The Twelve Hours of Sebring: What to watch

Michael Levitt/Motorsport Images

The Twelve Hours of Sebring: What to watch

Insights & Analysis

The Twelve Hours of Sebring: What to watch

By

The 70th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advanced Auto Parts sports a strong 53-car entry field, 16 more than in 2021.

It will be hard to top last year’s event, when Sebastien Bourdais nursed an injured JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac to victory over Harry Tincknell and Mazda. It may even be difficult to match the season-opening round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, the Rolex 24 at Daytona, where several classes were in play until the checker fell. However, you can bet there will be some last-minute heroics as teams and drivers attempt to secure one of endurance racing’s biggest prizes.

JDC-Miller returns two-thirds of last year’s winning trio, Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval. But Bourdais is now in Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 01 Cadillac. Vautier, though, says the team is in a stronger position than it was a year ago, even with newcomer Richard Westbrook as Vautier’s full-time partner. Indeed, the team was in with a good shot at winning Daytona until the cautions didn’t fall their way.

Daytona winner Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian will try to carry that momentum forward, but history is not on its side. Its Acura ARX-05 does not have a stellar history at Sebring, and in addition, its third regular endurance driver, Helio Castroneves, will be racing in the IndyCar race at Texas Motor Speedway (along with several other drivers that would otherwise be racing at Sebring), with Stoffel Vandoorne instead joining Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist.

In GTD Pro, defending GTD champions Pfaff Motorsports carries forward the stellar trio that led the team to victory for Porsche at Daytona, and without the KCMG entry that harassed it in the final hours and indeed looked ready to steal the victory.

History has shown the the bumpy, 3.741-mile, 17-turn Sebring International Raceway circuit built on a former airbase has produced some exciting races. And whether the 2022 edition produces the drama presented by last year’s race, there are several things to keep an eye on.

Cadillac’s strength

In the five-year history of the DPi class, Cadillac has proven a force at Sebring, winning three of the five races run in the era. Mazda and Acura having taken the other two.

The reasons why aren’t disputed. Acura drivers will tell you that when they hit the setup window, the car is blazingly fast. But that setup window on the Oreca-based chassis is narrow, and typically requires a lower ride height than the bumpy Sebring circuit allows.

Cadillac’s Dallara-based chassis, though, seems perfectly happy at elevated ride heights, and thus is more capable over the bumps.

“There is no arguing that,” says Bourdais. “Now it’s a two-manufacturer battle between Cadillac and Acura, but even when it was Mazda it’s pretty clear that Cadillac, with the Dallara chassis, has better characteristics for bumpy tracks. It’s a car that is less ride-sensitive than the competitors. We can see that we can run a bit softer, which at a place like Sebring is very beneficial. The drawback of that is the car doesn’t really have a big peak in downforce and therefore and is less suited to tracks where you can run low and stiff.”

There are five Cadillacs entered in the seven-car DPi class – two from CGR, two Action Express Racing entries, and the JDC-Miller No. 5.

The Cadillac DPis are not bothered by Sebring’s famous bumps. Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

Going for the Grand Slam

Oliver Jarvis is on a roll in the endurance races. Last season with Mazda, he won the Sahlen’s 6 Hours at the Glen and the season-ending Petit Le Mans in dramatic fashion. Switching to MSR’s Acura with the sunset of Mazda’s DPi program, he won the Rolex 24 at Daytona with Blomqvist, Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud. Now he sets his sights on completing the four-in-a-row with the Twelve Hours of Sebring, a race he hasn’t won since 2013. Should he do so, he’ll be the first person to win all four Michelin Endurance Championship races in succession.

“That’s a stat I actually hadn’t picked up on myself,” he said. “It is such a tough race. 2020 showed that – we had the race under control, 20 seconds up, and then a puncture out of nowhere. So anything can happen. You’ve got to stay on on the track, stay out of trouble. But you also need a quick car, because it does often come down to a sprint finish, as we’ve often seen. But yeah, I wasn’t aware … I hadn’t picked up on the fact that there’s a potential to win all four in a row.That would be something incredibly special, but taking each race as it comes, I’d love to add another Sebring. And, more importantly, continue the strong start we had to the season with the No. 60.”

