If anything, this year’s Mobil 1-sponsored Sebring 12-Hour, the season opener for the American Le Mans Series’ last season, was predictable. At least when it came to the overall victory.
There were two of the hybrid diesel Audi R18 coupes entered, which were expected to be the class of the field. Despite some problems, including a couple of penalties incurred by one, and a slightly damage floor for the other, they fulfilled the predictions perfectly; taking the top two spots on the grid and then leading all the way for a one-two sweep at the end.
Out front were Marcel Fassler, Benoit Treluyer and Oliver Janis, whose advantage over teammates, Tom Kristensen, Allan McNish and Lucas di Grassi was just less than eight seconds; a differential attributable to the need of the latter threesome to change tires more frequently than the winners because of the higher downforce rear wing the second-place Audi sported.
Just how dominant the R18s were could be seen simply be looking at the Rebellion Racing Lola of Nicolas Prost, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani, which was five plus laps in arrears when the checkered flag was shown.
Indeed, other than betting on how far out front the Audis would be, the most excitement at the 61st running of the 12-Hour was the contest for superiority in GT. There, the Corvette shared by Oliver Gavin, Tom Milner Jr. and Richard Westbrook, despite an electrical glitch in their instrument panel early on, emerged with a hard fought triumph over the Ferrari 458 Italia of Gianmaria Bruni, Olivier Beretta and Matteo Malucelli, with the Falken Tire Porsche 911 GT3RSS of Wolf Henzler, Bryan Sellers and Nick Tandy taking third.
Still, if the racing was less than inspiring, there were tensions at the aging Central Florida track that dates back to its days when it was a World War II training base for B-17 bomber crews. These revolved around the 2014 merger between the ALMS and the NASCAR-owned Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series. The future of the series became somewhat clearer with the announcement of its name, its sanctioning body, its class structure and its continued links to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.