Saturday, Nov 22, 2014

Role reversal at Sebring


Published:

The roles will be reversed for competitors in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at the upcoming Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida on Saturday, March 15.

After the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona played to the strengths of the former Rolex Series teams, American Le Mans Series teams will be returning to familiar turf at Sebring.

Muscle Milk Pickett Racing won the 2012 and 2013 P1 championships in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. While the Rolex 24 was the team's first experience on Daytona's high banks with a new Nissan-powered ORECA, Muscle Milk Pickett Racing has plenty of experience racing at Sebring's flat layout that incorporates runways from a former military training base.

Ditto for Extreme Speed Motorsports and OAK Racing, who have raced at Sebring in ALMS competition.

"We knew that Daytona probably wouldn't be the best track for us," said Sharp, who will share the No. 1 ESM HPD ARX-03b with Ryan Dalziel. "Sebring ought to be more conducive to the natural elements of the HPD ARX-03b: downforce and good braking. We hope to be more competitive there, for sure."

After winning back-to-back ALMS P1 titles, Pickett Racing faces a new challenge developing the Nissan/ORECA. While it's a new car, the team has plenty of data as well as hands-on experience competing at the historic circuit.

"After Daytona, the drivers, engineers and mechanics all came up with lists of items to improve on the car," said Pickett Racing team manager and chief engineer Brandon Fry. "We generated a pretty big list of items to work on. Now, we're looking to click through them as fast as we can before the next race."

In addition to the improvements, the team was making changes to adjust from racing on the high banks at Daytona to preparing for the bumpy former runways at Sebring: adding more downforce; working with the shock absorbers; reconfiguring the bodywork's aerodynamics; and changing the gearing.

"There's a lot of difference between the two tracks," Fry said. "Sebring is a bumpy place with a lot of high-speed corners. The top speed is a lot slower.

"I expect Sebring will have a closer balance between the cars, and it will be a better fight. It will be a good race."

"We came away from the 24 with two minds as a team," Fry said. "On one hand, we were certainly happy that the car ran the entire race and was relatively competitive right out of the box, so that was something to be happy about. But the flip side is we probably didn't maximize the performance of the car. We're a group that enjoys and is accustomed to running at the front. Not winning makes us want to go away and work harder and come back and be more competitive."

OAK Racing, coming off a sixth-place P finish at Daytona, took second at Sebring in P2 in 2012. Olivier Pla, who was part of that effort, will be driving the team's No. 42 Nissan/Morgan at next week's testing with Gustavo Yacaman and HoPin Tung.

While Sebring is only half the distance of the Rolex 24, many feel that the 12 Hours is actually a tougher race. Sharp, a former Daytona winner, fits into that category.

"I think the 12 Hours of Sebring is rougher and tougher on the car," Sharp said. "To get to the end of the race with the car in one piece is tougher than any 24-hour race. We've been real quick almost every time ESM has run at Sebring, but we've had some real unfortunate luck. We always practice and qualify well there, and have a real good race pace. We know that sooner or later, it's going to be our turn. We're certainly hoping for that this year."

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