At the 12 Hours of Sebring, the second long-distance classic of the IMSA SportsCar Championship, the new Porsche 911 RSR was on course for a podium result until shortly before the finish.
Thanks to a sound race strategy and a strong performance from the drivers, a maiden victory was within reach. However, a tire defect and a drive-through penalty put an end to Patrick Pilet’s spectacular charge.
Pilet had fought his way through the field in the No.911 and was poised to snatch the lead. After 334 laps Pilet and his teammates Dirk Werner and Frédéric Makowiecki ultimately had to settle for seventh place in the GTLM class.
Said Makowiecki, “It’s really disappointing. The team had done such a great job and we had a very good strategy. We knew that we would get stronger in the second half of the race when the temperatures cooled down, and that worked perfectly, too. Patrick’s flat tire cost us the victory. That was just simply unfortunate.”
In the second 911 RSR fielded by the Porsche GT Team, Kévin Estre, Laurens Vanthoor and Richard Lietz took the flag in eighth place.
“Sebring is merciless, but we knew this beforehand." said Lietz "We had a good car and I enjoyed driving here with my teammates. We did our very best but unfortunately we had the problem with the rear left damper. Things like this can happen, particularly on a bumpy circuit like this one. We were well prepared, we did a great deal of testing here in Sebring, but sadly it ultimately wasn’t enough for a better result.”
The 65th edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring treated fans to gripping racing from start to finish particularly in the strongly represented GTLM class which was packed with drama. Before the final pit stop the field was still running close together. Right up until this time, Porsche’s strategy to setup the 911 so that it would perform at its best in the cooler hours of the evening unfolded brilliantly. But during a tire change, an impact wrench suddenly gave up the ghost, resulting in a longer pit stop than planned for the No.911 car. As a consequence, Patrick Pilet fell down the field from second to fifth place.
Pilet, who had started the season with a second place with his teammates at the 24 Hours of Daytona, refused to give up. Putting in breathtaking overtaking moves and turning the fastest race lap, he battled his way up the order in a very short time to retake second place and was lying within striking distance of the leader. His spirited final charge, however, came to an abrupt end 33 minutes before the finish due to a tire defect he had to come in for an unscheduled pit stop, and after the front left tire was changed he then accelerated and drove over the hose of the impact wrench. The drive-through penalty that he received for this destroyed all hopes of clinching his second podium result of the season.
“Our plan was to have the best car at the end of the race." said Pilet "This meant that it wasn’t so easy driving during the heat of the day. But once it cooled down we were very clearly the fastest on the track. The team did an excellent job. The strategy had been perfect. After the last pit stop we had a good chance to win. The tire defect was annoying. It wasn’t a pit crew error, it was just bad luck.”
In the GTD class, the best Porsche 911 GT3 R finished on sixth place. Jörg Bergmeister and Michael Christensen the class winner at Daytona with Allegra Motorsports, crossed the finish line in tenth place.
Round three of the IMSA SportsCar Championship is held on the street circuit in Long Beach/California on 8 April.
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