OURSLER: The Rambling Road


SEBRING, Fla. — What if they held a race that was so complicated that it took longer to figure out who won than it did to run it?

Well, that didn’t happen at Sebring, but it was close. With nine classes, by the time they finished giving out the trophies it was two hours following the finish.

The 60th anniversary of the first 12-hour in 1952, was something of a mixed bag: complicated in organization, lonely at the top for the winning Audis which had no serious challengers following Peugeot’s earlier pullout, and spectacularly fascinating in terms of the battle for the GT production honors.

At the front, 2009 victors Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Rinaldo Capello started off the year and the new FIA sanctioned World Endurance Championship with a strong first place performance in the turbo diesel R18 coupe, being followed to the line by the R18 teammates, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Loic Duval in second.

Third overall was the winning P2 Honda ARX-03b of Stephane Sarrazin, Vincente Pottolicchio and Rtan Dalziel, while for went to the similar entry of Scott Tucker, Joao Barbosa and Christophe Bouchut Finishing up the leading prototype finisgers was the AKMS Le Mans Prototype Challenge wining machine of Alex Papow, E.J. Viso, Burt Frisselle and Kiher Hl.

The prototypes, though, were not the focus of attention this time out though. Instead it was the GT fight that caught the spotlight. There the contest was a four way one between Corvette, Ferrari, BMW and Porsche.

From the start, the latter contingent, while able to run in the top five, just didn’t seem to have the muscle to run for the lead, a position that became and stayed a no holds barred grudge match between the other three that went down to the final lap.

Claiming the honors despite being pushed off the track on that final circuit was the Rahal Letterman BMW M3 of reigning ALMS GT titlist Joey Hand Dirk Mueller and Jonathon Summerton, with the Corvette of Jan Magnussen and Jordan Taylor second, and the Ferrari 458 Italia of Olivier Beretta, Marco Cioci and Andrea Bertolini third.

Again though, the difficulty with listing the winners, that truly finding out who earned a prize and who didn’t was made nearly impossible by the FIA’s insistence of separating all the WEC entrants from their ALMS counterparts by potting them in their own categories.

In essence the hometowners let their event be taken over by the foreigners, instead of demanding that they act like the guests that they were at the ALMS’ biggest race of the year. This year’s Sebring would have been far better if it had been truly combined, with the FIA community sorting themselves out later. There, will be those who disagree, but confusing the paying public which this year’s 12-hour did is not good for anyone’s future, Something, particularly true in the case of the ALMS with its combined internet- broadcast schedule that has done little to improve the size of its audience.

There were attention getting moments, but on a weekend filled with alternative major sporting attractions such as college basketball’s March Madness, not to mention Formula One and NASCAR, perfection is what needs to be one’s goal, and clearly Sebring was far from that. The FIA and the ALMS need to do better.