Tag Archives: Sebring

Sebring 12 Hours Debrief: Cadillac Reigns Supreme, Again.

While normally my Travel Destinations Debrief columns feature lots of sections covering various topics after major sportscar races, the 2021 Sebring edition is going to focus on one subject: the Cadillac DPi. Why? Because it deserves our attention and respect after yet another huge IMSA endurance victory last weekend at the hands of JDC Miller Motorsport.

Cadillac’s future beyond the 2022 season in IMSA is currently an unknown. LMDh is coming and as it stands the GM brand has yet to commit going forward. In fact, due to the company’s reluctance to buy-in to a hybrid-powered future in motorsport, many industry observers believe Cadillac may well exit IMSA after 2022, making way for another marque in GM’s stable to compete in the LMDh category.

Should Cadillac depart IMSA, then it will leave a hole, after years of dominance in the championship’s headline events. The Caddy has been almost unbeatable in the major races since DPi began in 2017, winning the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 Hours four times and Petit Le Mans twice. In fact it was such a fast and reliable prospect from Day 1 that IMSA forced Cadillac to change its engine for the second year of DPi to help balance the field…

However, after Wayne Taylor Racing stormed to victory at Daytona back in January this year, handing Acura its first Rolex 24 victory with the ARX-05, one could make the inference that Cadillac’s days as the top dog in IMSA were coming to an end. Not only had it lost its most decorated team (WTR) to its rival marque Acura as a replacement for the Penske effort, but it won at Daytona on its debut. It was no doubt a big blow.

Last weekend though, Cadillac showed once again that it can still win big races, as JDC Miller Motorsport stepped up to the plate this time to add another memorable victory to the DPi V.R’s tally. Acura may have taken the spoils at Rolex, but the Cadillac contingent clearly won’t be going down without a fight this season.

Until the Cadillac DPi is fully retired from racing, I fear many won’t appreciate how remarkable the car is. This is in part because it hasn’t had the chance to stretch its legs and prove its worth at Le Mans – which is a real shame.

For a time, there were rumours that DPi would be accepted into the Le Mans 24 Hours in its own class, or as part of a converged class with the WEC’s cars, with BoP governing the performance levels. But that idea never came to fruition; instead, the ACO and IMSA settled on a grander plan to allow both its forthcoming rulesets to compete with each other at Le Mans as part of the FIA WEC allowing LMDh cars to compete alongside Le Mans Hypercars from 2023 onwards. For this reason, the Cadillac will be remembered fondly by North America’s sportscar faithful, but not necessarily by the wider fanbase in Europe and Asia.

We shouldn’t forget how surprising the DPi V.R’s story is. The car is based on Dallara’s P217 chassis which in its LMP2 form has been a failure in the marketplace up against the might of ORECA’s 07. Beyond a freak win in the ELMS at Paul Ricard back in 2017 and a mercurial effort from Carlin in the Asian Le Mans Series back in 2019/20, the P217 has struggled almost everywhere it has raced.

The P217 suffers from ‘porpoising’ issues on its front-end, especially at high speed, which unsettles’s the balance of the car and makes it incredibly twitchy and unstable during more technical sections of a circuit. The Dallara is always fast in a straight line, but an ‘edgy’ prospect in medium and fast corners, and even more so in its low-downforce Le Mans configuration.

An attempt was made to rectify the issues when the ACO granted Dallara a ‘joker’ upgrade back in 2018, but the evolutions the Italian company released to customers made little difference. It is has therefore been fascinating to see Cadillac’s version of the P217 perform so well in IMSA.

It’s a tale of what might have been. The DPi V.R is a window on the changes Cadillac and Dallara wanted to make to the front aero of the LMP2 car. Had the Dallara been a more competitive prospect globally, then the entire marketplace – currently dominated by ORECA chassis – could look completely different right now, and certainly more competitive.

The Cadillac DPi V.R didn’t blow its competition away during last weekend’s race at Sebring, it did what it always does: remain consistently quick in every stage of the race. It appeared to be the only one of the three chassis in the class capable of building a lead too.

Sebring though, is never a simple race, and all seven cars in the class led at one point. But Cadillac’s effort never appeared to be faltering, even when its contending cars hit trouble. A heroic effort from Sebastien Bourdais late in the race was needed to seal the deal here, although it didn’t feel like a surprise to see the Mustang-Sampling liveried Cadillac on the top step of the podium.

Heading into Mid-Ohio it’s now one race win apiece for Cadillac and Acura, with Mazda still searching for its maiden win this year. It’s going to be a fascinating battle throughout the season. With competition still so hot in IMSA in 2021, ahould the Cadillac go on to win other major races like the 6 Hours at The Glen and Petit Le Mans later in the season, then the DPi V.R will surely have cemented its place in the pantheon of all-time great prototypes. It’s a car that is worth travelling thousands of miles to see. Trust me when I say that we’re living through a memorable era for sportscars in North America, and you will regret it if you don’t make the effort to see the Cadillac up close…

Stephen Kilbey

Do you want to be trackside to see the Cadillac DPi V.R race in 2022? We are on sale now for the 2022 Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours. Call us on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a booking.

Images courtesy of IMSA, Acura and Andrew Hall

IMSA Debrief: Looking Back At Sebring, Looking Forward To 2021

The 2020 IMSA season came to a close last weekend at Sebring and there is so much to talk about. With the start of the 2021 season fast approaching, the cars will be hitting the track at Daytona for the Rolex 24 Hours before we know it.

With that in mind, and so much news and speculation to digest from the past few months, it’s a good time to look back on an extraordinary year in 2020. The challenge of completing a season amid new rules and restrictions was mammoth and we should not forget the effort of IMSA’s team behind the scenes to ensure that the fans, teams and drivers could get their racing fix. A round of applause is in order for IMSA President John Doonan and his team.

