TUDOR United SportsCar

TUSCC: Big Field on Tap for GTLM, GTD Classes at Sebring

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Looking at the GTLM and GTD classes for the 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, some strong competition comes in to the 2015 event and it appears the driver line-up winds are a-changin’. Currently, of the projected 47 prototype and GT teams to compete in the Twelve Hours of Sebring, it appears that field has whittled down to 45. Yes, some teams have withdrawn entries, as with prior years, but some exciting teams and drivers have been pulled together.

Of the GT classes, first up is GT Le Mans (GTLM). This class is based on production models and are engineered to extract the maximum performance possible, per IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship explanation of car classes.

One notable: BMW Team RLL. BMW will come in with the red carpet extended as they celebrate the 40th anniversary of BMW’s first major sports car race victory in the United States. Starting the celebration last Friday, this livery of machines intends to make their mark for the commemorative event. With drivers of the No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE, John Edwards, Lucas Luhr and Jens Klingmann; and the drivers of No. 25 BMW Z4 GTE Bill Auberlen, Dirk Wermer and Augusto Farfus – BMW may not have the flat out speed to beat the line, but could make a mark in the endurance side to make it in the GTLM class.

For some ground-pounding excitement, Corvette Racing looks to make a strong move to the podium with drivers of the No. 3 Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Ryan Briscoe; and the drivers of the No. 4 Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud in the duel prepared Chevrolet Corvette C7.R. These two teams alone have an amazing mix that could spell complete domination of the GTLM class.

One team not to take lightly is Team Falken Tire, with drivers of the Porsche 991 RSR No. 17 car including newcomer Bryan Sellers, veterans Wolf Henzler and Patrick Long. This GTLM team comprises of 126 podiums, with 48 first-place finishes since 2003 (three series combined Rolex Grand-Am, American Le Mans and Tudor United Sports Car Championship) .

Porsche North America also looks to make a strong presence with two teams in their GTLM livery. With drivers of the No. 911 including Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Richard Lietz; and drivers of the No. 912 including Jörg Bergmeister, Earl Bamber and Frédéric Makowiecki; Porsche North America have no intention of laying down in their fight to the podium.

Two other teams to closely watch in the GTLM class are Risi Competizione and Aston Martin Racing. There are very strong competitors with the No. 62 including Pierre Kaffer, Giancarlo Fisichella and Andrea Bertolini, as well as #98 Paul Dalla Lana, Pedro Lamy, Darren Turner and Matthias Lauda.

The most recognizable by layperson watching the races will be the GT Daytona (GTD). These are production model cars but do not feature the same level of aerodynamics and power as the GTLM class cars.

The GTD class of cars includes a healthy mix of single car teams. The most notable for laypeople to recognize is Wright Motorsports which includes drivers of the No. 58 Porsche 911 GT America comprising of Madison Snow, Jan Heylen and Emilio Valverde. Valverde takes over the slot once occupied by Patrick Dempsey. While this journalist may be (at times) distracted by Dempsey, no one should ignore the talents of Snow. Having seen him compete at Circuit of the Americas in the support series for Formula 1 for the past few years, this kid has chops.

A few years back, this journalist was working Turn 11 as a flagger at an American Le Mans event at Portland International Raceway and had the unfortunate experience of being in the flagging stand when driver J.J. Lehto hit a Saleen prior to the station and the cars impacted the turn station – with said journalist being left in the stand to withstand the hit (hey, I got my few minutes of fame on SPEED TV for like two weeks for those who remember the channel). Why I say all that is because the gentleman’s team of racing, Alex Job Racing, were a first-hand witness to the event and they gave said journalist a team shirt that I wear in the start stand to this day. Given as such, I will be following the No. 22 of Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen, and Andrew Davis, as well as No. 23 Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas.

As mentioned last week, the No. 45 Flying Lizards Motorsports drivers Marco Holzer, Robert Thorne and Colin Thompson look to be strong contenders in the Audi R8 LMS machine. The Flying Lizards always bring solid cars and drivers to each event, so no one should expect anything less. Can the unique combination of young newcomers with seasoned veterans bring them to the podium will be something to watch.

Dodge Viper SRT plans on making a presence with the Viper V10 this year with two Riley Motorsports teams – the No. 33 with drivers Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen & Sebastiaan Bleekemolen, as well as the No. 93 with Al Carter, Marc Goossens, Ben Keating and Cameron Lawrence. The Dodge Viper ground-pounder is a beast that has the horsepower, but lacks corner speed.

Magnus Racing has been a strong contender and they look to repeat their class win by bringing Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried in the Porsche 911 GT America machine.

Can the stables of Paul Miller Racing with drivers of the No. 48 Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller and Dion von Moltke; AF Corse No.49 drivers Piergiuseppe Perazzini, Marco Cioci, Rui Aguas and Enzo Potolicchio; Scuderia Corsa No. 63 drivers Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell, Anthony Lazzaro; Park Place Motorsports No. 73 drivers Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly and Jim Norman; GB Autosport drivers of the No. 81 Damien Faulkner, Mike Skeen and Michael Avenatti; the possible non-entry of Muehlner Motorsports America No. 18 Connor De Phillippi and Dennis Trebing; Turner Motorsport No. 97 Michael Marsal, Markus Palttala, Andy Priaulx and Boris Said; and TRG-AMR No. 007 drivers Christian Nielsen and James Davison achieve podium this Saturday? This journalist admires the prowess of Boris Said, from witnessing his dissection of the track and drivers over the years. One thing is for sure – like the NCAA brackets, this Twelve Hours of Sebring brings excitement of the unknown.

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About Kimberly McFarland

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