competition in the form of the Team Modena Aston Martin DBR-9. The Aston team has some skilled drivers and talent throughout the team, no doubt, but they're still a privateer entry with too little budget and experience to compete with the all-dominating Corvette C6.Rs.

So, with P1 and GT1 dead, where's all the action? P2 and GT2, for once. Penske and Porsche ignited a storm in P2 last year, knocking both the Dyson and Intersport teams out for the championship haul -- and even taking an overall win once. But this year, other teams are running those very same Porsches (Dyson, for one) and there's also new blood in the form of Honda/Acura. (Yes, Acura is just a name we use in America for "expensive Honda," but let's be generous and let 'em off the hook for once)

The competition between Acura and Porsche, as I write this, is drop-dead FIERCE. At six and three-quarter hours now (5:12 remaining), it's actually a race.

Oops, the #6 Penske Porsche is back in the pits, getting some kind of work done... this helps to offset the lost time that the #9 Highcroft Racing Acura spent in the pits earlier, getting some kind of electrical work done. David Brabham was behind the wheel at the time, and his eyes were saying "get me the hell out of the pits and back onto the track already!"

The Spyker has a roof now. It still looks weird and still has those crazy scissor doors, but it's got a proper hardtop - or a bolt-on. I think it might make a better road car than race car, honestly.

Just prior to the start of today's race, when they let EVERYONE on the grid, I went to say hi to a few of the drivers and other people in the sport - I went to ask Brabs how he likes the new car (he's very happy with it - "it's good, I like it" he said), saw Tracy Krohn (who wished my dear M&mdash the best in her absence, and then I got to finally say hi to Bobby Rahal. I've only wanted to meet this guy since I saw him win the Indy 500 about 20 years ago, and this morning I just walked up to him - he knew who I was, already - but got to introduce myself and welcome him and Rahal Letterman Racing to the series.

Bobby has run here before as a driver, but not as a team owner. Rahal Letterman, like Andretti Green, has had plenty of success in open-wheel racing, but both are entirely new to sports cars.

Full course caution now, some debris on the track... I'm gonna' run down to shoot a few images, and come back to this later.

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