It’s also time to look look ahead to what promises to be another memorable season in 2021. The off-season will be historically short, with under two months for the teams and drivers until the start of the new campaign in Daytona. But what represents a logistical challenge for the teams, which are frantically preparing for the next season, is a reason for excitement and optimism for fans. The grid is building and the points tables have been reset. Roll on Rolex!

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Mazda Magic

At this point Mazda winning a postponed edition of the 12 Hours of Sebring in November should come as no surprise. If there’s one thing that 2020 has taught us, it’s to expect the unexpected, and even just a year ago, the prospect of a Mazda DPi winning the Sebring 12 Hours would have been considered an outside bet. 

In practice, the Japanese marque’s triumph at the Sebring 12 Hour last weekend was fitting really, a wild end to a wild year. Mazda has of course, been far more of a challenger in the DPi ranks since its maiden win last summer at Watkins Glen, but success at the headline IMSA endurance races in Florida had always eluded it until now.

It was by no means a dominant win from Harry Tincknell, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jonathan Bomarito, but it was a deserving one. Up front in the top class the Sebring 12 Hours this year was a titanic tussle, a race that no team could get control of and a another reminder that the DPi formula seems always find a way to produce truly memorable endurance races.

Of the eight entrants in the DPi class, all of them led, and the winning trio in the No. 55 was indeed the last to claim the top spot when the sister No. 77 Mazda suffered a puncture and caused a late caution period in the final hour. It is often said that Sebring ‘choses its winners’, and this year that certainly seemed to be the case. Despite the late drama, in the 68th running of the 12 Hours, it chose Mazda instead of Cadillac or Acura.

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Porsche’s perfect send off

In the GTLM category Porsche GT Team grabbed the headlines before and after the race in Sebring. Before the event it revealed its striking patriotic ‘thank you’ liveries to mark the end of its tenure in the class as a factory, then on Saturday claimed a 1-2 finish in the race proper – remarkably, on the same day its sister factory team in the FIA WEC run by Manthey claimed a 1-2 finish in GTE Pro in the Bahrain season finale.

The CORE autosport-run crew, in its final outing with the 911 RSR, delivered the goods and produced a very ‘Porsche-like’ performance to overcome challenges from BMW Team RLL and Corvette Racing (the 2020 IMSA GTLM Manufacturers’ Champion). It was a fitting sign-off after a hugely successful run in IMSA’s premier GT class, which saw it claim seven titles in seven years, 21 race wins and 56 podiums.

“I’m incredibly proud of the team. This weekend wasn’t easy for us,” said Steffen Höllwarth, Porsche’s Head of IMSA Operations. “Because of the upcoming farewell, the mood was different than usual, but everyone coped just fine. We weren’t the fastest in the field, but we were the ones who made the least mistakes – and that’s how things like this happen. Suddenly you find yourself at the front. After three straight wins at Sebring, I’d say that this track has become our turf. 

“Now it’s time to celebrate!”

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Then there were two…

So where does Porsche’s departure leave GTLM, and for that matter, IMSA, going forward?

Porsche will not be present as a factory in IMSA next season, that’s a certainty. However, looking further ahead there is still a good chance that it will return as an LMDh manufacturer once the new regulations debut in either 2022 or 2023. It is currently undergoing a formal evaluation internally, and is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks. Whether or not it would commit to LMDh and compete in IMSA or the FIA WEC (as part of the planned top-class convergence) or both is also a mystery at this point.

As for GTLM as a platform, well it’s not in rude health anymore.

With Porsche gone just BMW and Corvette are left as factories in the GTLM category for next year. Discussions are ongoing behind the scenes to fill the Porsche-shaped hole in the grid for next season, with BNW Motorsport boss Jens Marquardt telling the media back in September that IMSA was doing its best to encourage other manufacturers to join the class. But it will not be easy to build a larger field, especially for the full season.

This is mainly because the pool of potential additions is shallow. Currently Aston Martin and Ferrari (AF Corse) are the only legitimate prospects for a factory effort in IMSA, but neither are likely to mount the challenge. Competing in IMSA is extremely expensive, it’s a long season with four major endurance races and high manufacturer fees that must be paid to enter. Add to that their current commitments to the WEC and on the face of it at least, it appears unlikely that either brand will commit to a full programme. 

What’s more likely, is a factory-supported effort from a Ferrari, Porsche or Aston Martin customer team stepping up. Could we see fan favourite Risi Competitzione commit to more races? How about a new programme from Proton Competition, which in the early days of the FIA WEC was Porsche’s only GTE Pro presence?

It will be fascinating to see what happens, as for 2021 at least there will no major changes to the GT class structure to allow GTD cars to compete on a level playing field with GTLMs. Can IMSA President John Doonan pull something off? Let’s hope so.

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A new-look for DPi

Maybe the best news du jour is the outlook for DPi next year. With LMDh fast approaching, and much speculation focused on the brands and teams that will commit to that, it’s easy to forget that the DPi era is not yet over. 2021 is certainly going to be a memorable year, as the category has been shaken up ahead of next season.

The biggest change is the departure of Penske from Acura’s DPi effort, the legendary US team rode off into the sunset on a high at Sebring, securing the WeatherTech Championship.

But the title success comes after three somewhat disappointing campaigns with the Acura DPi, in which it failed to win the Rolex 24 or Sebring 12 Hours – the most important and historically significant races on the calendar. This came as a surprise to those expecting Penske to dominate the class, with its ORECA-based chassis. Nevertheless Penske did manage to win plenty of races and add spice to the DPi category. Will Penske return to IMSA soon with new manufacturer? There are rumblings with LMDh around the corner.