Double duty

The Super Sebring weekend opens with the 1000 Miles of Sebring for the World Endurance Championship on Friday. Several drivers will be doing double duty, competing in both that race and the Twelve Hours of Sebring on Saturday, including the entire crew of the No. 48 AXR Cadillac: Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose-Maria Lopez. The latter two are driving the No. 7 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota GR010 with Mike Conway.

Other drivers doing double duty include several DPi drivers in WEC LMP2 – Bourdais, Jarvis, and Filipe Albuquerque. Porsche factory driver Felipe Nasr will be going between Pfaff Motorsports’ GTD Pro effort and Penske’s new LMP2 team that it’s running in preparation for entering both WEC and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with Porsche’s new LMDh/GTP car in 2023.

Ben Keating will drive in a GTE-Am Aston Martin in addition to his regular No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 car. Brendan Uribe, Ollie Millroy and Ben Barnicoat will be teaming up in Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR for the WEC race before stepping back into their Twelve Hour rides, the Inception Racing McLaren 720S GTD entry for Uribe and Millroy and the VasserSullivan Lexus RC F GTD Pro car for Barnicoat.

Doubling up has its benefits and drawbacks, the notable downside being fatigue. But Kobayashi says he believes the extra track time will sharpen him for the 12 Hour.

Kobayshi will race the WEC 1000 Mile of Sebring with Toyota as a pre-12 Hour warm-up. JEP/Motorsport Images

Opener for LMP2 and LMP3

While both LMP2 and LMP3 competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Twelve Hours of Sebring marks the official opening of the season for both classes. The LMP2 and LMP3 teams that won or placed at Daytona got some glory (and a watch) but no points.

If there’s a clear favorite in LMP2, it has to be the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA. Not only are Ben Keating, Mikkel Jensen and Scott Huffaker the defending Twelve Hour winners, but the team and Huffaker are looking for their third straight.

Don’t count out DragonSpeed, even if the team isn’t returning any of the drivers from its dramatic Daytona win. As Juan Pablo Montoya and Henrik Hedman embark on the championship chase, they are joined by Montoya’s son, Sebastian, for Sebring.

In LMP3, CORE Autosport and the trio of Jon Bennet, Colin Braun and George Kurtz are the returning Sebring winners. But the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier has been otherwise dominant, taking the 2021 LMP3 title for Gar Robinson and also the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona for Robinson, Felipe Fraga, Kay van Berlo and Michael Cooper. Robinson, Fraga and van Berlo are now seeking one win the team doesn’t have, the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Paul Miller Racing makes its 2022 debut

Paul Miller Racing is making the switch from Lamborghini to BMW’s new M4 GT3. Unfortunately for the team, which finished second in the GTD points chase in 2021, that meant that it would miss the Rolex 24 at Daytona because BMW couldn’t deliver a car in time.

The good news is that PMR won’t have to wait until April, the original date it was given for delivery. An M4 GT3 became available in time for the team to do shakedown and enter the Twelve Hours with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Erik Johansson.

BMW had three cars at Daytona, two in GTD Pro from BMW Team RLL and one in GTD entered by Turner Motorsports. Neither team showed impressive speed, but they didn’t have much testing, and Daytona is quite unlike the European circuits where the car was developed and homologated. With some time to test at Sebring prior to the race, they should be much more on pace.

How to watch

Qualifying for the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring begins at 9:15 a.m. Eastern and can be seen at IMSA.TV. The entire 12 hours of the race, which begins at 10:10 a.m. ET on Saturday, will be streamed on Peacock, with USA Network coverage beginning at 3:30 p.m. Eastern and going to the finish.

MX-5 Cup | Round 14 – Road Atlanta | Livestream

INSIDE THE SCCA | EP.3 – Runoffs After Dark

More RACER