published: Saturday, March 16, 2013
While Audis dominate 12 Hours - Plenty of action in Divisional Competition
By BARRY FOSTER
Special to the News-Sun
SEBRING - The Audi dynasty ended at the 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in much the same fashion they have over the past decade with an Audi vs Audi duel from the green to the checkered flags.
Although the seemingly bulletproof Audi e-Quatros spent most of the once-around-the-clock competition swapping the overall lead and setting fast times for the race, there were a wide variety of leaders in-class swapping the point in both GT and prototype divisions.
At the end it tuned out to be a race of seconds.
Benoit Treluver brought his No 1 Audi R18 across the finish line just 7.9 seconds ahead of six-time Sebring 12 Hour winner Tom Krisensen aboard the AudiSport Team Joest No. 2 car.
In the highly competitive American Le Mans Series GT class, race leaders over the course of the 12 Hours included Ferrari, Viper, BMW and race winner Corvette.
Tommy Milner took the lead in a late race pass, holding off the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia of Mateo Matucelli by just a 2.8 second margin.
Although at the end, it was the Level 5 team that finished 1-2 in the Prototype Two division.
The class saw their share of competition as well.
Among those at the point over the balance of the day were the Zytek LMP2 of Greaves Motorsports and the Extreme Speed Motorsports Honda Performance Development car.
Level 5's Marino Franchitti ran through the checkers a full lap ahead of teammate Ryan Hunter Reay by a full lap.
Both were driving Honda Performance Development ARx-03b's.
Both the prototype and GT challenge classes also saw nearly every team have an opportunity to go to the head of their class.
Leaders in the GT Challenge included class winners Team West/Alex Job Motorsports as well as TRG, Dempsy/Del Piero Racing, MoMo NGT Motorsports, Flying Lizard Motorsports and JDX Racing.
While teams heading the LMP challenge class included entries from RSR Racing, DragonSpeed Motorsports, BAR1 Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports, it was the No 52 PR 1 Mathiasen Motorsports who took the checkers with David Ostrella at the helm.
The final Sebring 12 Hours to be run under the banner of the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron was one for the record books.
The competition ran nearly unabated with glitches that interrupted the action only briefly
A full-course yellow came out after the DeltaWng racer's Elan engine gave way and caught fire.
That incident started at Turn 17.
The car made it up the front stretch to Turn One, finally stopping at Turn Three where corner workers raced out to attend to the problem.
Shortly after that incident, the cutting-edge racer was retired from the competition.
Early in the race, the chrome and red prototype racer had been in for a long pit stop and the rear bonnet had to removed so the pit crew could work on a broken throttle piece.
The car later went behind the wall for more extensive work.
The DeltaWing had undergone major changes in the weeks before this year's race.
It now sports an Elan engine, Bridgestone tires as well as a number of different team officials and crew.
"I am encouraged by the progress we have made," said DeltaWing Team Manager David Price. "We have chipped away all week and our track time has increased. I really thought we were in good shape."
Another full-course yellow was called when the Extreme Speed Motorsports LMP2 stalled and went awry at Turn Five.
Ed Brown was at the wheel at the time.
Driver David Brabham later went off course in the ESM No. 01 car.
He had to be towed back which caused yet another full course yellow.
"David was doing a great job and suddenlty he lost all drive in the car," said ESM's Scott Sharp. "We are just scratching the surface with this new program but we have been out here at Sebring leading laps and leading the race."
Team officials said it was caused by a broken input shaft which had sheared off at the gearbox.
The Muscle Milk team had their share of problems.
The No. 8 Honda Performance Development lost its left front wheel.
Driver Lucas Luhr had to limp the car all the way back around to the pits.
The Corvette team crew members were busy replacing the gearbox in the No 3 car of Antonio Garcia on pit lane.
That was a quick fix, but cost the team 15 minutes out of the race.
The car already had gone behind the wall a couple times
Early on the Corvette had been running well, setting a fast lap mark in class at 2:300:525 in the first half hour of the race,
The No 4 Corvette subsequently had electrical issues in the dashboard with the car spitting smoke into the driver's compartment.
Corvette wasn't the only team chasing electrical issues, as Dyson was also struck by the bugaboo in their Lola/Mazda LMP1 car.
The team retired the car after an hour's worth of trying to locate the source of the problem
There were several accidents throughout the race, but only one caused a car to be retired.
That one happened just before sunset.
The Team West/Alex Job Motorsports Ferrari 458 went out of control at the Gendebien Bend and hit the tire wall at Turn 15.
Driver Bill Sweedler was not seriously injured, but it did again bunch the field behind a full-course yellow flag
Earlier in the race, driver Mirco Shultis' No 81 spun after contact with the No 2 Audi e-Quatro being piloted by Alan McNish.
The mishap also nearly collected the No 62 GT Ferrari of Oliver Baratta
A shunt the Muscle Milk LMP1 car and a Mathiasen Motorsports LMP Challenge Oreca, sent both spinning in Turn 13.
The cars continued on, but Muscle Mik driver Klaus Graf was given a penalty for "avoidable contact."
A number of penalties were assessed against several teams during the 12 Hours as well.
The infractions ranged from speeding in the pits, to having too many crew members working on the car to one for "taking on mercy fuel."
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