Anyway, Acuras will still be on the grid next year, with Michael Shank Racing returning to the top class, and Wayne Taylor Racing moving over from Cadillac’s stable.

WTR’s move, in turn, meant a space needed to be filled in the GM ranks alongside Action Express and JDC Miller’s programmes. And that will be taken up by the return of Ganassi, which achieved the highest of highs in IMSA and the FIA WEC between 2016 and 2019 with the Ford GT in GTLM and GTE Pro respectively. Chip Ganassi does nothing by half measures, so armed with the best DPi chassis of the bunch – the Cadillac DPi V.R, the sky is the limit here. Make no mistake, this is a huge addition to IMSA’s top class.

It also begs the question: what does the future hold for the Ganassi-Cadillac tie up? Is an LMDh programme in the works? Cadillac has been involved in shaping the new regulations, though the move to a mild-hybrid solution was thought to be a sticking point for the brand.

What about Mazda for 2021? Unfortunately it has decided to reduce its effort to a single car. This is a real shame as the programme has truly hit its stride over the past year, and looked capable of winning big races and titles going forward. Prior to March there was even a buzz surrounding a third Mazda for 2021, run by a customer team, but that hasn’t come to fruition. What we don’t know yet though, is whether freeing up resource is all part of a strategy to hit the ground running with a future LMDh effort.

The wait for the first LMDh programme to get the green light continues…

Stephen Kilbey

Images courtesy of Corvette Racing, Acura, Mazda and Porsche

Want to be trackside for an IMSA race next season? Travel Destinations is on sale for the Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours now.

You can also register your interest to attend the 6 Hours at The Glen and Petit Le Mans later in the year too. Call our office on 01707 329988 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk to make a reservation or find our more.

FIA WEC Releases Six-Race 2021 Calendar

The 2021 World Endurance Championship calendar has been revealed. Next year will see a reduced six-race schedule.

The season, the first for the new Le Mans Hypercar formula, will start with a trip to Sebring for a 1000-mile race, in a double-header with the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the 12 Hours of Sebring. This will mark the return of ‘Super Sebring’ after the 2020 edition was cancelled at the last minute.

After that the teams will race at Spa-Francorchamps for the annual six-hour Le Mans 24 Hours ‘dress rehearsal in May. The third round of the season will then be the Le Mans 24 Hours on June 12-13th.

Following the Le Mans 24 Hours the teams head to Italy after a summer break for a weekend at Monza, in what will be the first ever FIA WEC race at the ‘Temple of Speed’ and the championship’s first appearance at the circuit since the pre-season Prologue test was held there in 2017.

Two further trips out of the country then round off the season, the first being a race at the Fuji Speedway, for Toyota’s first home race with its Hypercar, the second the season finale at Bahrain in November.

There are three key omissions from the original 2020/21 calendar which was shelved in favour of a calendar year schedule due to the pandemic. The WEC will not head to newly renovated circuit at Kyalami for the first time or return to either Shanghai or Silverstone for the first time in WEC history. Both circuits have been ever present since the inaugural WEC season in 2012.

2021 FIA WEC Schedule (Provisional)

13-14 March: Pre-Season Test (Sebring)
19 March: 1000 Miles of Sebring
1 May: 6 Hours of Spa
12/13 June: 24 Hours of Le Mans
18 July: 6 Hours Monza
26 September: 6 Hours of Fuji
20 November: 6 Hours of Bahrain

Motorsport Events

So much to look forward to

Motorsport Events to look forward to

July is upon us. What a first six months of 2019 we have had. We have completed so many motorsport events. There have been successful visits to the USA for Daytona and “Super-Sebring”, we have ventured even further afield for the Bathurst 12 Hours in Australia. Then closer to home we have already visited Spa-Francochamps twice and survived the incredible double header that was the Le Mans 24 Hours followed by the Nurburgring 24 Hours. Just around the corner we have the Spa 24 Hours too followed by the Nurburgring Oldtimer Grand Prix, but beyond that there is still so many motorsport events to look forward to.

Motorsport events
For classic motorsport fans we have three great events to attend this September. Each is unique and well worth taking a look at. First up is the Zandvoort Historic Grand Prix. At the time of writing we have just a few hotel rooms left available for this event. Historic racing doesn’t get more picturesque than this with the track winding through the Dutch sand dunes. Certainly, one not to be missed.

Motorsport Events
Similarly, we have a last few hotel rooms available for the Circuit des Remparts event in Angouleme. The tight street circuit around, the French town’s walls, not only provides a technical challenge for all the drivers, but it provides exceptional views for spectators too. With other activities such as a fun concours & touristic rally, adding to the weekend’s events, Angouleme really is a worthwhile visit.

Motorsport Events
Rounding out September’s historic racing trilogy is the Spa Six Hours. We describe this weekend of historic racing, as an event organised for drivers, that the public are allowed to gate-crash. Whilst there may be no fair ground, entertainment and off-site events, the Spa Six Hours excels in providing excellent grids with access to all areas for all spectators. If you want to get close to some of your favourite cars from the past, then the Spa Six Hours is perfect for you. Hang out in the garages, wander the paddocks and relax in any grandstand whilst enjoying the on-track action.

Motorsport Events
We have something special lined up for October. If you have yet to experience a VLN race at the Nurburgring, then this is the way to do it. The VLN is the sister series to the Nurburgring 24 Hours & for the deciding race of the season we have teamed up with professional racing driver & driving coach David Pittard, to provide a unique way to enjoy the race. As well as 4-star hotel accommodation, just minutes from the track, our offer includes race-day hospitality with the Walkenhorst Motorsport team and a guided garage visit with David during the race. Not only that, but as David is driving a BMW in the VLN, we have added the option to add passenger laps around the Nordschleife with David as your driver. This will be as close to racing the famous circuit as most of us will ever get. This is an amazing package and one we think you will really enjoy.

