The birthplace of American endurance racing celebrated the 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in outstanding fashion as Michelin and its technical partner teams delivered an exciting, hard fought race long battle.
Ford and Ferrari renewed their 2016 Le Mans 24 Hour rivalry for much of the race, and Porsche surged to the front in the closing hours, but it was Corvette Racing that ultimately prevailed in a terrific race as Michelin and its IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans class technical partner teams were literally changing positions all the way to the last corner.
Taking the GTLM victory was the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R driven by Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, and Mike Rockenfeller.
The final hours of the race appeared to be building toward a big first victory for the Porsche GT Team and the new Porsche 911 RSR as first Frederic Makowiecki and then Patrick Pilet relentlessly closed on the leader.
However, a malfunctioning air gun cost valuable spots on a key late pit stop, then a puncture from debris and pit lane penalty dropped them to seventh place in class despite Pilet’s setting fastest GTLM lap of the race.
The Corvette Racing strategists played the end game well and Garcia delivered a stellar performance, taking the lead in the final 90 minutes and withstanding the charges of Porsche GT Team’s Patrick Pilet and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Joey Hand to claim Corvette Racing’s third consecutive Sebring victory.
“Antonio’s last stint was out of this world,” said Magnussen.
Taking third place on the final lap after contending for the lead earlier was the Risi Competizione Ferrari with drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander, and James Calado.
The 3.7 mile, 17 turn Sebring International Raceway circuit on a former World War II airfield is notoriously tough on both cars and tires. With factory linked teams from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche, the GTLM class is a flag to flag fight for every position.
“Sebring is a special place to Michelin and to the teams and fans,” said Chris Baker, director of motorsport, Michelin North America.
“To be successful at Sebring means that you have met a wide range of individual, team and technical challenges.
“We are very pleased that our technical partners were able to perform at an exceptionally high level in a wide range of conditions, breaking the previous pole record by 2.5 seconds and posting race laps better than last year’s pole time.
“Track temperatures ranged from 57 degrees (Fahrenheit) in the morning warm up to a peak temperature of 114 degrees at midday. Michelin provides each of our technical partner teams with three different temperature range tire options and we used all three options to keep up with the changing temperatures today.”