THE LAST HURRAH
In 1972, Ferrari 312 drivers Mario Andretti and Jacky Ickx
followed their 24 Hours of Daytona victory with a two-lap
winning margin in the12 Hours of Sebring, the last World
Sportscar Championship race held at Sebring.
Could two home-grown sports car powerhouses pull
off wins in the 60th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring?
Words Tony DiZinno | Main image Dan Boyd/LAT
At the end of the day, the quest in
either discipline of sport is simple –
survive, thrive and win the whole thing.
For two of the American Le Mans Series’
top dogs, P1 frontrunner Muscle Milk
Pickett Racing and GT leading light
Corvette Racing, Sebring represents a
greater challenge than they might
otherwise be facing the rest of the
season. This year’s Sebring field is the
best of both worlds – it’s half ALMS, and
half FIA World Endurance Championship
entrants for the 60th running at Sebring.
Greg Pickett’s team enters its third
full ALMS season with its third different
car, meaning another learning curve.
However, its new-for-2012 HPD ARX-03a
is an evolution of the P1-spec HPD
ARX-01e, which went from crates of parts
to runner-up in a week last year. The
HPD replaces the fast but fragile
Lola-Aston Martin coupe of 2011.
“What do I like most? The fact that it’s
Ordinarily, sports car racing and college basketball’s March Madness wouldn’t have much in
common. But there’s reason to compare
the two at this year’s Mobil 1 Twelve
Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from
Florida, which takes on a greater
magnitude in 2012. Bear with me here...
For instance, the college basketball
tournament is cut from 68 to 64 survivors
after four play-in games, while this
year’s Sebring begins with 64 starters.
OK, that one’s tenuous, but try this one:
Basketball underdogs seeded roughly 12th
to 15th can bark loudly if they can pull an
upset and inspire the “Cinderella
narrative.” Similarly, Sebring’s underdog
teams can capitalize in Florida if or when
the leading runners hit trouble, which
invariably seems to happen on one of the
roughest, toughest tracks in racing.
“It’s easy to get sucked into a ‘speed
frenzy,’ but you get up there as
much by just staying out of the pits”
fast,” says Brandon Fry, Muscle Milk’s chief engineer and team
manager. “I know that’s easy to say, but we had only 22 days from
when we received the tub to when we hit the track. Strakka
(a WEC entrant) was happy to get its car on track in eight weeks.”
The Muscle Milk HPD, driven by Klaus Graf, Lucas Luhr and
Simon Pagenaud, is one of three HPDs entered and perhaps the car
with the best chance at taking down the Audis. While the HPD has