Motorsport Events
The Daytona circuit needs no introduction. Watching racing around the famous banking has to be on every motorsport fan’s bucket list. The Rolex 24 at Daytona in January is the perfect excuse to fulfil those ambitions. We make things easy for you with a choice of hotels; one adjacent to the track and one overlooking Daytona beach. We can arrange flights from the Uk and car hire if required to enable you to enjoy your time in Florida.

Motorsport EentsFor those looking to travel the world and enjoy motorsport, then we highly recommend joining us in Bathurst, Australia for the 12 hours at the end of January. We currently have a limited number of rooms available alongside our hospitality offer, so make sure you get your places reserved soon. This race continues to grow in stature and now attracts the top drivers & teams from around the world, so now would be a good time to join the international audience.

Motorsport Events
March 2020 sees the return of “Super-Sebring”. This sees not only the traditional 12 Hours of Sebring IMSA race, but also one of the longer rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship in consecutive days. We love the fun atmosphere and relaxed nature of the Sebring circuit and both races provide on-track competition second to none. Our private condos were hugely appreciated by all our guests this year and we had a great crowd enjoy the racing with us. We will be repeating the Super-Sebring experience again in 2020, but places are limited, so we kindly encourage you to book early to avoid disappointment.

Motorsport EventsThen looking further ahead to next summer we have two fantastic motorsport events. The Le Mans 24 Hours in June needs little explanation, and then the Le Mans Classic returns in July for what is always a great weekend of historic racing around the full Le Mans circuit. We are on sale for both of these events now, so whether you want hotel rooms, camping or glamping then please call us now to secure your place track-side.

Motorsport Events
For more information or to book any of these motorsport events and any other of our offers on our website, please call us on 01707 329988.

Sebring

Super Sebring – The Perfect Double-Header

After a spectacular Rolex 24, ‘Super Sebring’ beckons!

All of a sudden it is the end of February and the motorsport season continues in the next few weeks with the highly anticipated FIA WEC & IMSA “Super Sebring” double header. After almost two years of planning the time has finally arrived for the FIA WEC and IMSA to share a race meeting for the first time since the 2016 WEC-IMSA double header at CoTA, and the first time at Sebring since the inaugural WEC race back in 2012.

For fans track-side, the ‘Super Sebring’ race week is set to be astonishing, with such a packed programme of events, open paddocks and two marquee races to look forward to over the weekend in what should be, as usual, great weather.

SebringSo what exactly is there to look for at Sebring? Well let’s start with IMSA, as for the WeatherTech runners in the 12 Hours of Sebring on the Saturday is the second round of the season, with the teams and drivers still very much fresh from the historic, rain-soaked Rolex 24 back in January. The Rolex 24 this year may have ended on a slightly subdued note due to the rain, but the action throughout, and the history made during race week (we’re looking at you Mazda, and that astonishing record-breaking lap!) made it an unforgettable edition. And now, still in Florida, it’s time for round two of what’s always a testing season of IMSA racing.

Last month Cadillac took the spoils for a third year in a row at Rolex, the DPi V.R still the car to have on the banking. Don’t be fooled though, the (newly-named) DPi class is closer than ever, as Mazda has hit its stride, Penske’s Acuras are more than capable of winning races on a weekly basis and the CORE Autosport Nissan is a formidable machine and will be in the running for race wins during the season as the team gets up to speed with their new toy.

Sebring
Mazda was always going to be the big unknown going into the season, the Multimatic/Joest-run team the only one in the prototype field having made significant off-season changes to its car. The RT24-P is now in its third iteration and has never been better for it. Updates to the cooling systems, and aero have made a huge difference to the car’s speed and reliability. At Daytona the car broke the all-time circuit lap record during Qualifying, British driver Oliver Jarvis once again the hot shoe, as he was at the pre-event test a few weeks prior. The car’s performance was good, although it ended in vein, with on-track incidents and mechanical niggles putting the team out of the running. But the overall picture was positive, and marked a big step forward for the effort, which has been working tirelessly to score that all-elusive first win for Mazda in prototype racing since the Grand Am-ALMS merger. At Sebring, the team will be hoping that with its car clearly up to the task, that it can leave with a set of winner’s trophies. But of course, the challenge will be to beat the competition as well as the notoriously grueling Sebring circuit. And with so many big names in the DPi driver and team ranks, this will be a clash of the titans.

SebringIt is a similar story in the GT ranks too. GTLM at Daytona was as close as its ever been, with BMW emerging victorious, scoring the M8 GTLM, its biggest victory to date. The Balance of Performance was as perfect as it can be back in January, and it provided fans that braved the weather some of the tightest GTLM racing ever seen in IMSA between all five marques present. GTD was also a lottery throughout, with most of the top teams sitting in top five positions at various fixed points during the race. Then once the rain came down, it became even more unpredictable, with multiple incidents knocking some of the more prominent runners out of the race and prompting some of the world class drivers in the pack to come into their own. Grasser Racing, after a rather quiet run throughout the race, took a second win in a row for Lamborghini, and scored the first for the EVO-spec Huracan GT3.

