Exactly 20 years after the last Porsche win at the 12 hours of Sebring, the German sports car manufacturer resumes its success story at the legendary sports car classic in Florida with a sensational double victory: After a gripping fight right to the final lap, Timo Bernhard (Germany), Romain Dumas (France) and Emmanuel Collard (France) claimed the 18th overall win for Porsche in Sebring with the 476 hp RS Spyder, giving them an optimal start into the 2008 American Le Mans Series. The Porsche triumph was made perfect by Butch Leitzinger (USA), Marino Franchitti (Great Britain) and Andy Lally (USA) with second place.
“This win was missing from our list of huge successes with the RS Spyder,” said Porsche’s head of motorsport Hartmut Kristen. “This achievement today was only possible because of Penske Racing’s impeccable performance over the twelve hours.”
Hans-Joachim Stuck and Klaus Ludwig in a Porsche 962 provided Porsche with the last overall victory back at America’s oldest sports car race in 1988. Now with 18 overall wins and 65 class victories at Sebring, Porsche further consolidates its position as the most successful manufacturer.
The 56th running of the Sebring 12 hour race was hard to surpass for excitement and drama. This was just the second time in the history of this classic that the three leading cars were all in one lap. The 150,000 spectators lining the airfield circuit in the heart of Florida experienced thrilling fights for positions with many lead changes – and an impressive showing of the Porsche RS Spyder. Thanks to the consistently strong performance over the entire race distance and the clearly superior race strategy, the Weissach-developed and built sports prototype prevailed over the almost 300 hp more powerful Audi and Peugeot cars. The LMP1 vehicles, with around 40 percent better power to weight ratio, dominated in practice posting the quickest lap times. However, during the race it was continuity and team work that tipped the balance to Porsche
Besides Penske Racing, who run the victorious #7 RS Spyder, Dyson Racing also took off successfully into the new season: The Porsche customer team not only secured second overall, marking its best result to date at the Sebring 12 hour race, but also brought the sister car piloted by Chris Dyson (USA) and Guy Smith (Great Britain) across the finish line third in the LMP2 class, crowning the team’s strong performance
“Dyson Racing put in an excellent performance which I’m thrilled about,” praised Hartmut Kristen. “This gives the team a very good start in the fight for the team classification.”
For the winners, victory at the 12 hours of Sebring is one of the most important triumphs in their career. “I can hardly believe that we beat the faster LMP1 cars,” beamed Timo Bernhard, who celebrated with his team mates on the podium amidst fireworks and a shower of confetti. “This success is easy to explain. Of all the teams, we made the least mistakes and were the most consistent drivers.”
Romain Dumas, who together with Timo Bernhard is the reigning LMP2 champion, took over the leading RS Spyder from Emmanuel Collard three hours before the finish, and managed to hold onto his lead despite a nail-biting final phase. “That was one of the hardest and most wonderful races of my life,” he said. “To win here you have to drive at the absolute limit.” Emmanuel Collard added: “Our objective was to win our class. That we won overall makes me ecstatic.”
The second Penske Racing RS Spyder with starting number 6, manned by Sascha Maassen (Germany), Patrick Long (USA) and Ryan Briscoe (Australia) had to retire with a defect water pump.
A historic weekend for Penske Racing: With the 12 hours of Sebring and the Daytona 500, the most popular race of the NASCAR series, Roger Penske’s squad won two of the most famous races in America within four weeks. No other team has managed this feat.
The Porsche-supported Swiss privateer team, Horag Racing, contested the Sebring classic for the first time with the RS Spyder and brought home a commendable fifth place in the LMP2 class with drivers Fredy Lienhard (Switzerland), Jan Lammers (Netherlands) and Didier Theys (Belgium).
Porsche also celebrated a convincing double victory in the GT2 class for modified standard sports cars. In a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by Flying Lizard Motorsports, Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Marc Lieb (Germany) won ahead of their team mates Darren Law (USA), Seth Neiman (USA) and Alex Davison (Australia).
“The new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR mastered the toughest race of the year with flying colours. This makes me optimistic for the rest of the season,” said Hartmut Kristen. And Joerg Bergmeister grinned: “After being unfairly blocked whilst in the lead last year just before the finish, this is hugely gratifying for me.”
Statistics: 1st of 11 races of the American Le Mans Series in Sebring, Florida
1. Bernhard/Dumas/Collard (D/F/F), Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2), 351 laps
2. Leitzinger/Franchitti/Lally (USA/GB/USA), Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2), 351
3. Capello/McNish/Kristensen (I/GB/DK), Audi R10 (LMP1), 351
4. Dyson/Smith (USA/GB), Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2), 350
5. Brabham/Sharp/Johansson (AUS/USA/S), Acura ARX-01B (LMP2), 349
6. Luhr/Werner/Rockenfeller (D/D/D), Audi R10 (LMP1), 333
7. Lienhard/Lammers/Theys (CH/NL/B), Porsche RS Spyder (LMP2), 333
8. O’Connell/Magnussen/Fellows (USA/DK/CAN), Chevrolet Corvette (GT1), 328
9. Field/Field/Berry (USA/USA/USA), Lola B06/10 (LMP1), 327
10. Beretta/Gavin/Papis (MC/GB/I), Chevrolet Corvette (GT1), 320
Results LMP2 class
1. Bernhard/Dumas/Collard (D/F/F), Porsche RS Spyder, 351 laps
2. Leitzinger/Franchitti/Lally (USA/GB/USA), Porsche RS Spyder, 351
3. Dyson/Smith (USA/GB), Porsche RS Spyder, 350
4. Brabham/Sharp/Johansson (AUS/USA/S), Acura ARX-01B, 349
5. Lienhard/Lammers/Theys (CH/NL/B), Porsche RS Spyder, 333
6. Herta/Fittipaldi/Andretti (USA/BRA/USA), Acura ARX-01B, 287
Further class winners
LMP1: McNish/Capello/Kristensen (GB/I/DK), Audi R10
GT1: O’Connell/Magnussen/Fellows (USA/DK/CAN), Chevrolet Corvette
GT2: Bergmeister/Henzler/Lieb (D/D/D), Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
Drivers LMP2 class
1. Timo Bernhard, Porsche, 26
Romain Dumas, Porsche, 26
Emmanuel Collard, Porsche, 26
4. Butch Leitzinger, Porsche, 22
Marino Franchitti, Porsche, 22
Andy Lally , Porsche, 22
Teams LMP2 class
1. Penske Motorsports, Porsche, 26
2. Dyson Racing, Porsche, 22
3. Highcroft Racing, Acura, 16