Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Sebring redux

Although testing for this year’s Sebring 12 Hours endurance race was held awhile ago, it’ll be interesting to see how the single Peugeot 908 HDi FAP entered for Pedro Lamy, Nicolas Minassian and Stephane Sarrazin fairs against the Audi R10 juggernaut, as this will be the first time that the two Le Mans heavyweights have battled against each other in America. This will probably be the top storyline, although the “lower” divisions feature the bulk of competitors.

LMP1Although this is the top class of the series, its probably one of the least contested, as the Audi juggernaut has simply rolled over what little competition the class has offered over the years. The 56th running of the Mobil 1 12hrs of Sebring will feature the two Audi R10 TDI turbo diesel’s squaring off against the French blue of Peugeot Sport’s 908 TDI, while they’re will be a few other entries hoping to capitalize upon the two behemoth’s driving each other into the ground.

LMP2Interestingly, the LMP2 category is probably the brightest star in the ALMS, as it features a host of superbly prepared; factory backed racing efforts as Porsche goes head to head with Acura. While Roger Penske’s brace of RS Spyders gets all the headlines while fighting for overall victories against the Audi’s, there will be two other teams racing Porsches for a total of five RS Spyders against the three Acura’s, with Lola and Mazda combining forces to chase the factory goliaths.

Andretti Green
This year’s Sebring race will mark the one year anniversary since AGR entered the fray, which they did in spectacular fashion. As the team’s trio of drivers Bryan Herta, Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan scored a surprise class victory, which would rank as Acura’s highest finish for the season.

This year Bryan “High Speed Hurdles” Herta will be partnered by Christian Fittipaldi full season, while TK looks set to join the party at Sebring.

Rob Dyson has been a long time participant of Sports Car racing, having won the Rolex 24 outright during his long tenure as a top class entrant, being the Audi’s nemesis for several years before finally throwing in the towel and switching to Porsche RS Spyders. The biggest addition to this year’s team is the full season signing of Marino Franchitti, Dario’s younger brother who will partner Butch Leitzinger, while the teams sister car will be co-piloted by Chris Dyson and Guy Smith.

Adrian Fernandez and co-driver Luis Diaz contributed to Acura’s three teams scoring nine class podiums during Honda’s maiden year in Sports Car racing, while serving as Acura’s engine development mules. Fernandez’s team looks to improve upon its sophomore season with a stable driving line-up and improved machinery.

Upon an acrimonious split with Rahal Letterman Racing, in a case of who sued who, Scott Sharp and sponsor Patron have signed with Highcroft Racing for 2008 as “Stevie Johnson’s” (Stefan Johansson) replacement.

Sharp will contest the 2008 ALMS season at the controls of an Acura-ARCS entry, with new Highcroft recruit David Brabham as his co-driver. Hmm? Wonder if “Booby Ruble” got any Tequila in his Christmas stocking this year?

PenskeAmerican Porsche factory racer Patrick Long has been signed as Ryan Briscoe’s replacement for Roger Penske’s ALMS effort in 2008 and will be part of the Porsche factory drivers piloting the brace of RS Spyder’s.

The GT1 class is effectively a farce with just three entrants listed; The General’s Team Corvette against a lone privateer Aston Martin. Competition for the Chevies is so lacking that the biggest news for this division is that the Corvettes will be running on E85 Ethanol for the entire season.

Rahal Letterman
While Bobby Rahal is busy conferring with his lawyers, the big news at RLR was the recent announcement that the team will spearhead BMW’s return to the ALMS in 2009 with a two car factory backed entry of the latest M3’s. And although I can’t find any info upon their immediate plans, I’m assuming they’ll soldier on this season with a Porsche (997) 911 GT3 RSR before switching from their venerable Stuttgart steed to their new Munich flyers.

Yet the GT2 category by far is the most fiercely contested, as the Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT’s are the cars to beat, with Tackle Racing making the switch to the Maranello brand, along with Corsa Motorsport, there’ll be five Prancing Horses on the grid.

Ferrari’s main competition will once again come from the brace of Porsche 911’s being campaigned by such teams as Flying Lizards with a three car entry, Farnbacher-Loles and RLR, while Tom Milner will once again run the Panoz Esperante. There will also be a Dodge viper and an Aston Martin DBR9 running on E85 Ethanol.

Yet, the car I’m most interested in this category is the lone Ford GTR, which has been built by long time endurance stalwart Kevin Doran and will be campaigned by Robertson Racing. It should be a fairly entertaining race, so be sure to check it out!