And that’s just a taste of the IMSA battles to look forward to, as the FIA WEC 1000-mile race on the Friday night is sure to be a hit with the fans too. There is plenty of talking points for the WEC heading into race week, and lots to look forward to, and maybe it’ll come as a surprise to some, but the LMP1 class could well provide the biggest headline of the weekend. While the racing in LMP1 to this point has been lop-sided in favour of the more sophisticated, tried and tested Toyota Gazoo Racing TS050 HYBRIDs, they will want put on a show at Sebring. This year is the first time that we’ve seen the current crop of LMP1 machinery tackle “the bumps” so expect some astonishing lap times. The current circuit lap record is a 1:43.886; Marcel Fassler’s pole lap ahead of the 12 Hours race in 2013, driving an Audi R18 e-Tron Quattro.  Since 2013, the performance levels have skyrocketed in LMP1, so expect this time to be destroyed by the TS050 HYBRID during race week if the weather is kind.

Sebring
Elsewhere in the field there is plenty to look forward to, with title battles in three of the four classes now in full swing as the ‘Super Season’ begins to draw to a close. Can Team Project 1 move into an even stronger position in GTE Am? Will a challenger to Porsche emerge in GTE Pro? and can Jackie Chan DC Racing’s No.37 crew fend off the consistent Signatech Alpine crew that’s just 10 points back in the standings? Also, how will Corvette Racing fare on home turf against the other WEC teams? The US factory, which competed in the WEC for the first time since 2014 last year in the race at Shanghai, is back for more, and will look to do more than just make up the numbers on a weekend in which it will run three thundering C7.Rs for what we expect will be for a final time at Sebring across two marquee races.

Sebring
For fans, it’s going to be a real festival of sportscar racing, with the two most prominent series sharing a meeting at one of the most iconic venues in motorsport history. It will be fast, it will be furious, and sure to keep everyone on the infield occupied for the entire week, with two major races over Friday and Saturday, that will run from bright sunshine in the afternoon into the evening and full darkness. We can’t wait.

The Travel Destinations team will be track-side with guests staying in Sebring. We are full for 2019 but you can pre-register your interest for 2020 now. Please call us on 01707 329988 or email your details to info@traveldestinations.co.uk to be the first to learn more about Sebring 2020.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

FIA WEC

Seeing through the Spray in Shanghai

Seeing through the spray at the FIA WEC 6 Hours of Shanghai

The 2018 leg of the FIA World Endurance Championship 2018/19 ‘Super Season’ is now over. There are three races left and a whole lot still to play for. The weekend in Shanghai certainly had a different feel to it, with far more positivity across the four classes than we’ve seen all season. The racing was good; albeit in tough conditions, and has left us with plenty to look forward to when the season resumes next March at Sebring.

More poor weather
Once again the FIA WEC had to battle through poor weather conditions in China. Heavy rain and low visibility were the order of the day for the race and that prevented the race from running for the entire six hours. However, the race officials once again excelled themselves in making smart, prompt decisions to keep the race going as long as possible.

FIA WEC
The red flags had to make two appearances in the race, which even started under safety car conditions. But the second half of the race ran smoothly, and actually, produced some memorable action as the weather improved. The only real issue the organisers were left to tackle was the fading light at the end of the race, which saw rain and darkness produce an alarming finish to the race for many of the drivers mid-pack who struggled to fight through the spray.

GTE Pro producing the goods
The best racing was found in the GTE Pro class, once again, and it’s clear that the class is becoming closer between the five marques taking on the full season. Not only was the racing door-to-door, but it produced a historic result too, with Aston Martin Racing’s new Vantage AMR scoring its first ever win. Nicki Thiim and Marco Sorensen in the No.95 were the victors and were masterful in the tricky conditions, aided by strategy calls from the team. Thiim, in particular, had an impressive run in the second half of the race, storming through the field from fourth in the fifth hour after the safety car for the ByKolles CLM catching fire on the pit straight to take control of the race, before Sorensen kept his cool at the end.

FIA WECBehind the Aston, Richard Lietz steered the No.91 Porsche to second in the class after getting past Tom Blomqvist’s No.82 BMW (which faded away), Davide Rigon’s No.71 Ferrari and Alex Lynn’s No.97 Aston Martin (which fell to fourth) during his stint. The championship-leading No.92 Porsche meanwhile, finished up third, pushing the No.97 to fourth at the very end, when Michael Christensen muscled his way past Maxime Martin in the dash to the flag after the final safety car period.

The key here is that Aston Martin is now very much in the fight. BMW has work to do. Its car is quick in the right conditions, but struggles when things get changeable. While AMR would need a remarkable run through Sebring, Spa and Le Mans next year to get in the title hunt, the British team building up to a title challenge in 2019/20 will be the priority.

It must be mentioned that Corvette ran in China, making its first FIA WEC appearance (Le Mans aside) since CoTA 2014. While Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner enjoyed the challenge of taking on the FIA WEC’s Pro field, on unfamiliar ground, it wasn’t easy. Despite making bold strategy calls during the race in an attempt to gain any sort of advantage, they failed to feature and finished eighth. Neither driver could extract enough pace out of the C7.R to keep up in the mixed conditions.

LMP1 getting closer
LMP1 is tightening up, with Equivalence of Technology changes before the race helping keep the privateers within arm’s length for the first time. The race itself, unfortunately, didn’t give us a true flavour of what’s to come, because Toyota won comfortably again, in part because the race didn’t run for the full six hours, and the weather was poor.

FIA WECHowever, in qualifying, it was tight. The pole-winning car this time was the No.7 Toyota TS050 HYBRID, which went on to win, after Mike Conway and Kamui Kobayashi combined to set a pole-winning 1:42.931. Between the fastest Toyota and privateer, though, it was as tight as it’s been this season. The No.1 Rebellion R-13 came closest, Andre Lotterer and Bruno Senna taking third with a 1:42.218s, which put them just over two tenths off pole, and less than a tenth off the No.8 Toyota which ended up second on the grid with a 1:43.159s. The headline time from the duo came from Lotterer, whose last-ditch attempt to take pole saw him reel off a 1:42.869s, which proved to be the second-fastest single lap time of the session. Could we see a privateer take pole of the season, and really challenge for a win? It’s beginning to look that way!

