SEBRING, Fla. – IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams testing at Sebring Int’l Raceway got a small taste of wet conditions early Wednesday before the skies cleared and the track dried out by late morning.
Six teams – JDC-Miller MotorSports, Whelen Engineering Racing, Porsche GT Team, GEAR Racing, Wright Motorsports and Meyer Shank Racing – were on hand turning laps, with plans to continue into darkness.
It’s all in preparation for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts on March 21.
– The last time Sebastien Bourdais and Joao Barbosa raced together in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts back in 2015, they teamed with Christian Fittipaldi to dominate the race in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP.
They’ve been reunited – now as full-time co-drivers – for the 2020 WeatherTech Championship as co-drivers of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi with the Minnesota-based JDC-Miller MotorSports team.
They were busy putting the car through testing paces Wednesday at Sebring, but allowed themselves a few moments to reminisce about their big win five years ago.
“It’s great memories here at Sebring,” said Barbosa, a two-time WeatherTech Championship Prototype champion. It’s an awesome place, a great racetrack, very challenging. It’s great to be here with JDC-Miller MotorSports and Mustang Sampling, and definitely really good to be with Sebastien Bourdais as well. We had great history together here, we won a race here in a big way, so we’re really looking forward to come back for the Sebring 12-hour race.”
“We’ve had a great relationship with Joao,” Bourdais said. “Obviously, 2015 was a bit of a highlight. It was really a pretty amazing race when we managed to lap the field and come out on top. I’ve got a bunch of really, really good memories with a bunch of the guys that are revolving around that program.”
– Ryan Hardwick made his Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring debut in 2019, co-driving the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis.
That was a mid-engined race car, which Hardwick admits is quite a bit different than his 2020 steed, the rear-engined No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R that he is co-driving for the full WeatherTech Championship GT Daytona (GTD) season with American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long.
But Hardwick believes his previous experience racing motocross has helped him adapt to the Porsche 911.
“Actually, I’m getting my mind wrapped around this Porsche,” Hardwick. “The style in which you have to drive it through the corner and on the brakes suits my personal style from motocross. I’m kind of driving really hard into corners and using the power to rotate it and traction out. I enjoy it.”
– Returning to the legendary Sebring International Raceway in his effort to defend his Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring title is Brazilian driver Felipe Nasr.
He piloted the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi all by himself in the Wednesday test session and will be looking to continue the Whelen Engineering Racing team’s success, as the team has finished on the overall podium in each Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring since 2016.
“Sebring’s a pretty special one for us. It produces good racing,” said the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Champion. “We’re trying different things here. We want to come back here come race weekend with a good package on our hands.
“We didn’t have the best race weekend at Daytona, so I think it’s redemption time here at Sebring.”
– The Porsche GT Team will be looking to continue carrying its momentum from a double podium at the Rolex 24 At Daytona into the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Frederic Makowiecki is looking for his third consecutive GT Le Mans (GTLM) victory in the Twelve Hours, sharing the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19 with season-long co-driver Nick Tandy – with whom he won Sebring the last two years – and new-for-2020 endurance co-driver Matt Campbell.
While all the tracks on the WeatherTech Championship calendar are special, Makowiecki considers Sebring among his favorites.
“For me, Sebring is still my favorite race in the USA because it’s like a temple,” said the French driver. “Nothing’s really changed in over 50 years.
“I enjoy every lap. It’s so difficult to get the perfect lap. It’s so difficult to be over the limit. You need to be so connected to the track.”
– Wednesday’s Sebring test session saw some first-time drivers on the historic, 3.74-mile racing surface. One was the newest member of the GEAR Racing team, Rahel Frey.
She got her first taste of the Sebring Int’l Raceway in wet conditions while sharing the No. 19 Lamborghini Huracán GT3 with her more experienced teammates, Katherine Legge and Christina Nielsen.
“It’s an amazing track,” said the Swiss rookie, who turned her first laps at Sebring a few minutes before lunch. “It’s so much fun and crazy bumpy. Christina and Katherine warned me, ‘Please be a little bit patient. Take your time with the track.’ Everybody speaks about Turn 17 and there’s so much room. You don’t really know where to place your car.
“We had some rain earlier on today and it was brilliant. We never know what could happen in the race. I started on rain tires and built some confidence, so ‘check’ on that.”