published: Sunday, March 17, 2013
Great send off to the American Le Mans Series
By BARRY FOSTER
SEBRING - The 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida was greeted Saturday by clear skies and cool temperatures. Not the "bikini weather" that has been the hallmark of past years, but certainly not cold enough to put the slightest hitch in the Boner Outfitters Model Search/Bikini Contest - now an afternoon staple of the Sebring International Raceway's Spring Brake Party Zone.
By the time the event had arrived, the air had warmed and the field was packed with faithful attendees.
The crowd, estimated at more than 100,000, was better than well-behaved. In fact, as of Friday Highlands County Sheriff's officials had reported only four arrests. There were none on Wednesday or Thursday of Race Week with three cases of underage possession of alcohol and one count each of giving false information to an officer and resisting an officer without violence registered on Friday.
Only one accident was recorded over the first three days. A 58-year-old man reportedly fell from a golf cart in the Paddock Thursday evening. He was airlifted to Tampa General Hospital. However, there was no indication as to his condition,.
Given sheriff's statistics for the rest of the county over the same four-day period, the Sebring International Raceway may well have been the safest neighborhood in the county this past week,
During the course of Race Week there had been quite a lot to keep fans busy at the track - most notably the announcement of the newly-formed United SportsCar Racing series. The new moniker represents the merger of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron and the GRAND-AM Road Racing series.
The two organizations had revealed their merger this past September but only presented their branding and new logo Thursday in a press conference at the Chateau Elan Hotel & Spa alongside the Raceway's famous Hairpin turn.
Fans also got their first glimpse of the new DeltaWing coupe. The sleek racer was put on display for the first time Friday in Sebring's paddock area.
The original DeltaWing, which features an open cockpit, made its debut at last year's 12 Hours with a number of exhibition laps around the storied track.
That car, now in a chrome and red livery, ran in competition in the LMP1 division at this year's grand prix of endurance.
Fans were treated early on by a flawless race, unspoiled by yellow flags or any on-track incidents to slow the action. As expected, the "whispering Audis", as they were described, led the 42-car field around the 17-turn circuit that the marquee has dominated for better than a decade.
It is the last race for Audi in the top division of the sport, although it is expected fans will see Audi return in ensuing years in the GT class. As part of their so-called "farewell tour," the Audi motorsport experience was displayed at their Turn One compound.
The display featured former winning cars, with past winners Marco Werner, Frank Biela, Emanuele Pirro and Dindo Capello there at various times to meet and speak with the fans.
As of noon Saturday, the 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida looked to be a great send off to the American LeMans Series presented by Tequila Patron.
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