GTE Am turned on its head
GTE Am has seen major change over the past two weeks. The once dominant No.88 Dempsey Proton Porsche has had all of its points stripped after an investigation into data tampering, meaning it’s now a wide-open title race now. Team Project 1 has taken over at the top of the classification now; an impressive feat in its first year, but there are only 20 points between the German outfit and its nearest challenger, the No.98 Aston Martin Racing Vantage. With Sebring and Le Mans worth more than standard points, one slip up could see the points tally have a very different look by the end of the season.

FIA WECAnd that’s exactly what we want, both GTE classes producing close racing and thrilling title battles.
See you in Sebring!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com 

12 Hours of Sebring

12 Hours of Sebring 2018 – Preview

The 2018 sportscar racing season is heating up again after the big endurance races which populate January and early February. This weekend sees the 66th running of the world-famous 12 Hours of Sebring, and it’s set to be a corker, with a big entry and quality oozing from each class. It has not got the sheer numbers of the Rolex 24, or the same number of F1 talent in the field, but what it has got is intrigue up and down the field and one of the most iconic settings in endurance racing. Once again Travel Destinations customers have travelled to be track-side for the 12 Hours of Sebring for what will be sure to be another action-packed race, with lots of entertainment both on and off the track.

Our man in the stands takes a look at what we we can expect from this year’s 12 Hours of Sebring:

Can Action Express go two out of two?
It’s almost too easy to predict another big win for the Cadillac DPi V.R this weekend. The car, even with its new engine for this season, has both the performance and reliability to topple the other major runners. With the majority of the focus on the Prototype ranks at each IMSA meeting, many will ponder the potential for another team or manufacturer to take a big win. Action Express scored a historic 1-2 at Daytona in January, and did so in distance record shattering fashion. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, there’s surely the potential for a repeat with its two Cadillac DPi V.Rs back with an almost identical set of drivers; the only change being Stuart Middleton departing the team after his (impressive) one off drive as a prize for winning the Sunoco Challenge.

12 Hours of Sebring
So who can challenge? Well, obviously Wayne Taylor Racing will be hoping to first of all get points on the board after retiring from the Rolex 24, and second, take another big 12 Hours of Sebring win. But WTR is another Cadillac team. Outside of the GM brand’s representation, you’d have to point towards Acura Team Penske and or ESM for a potential upset. Acura Team Penske impressed mightily in its return to sportscars at Daytona, its Acura ARX-07s was in the mix throughout. Only small niggles dropped them down the order towards the end of the race. They’ve got what clearly looks like a good base package as well as a high calibre selection of drivers and team personnel to do it.

ESM on the other hand, had a miserable Daytona with its pair of Nissan DPis. But let’s not forget that towards the end of last season, which wasn’t that long ago in the scheme of things, the plucky American privateer outfit hit its stride and won Petit Le Mans. Don’t be surprised if the former FIA WEC outfit features on Florida’s bumpiest circuit!

Is there any hope for Mazda?
When discussing potential winners, it’s easy to forget the Mazda contingent in the Prototype field, and for good reason; it has been another tough start to the season for the Japanese marque.
Mazda Team Joest will be highly motivated for a strong showing at the 12 Hours of Sebring, after both of its updated RT24-Ps failed to impress on pace, and retired from the Rolex 24. If anyone knows how to turn a ship around, and win big is Ralf Juttner and the Joest team, but this may be a tall order.

12 Hours of Sebring
The car, which struggles at higher-speed circuits, just hasn’t been up to the task, even after months of aero, cooling and suspension work in the teams self-imposed long off season. To make matters worse, the Joest team was forced to pack up early after a fire for its No.55 in the pre-event test. Any sort of result would be massive here, as the belief inside camp Mazda is still positive for the future. On Joest’s first run in the event since 2013, a win isn’t expected, though fans in the stands would be overjoyed if the team had a good run.  Will we have to wait until Long Beach, where the track is tight and the race is short, to truly see what the updated RT24-P is made of?

BMW aiming for a better run for the M8
This time round, GTLM could very well be anyone’s game, after Ford’s dominant formation run in Daytona, the rule makers have pledged to tighten the field with the pre-Sebring Balance of Performance. This comes after BMW’s dispute with IMSA at the Rolex 24 (which went public), where its M8 GTLMs struggled on their competitive debut against the other marques on pace. For the 12 Hours of Sebring, BMW has been given a power boost and an extra two litres of fuel, while Ford has had two taken away. Whether or not that will make this a dogfight between all five makes remains to be seen, but it should nevertheless be a step in the right direction. If BMW, and Porsche’s 911 RSRs – which also had a rough Daytona – can fight for the win, it will only add to the spectacle of this year’s once-around-the-clock classic.

12 Hours of Sebring
Corvette looking to break records

Lovers of loud, yellow, GT machinery will be pleased to know that on what is likely to be the final 12 Hours of Sebring for the Corvette C7.R GTE, there is a lot to play for. Corvette Racing, which will of course be in the mix for yet another big title, will hope to mount its challenge on Ford with another big win at Sebring. Chip Ganassi’s Ford crew may be the favourites after dominating at Daytona, but if Corvette takes the fight to the ‘Blue Oval’, and wins, it will be its fourth consecutive Sebring victory.

12 Hours of Sebring
For its drivers there’s some key milestones to keep an eye on. Corvette’s Jan Magnussen is making his 20th 12 Hours of Sebring start, (elsewhere BMW’s Bill Auberlin is making his 25th) and British ace Oliver Gavin, has the most class wins of anyone in the field, and will be gunning for his seventh victory at the historic circuit this year. Corvette Racing meanwhile has the most Sebring class wins of anyone else in the IMSA field, with 11, and will look to add to that tally here.

