Porsche had a difficult and unlucky season-opening Daytona 24 this year, and the motorsport teams are hoping to regain some of their lost momentum at the upcoming 12 hours of Sebring. Now that Manthey Racing has bowed out after their Daytona-only entry came up short, this leaves Porsche with just two cars in GTLM and two cars in GTD, the smallest Porsche contingent we've seen in ages. The mid-engine 911 RSR had a very strong showing at Sebring last year, only to have it all taken away with a tire puncture 30-minutes from the end of the race. It'll be interesting to see if they can overcome lady luck for a chance at the win this time.
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PORSCHE IN THE GTLM CATEGORY
#911 and #912 Porsche 911 RSR - Porsche Motorsport North America
Last year's Sebring effort was quite strong for Porsche, but didn't quite pay off thanks to a stroke of bad luck. Porsche's 911 RSR was running much faster than the leader after the sun went down, and it's clear the Porsche set the cars up to run great as the temperatures dropped. Surprisingly, Porsche is the only team in the GTLM class to run the full 12-hour with just 2 drivers rather than 3. This could come into play, as IMSA has a rule to limit drivers to only four hours out of every consecutive six. Presumably Porsche will be aiming their drivers toward a trio of two-hour stints each. There is also a new minimum fueling time rule, which will certainly play into their strategic moves.
The #911 Porsche will again be driven by Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy, as Fred Mako was only sitting in for Daytona. Pilet was very quick in this car last year at Sebring, and we expect he will be again. Nick Tandy, meanwhile, is Nick Tandy. This car is our personal favorite to win the class, but time will tell.
The #912 Porsche also has a pair of great drivers, as Gimmi Bruni has moved on to other Porsche obligations, leaving Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber to partner for the rest of the IMSA season. Vanthoor, is a great driver who seems to have taken a shine to Bamber. Earl Bamber, meanwhile, has plenty of endurance racing experience, having won Le Mans overall twice in the last three years, as well as the WEC championship in his 919 Hybrid LMP1 last year.
Porsche's GTLM Competition
The competition will continue to be strong throughout this year. The GTLM class features pairs of cars each from Corvette, BMW, and Ford, a single Ferrari from Risi Competition. The turbocharged Ford and Ferrari have been running very strong, and were quite far ahead in the Balance of Performance game at Daytona. Corvette was quite dominant for much of the 2017 season, and ran an absolutely flawless race at Daytona this year. BMW hasn't started the season very well, as they're on the back foot with their new chassis and weren't given a very favorable BoP. While Daytona isn't always a great indication of competitiveness at Sebring, we still expect the Fords to be quite strong.
PORSCHE IN THE GTD CATEGORY
#58 Porsche 911 GT3R - Wright Motorsports
Wright Motorsports is back after an incredibly unlucky Daytona that saw their car crashed before the green flag even flew. Patrick Long and Christina Nielsen are a championship-caliber pairing for the full season, and they're joined again by Robert Renauer and Porsche junior driver Mathieu Jaminet for this endurance event. This team is quite obviously Porsche's factory-favorite, as they're sponsored directly by the company's marketing dollars, and outfitted with the best kit. As long as they keep their nose clean, this Porshe will be a serious contender.
#73 Porsche 911 GT3R - Park Place Motorsports
Park Place had a rough Daytona 24, as their 911 suffered with rear braking issues for the entire race, as well as collision with debris that caused the Porsche's door to not operate properly. If they can get past their poor luck, they've got a lot of potential. Patrick Lindsey, long-time Porsche GT champion Joerg Bergmeister, and Black Swan Racing team owner Tim Pappas are teaming for the 12-hour. Lindsey and Pappas are good enough to keep the car where it needs to be, and if Bergmeister is on his A-game, the team can certainly contend for the victory.
Porsche's GTD Competition
We've said it before, and we'll say it again, the depth of talent in GTD this year is greater than we've ever seen it before. As with Daytona, at least 3/4ths of the grid have a car and driver lineup to win, if the chips fall in their favor. The Lamborghinis showed really well at Daytona, as did the Acura NSX. Speaking of the NSX, there's a new one on the grid for Sebring, fielded by former favored Porsche son, CJ Wilson Racing. As with Daytona, we'll be closely watching the Audis of Land Motorsport and Magnus Racing, those cars are flat out flying, and Audi is taking no prisoners. In a field packed with Audis, Acuras, BMWs, Mercedes-AMGs, Lamborghinis, and Lexus, those two GTD Porsches have their work cut out for them.
RESOURCES AND HOW TO WATCH/FOLLOW ALONG
The 2018 12 Hours of Sebring on Twitter for Porsche Fans
Timing and Scoring:
Saturday, March 17th
10:30 a.m.- 12:30 p.m EDT on FOX Sports 1
12:30-3:40 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 2
3:40-6 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports Go
6-11 p.m. EDT on FOX Sports 2