Late drama, the closest finish in “HSR Classics” history and a trio of first-time winners brought the Sixth Annual Historic Sportscar Racing (HSR) Classic Sebring 12 Hour, Pistons and Props, presented by the Alan Jay Automotive Network, to an exciting and competitive conclusion Sunday at Sebring International Raceway.
Competitors in the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour were divided into four period-correct Run Groups with each taking to the 3.74-mile Sebring circuit four separate times for 42-minute race segments over the last two days. Each overall Run Group winner was presented with a special-edition B.R.M. Chronographes watch commissioned specifically for the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour.
The Group A finish was a record-setting thriller that saw winners Alan Benjamin and Brady Refenning lead the group overall standings for just the final four minutes of the race in the Boulder Classics 1972 No. 18 Porsche 911 S/T powered by Refenning’s 901 Shop.
Refenning finished first in Saturday night’s third round, but the No. 18 never ranked higher than third in the overall Group A standings heading into Sunday morning’s fourth and final race.
The race looked to be well in-hand for the Red Dragon Racing 1963 No. 63 Corvette Stingray Coupe of Jason Sessions and Edward Sevadjian. The Corvette team won the opening two Group A rounds to bring a more than two-minute lead into the finale but were forced to retire when the Stingray dropped a valve in the race’s opening minutes.
The 901 Shop 1967 No. 27 Porsche of Nelson Calle moved into first place after the Corvette team’s heartbreak, but the Group A drama was far from over. With just minutes remaining in the final race, Calle was cruising comfortably to the win when a flat tire sent him to the pits.
The No. 27’s setback was just enough for Benjamin, who finished fourth in the final round, to edge Calle for the overall Group A win by 0.714 of a second, the closest finish in the history of the “HSR Classics” races at Sebring and Daytona International Speedway.
Benjamin previously secured a Sebring Classic 12 Run Group victory in the inaugural running of the HSR race in 2016, co-driving a Boulder Classics 1990 No. 17 Porsche 964 Cup to the Group C title with Robert Ames.
Partnering with Barry Waddell in the No. 18, Benjamin also secured the Group A GT-class victory in this year’s HSR Classic Daytona 24-hour race in late October.
Run Group B also had its share of late-race drama and heartbreak after a race-long battle between the RM Motorsports 1978 No. 198 Lola T298 of Jim Farley and Billy Johnson and the equally quick Phil Reilly and Co. 1974 No. 26 Chevron B26 of Gray Gregory and Ethan Shippert.
The teams split the wins in Saturday’s opening races, and Johnson won round three in the Lola Saturday night, but the Chevron still brought a nearly 10-second lead into Sunday’s fourth and final race.
Halfway through, Shippert was leading ahead of Farley’s Lola when something broke on the Chevron at speed heading into Sebring’s turn seven chicane section. Shippert was uninjured after contact with the safety barriers, but the Chevron team’s pursuit of a fourth-straight HSR Classic Sebring victory was over.
Farley drove out the remaining minutes and crossed the finish line well clear of the competition to seal his first career HSR Classics race win.
Run Group C emerged into a GT Modern (GTM) battle that was ultimately won by the 2017 No. 16 Fall-Line Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Tom Herb and Ryan Dalziel.
Herb and Dalziel went back and forth with the TAG 2016 No. 991 Porsche 991 GT3 of Thomas Gruber throughout the race. Gruber won both opening rounds in his Speed Syndicate-prepared 991 but could never quite shake the Mercedes-AMG GT3 that trailed just seconds behind in both races.
Herb and Dalziel co-drove to Saturday night’s round three victory that, along with a spin by Gruber, allowed them to build a nearly 45-second overall lead heading into Sunday afternoon’s fourth and final race.
Gruber picked up his third victory in the finale, but Dalziel once again was content to cruise just behind in second and defend the No. 16 team’s overall lead with a competitive but controlled pace. The Mercedes-AMG GT3 crossed the finish line just 0.671 of a second behind the Porsche to seal the overall win with a comfortable 43-second margin of victory.
Group D, a showcase of production-based HSR race cars, typically produces some of the Classic Sebring’s best competition and this weekend was no exception. It all came down to a two-Porsche 991 Cup battle between Price Ford and Cody Ellsworth in their 2016 No. 12 Autometrics entry and the similar Kelly-Moss Racing 2015 No. 85 entry of Brent Asplundh.
Asplundh swept Saturday’s opening rounds but a round three victory that night by Ford and Ellsworth put them in front heading into Sunday’s finale. Asplundh charged to his third win in four races but a competitive but calculated run to the finish in third place was just enough for Ford and Ellsworth to take the overall Group D win.
Co-winners Benjamin and Refenning, and runner-up Calle, were joined on the Group A podium by another 901 Shop entry. Refenning pulled double driving duty and, in addition to partnering Benjamin for the win, co-drove to a third place showing with his father, Jack Refenning, and Tom McGlynn in their 901 Shop 1966 No. 241 Porsche 911.
For the second-straight year, Run Group B saw quick and well-prepared Porsche 911s breakthrough for overall podium showings. Damon DeSantis and David Hinton co-drove the Heritage Motorsports 1974 No. 114 Porsche 911 to second while the sister 1969 No. 33 Porsche 911 RSR Heritage entry of Dean DeSantis and Josh Tuggle was third in Group B.
Third place in Group C went to Richard Carlino and Dave Handy in the Sasco Sports 2011 No. 25 Oreca FLM09 Prototype Challenge “PC” car while McGlynn made it two Classic 12 Hour podium showings on the weekend with third in Group D. McGlynn co-drove the 901 Shop 2003 No. 17 Porsche 996 with his son Jimmy McGlynn to the Group D podium showing.
Next up for HSR is a return to Sebring International Raceway for 2022’s season-opening HSR Spring Fling, April 6 – 8, 2022.
– Sunday’s farewell and departure of the amazing vintage and historic aircraft that are a blockbuster part of the HSR Classic Sebring 12 Hour, Pistons and Props, was preceded by the annual Best-Plane and Best-Car awards presentation. Attending pilots and their families select the best race car of the event while participating HSR competitors vote on their favorite plane. The airplane contingent selected the Red Dragon Racing Stingray that almost pulled off the Group A win with Patrick Sessions, Jason Sessions and Edward Sevadjian. The vintage airplane bestowed with this year’s honor was the 1938 Lockheed 12A Junior of David Marco. Originally purchased by Phillips 66 as a corporate aircraft, Marco’s Lockheed 12 is one of only eight still flying today.
– The no-quit award at this year’s HSR Classic 12 clearly goes to Matador Motorsports. Pre-race favorites to take the Run Group C win with their 2016 No. 3 Corvette C7.R, team owner and driver Pierce Marshall instead found himself helping push the popular yellow Corvette from the pits to the paddock after a mechanical issue just one lap into Saturday afternoon’s first of four Group C rounds. Marshall and retired Corvette Racing guru Dan Binks, a key player in the 20-plus year success of Corvette Racing, quickly went to work on getting the C7.R back in action. Within 10 minutes of determining the problem, Binks was on the phone with his daughter who grabbed the needed parts at his shop in Brighton, Michigan and headed to Detroit Metro Airport for a 6:30 p.m. EST Saturday night flight. Binks and his wife picked up their daughter at Orlando International Airport and were back in Sebring by 11 p.m. EST. The new parts were installed at 7 a.m. EST Sunday, and Marshall went straight out and won that morning’s WeatherTech Sprint race before competing in the final Group C Classic 12 Hour round Sunday afternoon.