Can Land get revenge in GTD?
Those who followed GTD at Daytona will remember the controversy surrounding the Land Motorsport penalty. The German team, which was leading the GT3-based class by a healthy margin, got pinged by the organisers for fuelling quicker than the other teams. But, IMSA in this case penalised the team in error, its Audi R8 LMS GT3 and fuel rig passing tech inspections before and after the race. Land Motorsport, which won last year’s Nurburging 24, and has an ADAC GT Masters title to its name in its short time as a premier Audi customer team, will be out for revenge this weekend.

12 Hours of Sebring
Even if it does spend the same amount of time re-fuelling as everyone else this time round, they’ll have a shot at the win. The team has shaken up its driver crew for this one though, Alessio Clemente Picariello joining the team, while Kelvin van der Linde and Jeff Schmidt sit the race out. In response to the Daytona incident, it’s notable that IMSA has announced that it will be implementing minimum refuelling times from Sebring onwards to prevent a repeat of the events. For Sebring, the GTD minimum will be 40 seconds, in GT Le Mans it will be 34, and in Prototype, it’s set at 30.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar

For those thinking ahead, the Sebring 2019 promises to be a special event. Not only will the IMSA 12 Hours of Sebring take place as usual, but the FIA WEC Super Season will also race on the same weekend. Effectively there will be two 12 hour races taking place in just 26 hours at Sebring 2019. For those wishing to be at the 2019 event, we recommend booking early. Travel Destinations has already contracted some accommodation for Sebring 2019 and provisional bookings are already being made. Call the Travel Destinations team on 0844 873 0203 to find out more and reserve your place at Sebring 2019.

 

NEW 2018 Brochure Available Now

2017 has been a busy year. There has been a lot of events to fit in to our calendar & we hope you have been able to enjoy them with us. Incredibly, Travel Destinations have even more events planned for next year! 2018 promises to be even bigger and better than ever. Our new brochure is available now and you can download your copy here.

Travel Destinations
Travel Destinations brochure for 2018

2018 begins in Daytona, Florida with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. This is the start of the Weathertech Sportscar Championship and is your first chance to see new technology and international drivers take on the banking at this famous circuit. Our hotel on Daytona Beach is the perfect place to stay and enjoy this great event.

Continuing out travels in February, we visit Australia for the Bathurst 12 Hours. If you have never visited the Mount Panorama circuit before, then this is a must. We not only have downtown hotels and apartments available for this race, but we include 3 days hospitality so you can enjoy practice, qualifying and the race from the privileged position on the pit-lane roof.

We are back in Florida in March for the 12 Hours of Sebring.  This is America’s oldest and most prestigious sports car race. In 2019 Sebring will also host a round of the FIA World Endurance Championship “Super season”, but you can also visit in 2018 & stay in our lakeside condos, just a few minutes drive from the circuit.

12 Hours of Sebring
12 Hours of Sebring

Our European racing season begins at the Nurburgring 24 Hours in May. Around 200 GT & production cars taking on a combination of the F1 circuit and the famous Nordschleife has to be seen to be believed. We have a private, track-side camping area, especially for our customers to ensure that you won’t miss a thing.

May’s Spa Classic goes from strength to strength and the event now attracts more than 30,000 spectators each year. With a mixture of classic endurance racing, Group C racers and historic touring cars there is enough variety to entertain everyone. We have a selection of nearby hotels and camping available to accommodate everyone, and entertain all our customers in our hospitality suite overlooking Eau Rouge.

Spa Classic
Spa Classic

The Le Mans 24 Hours needs little introduction. Following the withdrawal of Audi and Porsche there is guaranteed to be a new name on the winner’s trophy. Toyota will be back, and this time with an F1 champion behind the wheel. They will be joined by a good number of privateer LMP1s adding to the fun. The ever competitive GTE Pro class sees the return of BMW to take on the might of Ferrari, Ford, Aston Martin, Corvette and Porsche so there a plenty of manufacturers present too. As always Travel Destinations will be offering on-circuit options including our exclusive private trackside campsite at Porsche Curves, our Glamping option (Event Tents) and our pop-up hotel (Flexotel).

The pinnacle of historic motorsport is July’s Le Mans Classic. It is unrivaled in its scale and history. The racing only features cars that once raced at Le Mans, from the 1920s through to the 1980s (now including Group C). If the on-track spectacle is not enough for you then the gathering of more than 8,000 classic cars on the Bugatti circuit may tempt you away. Much like the 24 Hours, Travel Destinations has private track-side camping, glamping and pop-up hotel rooms available at the circuit, as well as hotel rooms, camping and B&B options further afield.

Glamping at Le Mans Classic
Glamping at Le Mans Classic

Endurance racing also returns in July with the 24 Hours of Spa. Being track-side, watching as Audi, BMW, Aston Martin, Mercedes, Nissan & Bentley all speed through Eau Rouge through the day and the night is a joy to behold.  The racing is punctuated with a pop concert and fireworks display above the paddock at night as the cars continue around the track. We have both camping and hotel options for this event enabling you to enjoy the whole spectacle.

August sees the Nurburgring host the Oldtimers Grand Prix. This historic motor racing weekend, has a mixture of single-seater and sports cars compete around this historic circuit. Wandering the paddock is like going back in time as the mechanics work on this classic machinery. We have trackside camping or a 4 star hotel to choose from when you attend this great event.

September is a busy month for classic cars and historic motor racing. The Circuit des Remparts event in Angouleme (South West France) is quite unique. The Sunday of a long weekend of car events, sees a full day of historic racing around the walls of the old town. This tight street circuit is overshadowed by the town’s cathedral and spectators fill the stands at every turn; it is quite a sight and well-worth the drive down to see it all in person.

Circuit des Remparts, Angouleme
Circuit des Remparts, Angouleme

Mallorca classic week is organised by the island’s residents with a focus on classic cars both resident and visiting the island. With the emphasis on the social side, there are gatherings and displays around the island with competitions and scenic drives to some of the most beautiful parts of the Mallorca. It may seem a long way to go, but with ferries taking the strain the driving distances are shortened and you could participate by clocking up less than 1000 miles in your car but stay for two whole weeks.

The Spa Six Hours in September has always felt like a racers weekend that spectators have been allowed access to. There are few restrictions on access and teams are always relaxed and happy to chat. There are a variety of grids racing over the weekend, with the highlight being the classic endurance race on Saturday afternoon that continues in to the autumn night. If you like your GT40s, D-Type Jaguars and AC Cobras competing at speed, driven by skilled drivers then this event is perfect for you. We have a range of hotels and camping available within 10 minutes of the track, so you can enjoy it all in comfort.

You can secure your place at any of these events now. Reservations are open, but availability is limited, so please call Travel Destinations now, on 0844 873 0203.

Sebring

Sebring 12 Hours; Preview

This weekend sees the 65th running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. This is one of our favourite races on the motorsport calendar and this year looks set for another exciting race. If you like small tight circuits, old fashioned concrete tracks, lots of action and of course the Florida sunshine then you just have to go to Sebring. Here our man in the stands takes a look at what we can expect from the race this weekend.

Cadillac held back?
After dominating proceedings at Daytona, the three Cadillacs racing at Sebring have been pegged back by the IMSA Balance of Performance process. The three DPi V.Rs have had weight added and had the air flow to the engines reduced in an attempt to allow the other prototypes to compete over a single lap. Whether it will work at Sebring or not remains to be seen, as the Cadillacs proved to be the most reliable, as well as the quickest in almost all conditions at the Rolex 24 at Daytona. The prototype field which Action Express and Wayne Taylor Racing is up against, as a whole, is still impressive following Daytona. Entries from Mazda, Cadillac, Ligier, Oreca, Riley and Nissan grace the class, making for the most diverse prototype grid on the planet. Only DragonSpeed has fallen off the list since January. With the gloves off at Sebring, it’ll be very interesting to see who actually emerges on top!

Sebring
Alex Lynn out to impress
While the Cadillacs entered are the same as at Daytona, the driver lineups have seen some tweaking. The most notable change heading into the race is Wayne Taylor Racing’s addition of British driver Alex Lynn. Lynn takes the place of newly-retired Max Angelelli in the team’s third seat for the endurance rounds of the WeatherTech Championship this year, and is set to impress on the North American endurance stage. Since moving over from single-seater racing last year, Lynn has raced with Manor in the World Endurance Championship as well as United Autosports in a one-off LMP3 race. He’s fast, consistent and used to high-pressure situations. If you watch a lot of sportscar racing, then you’ll be seeing a lot more of Alex too. With appearances in the VLN championship and Nürburgring 24 Hours with BMW, Petit Le Mans with Cadillac and the full World Endurnace Championship with G-Drive Racing. He is going to be busy.

Sebring Title Defence Beckons For ESM
After winning both the Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours last year, Extreme Speed Motorsports is back for another crack this year to try and repeat at least one of its high-profile victories from a year ago. At the Rolex 24, the Ligier-based Nissan DPi impressed over the full race, with only minor issues setting it back and preventing it from truly challenging for a podium spot in the final hours.
In its return to Sebring since its big win, it continues to field a stellar lineup, with Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Pipo Derani in the No.2 car and Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek, Bruno Senna and Brendon Hartley in the other. We still don’t know for sure who the favourites for the overall title are this year, but we’ll have more of an idea after this weekend. If ESM take on the punishing airfield-based circuit this weekend and come away with a good result, then it’s game on for the remainder of the season.

Sebring
Ford Brings Three
Ford Performance is set to field a trio of GTs in the GTLM class this year, after taking a quartet of them to the Rolex 24 Hours. Out to win the big races, Ford knows that it has the chance to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, Rolex 24 Hours and Sebring 12 Hours in less than nine months if it can seal the deal this weekend. Driving the third car is the World Endurance Championship crew of Billy Johnson, Stefan Mucke and Olivier Pla in the No.68, which should provide a formidable third bullet in the Ford gun. It would be mightily impressive but not necessarily surprising to see them win its second Floridian race this year; as even a year later the GT still looks just as much like a prototype (if you squint your eyes) as it did at its debut. The GTLM field will be close though, with Porsche, Corvette and the Risi Ferrari all looking capable of taking the win at Daytona. There is not much between them as they head to Sebring.

Sebring
GTD looks wide open
After Alegra Motorsports took a surprise victory at Daytona, with its Porsche 911 GT3 R that had a quiet run to the front, anything can happen going forward. Alegra will race at Sebring – after its impressive run prompted it to extend its commitments for 2017 – but it’s so close that we will likely see a second winner in as many races. Will the Acura NSX GT3 show its true potential? Can the Mercedes AMG GT3 runners mimic their European counterparts? Is counting out the Audi teams going to be a mistake? At this point we just don’t know, which should make the GT3-based class a fascinating watch.

Sebring

It certainly looks like Travel Destinations guests trackside at Sebring this year are going to be royally entertained on the track. With the addition of the Club 12 bar and grill in the centre of the track alongside live music and entertainment throughout the weekend, there is plenty going on around the circuit too. It is going to be fun!

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photography by Dailysportscar.com

If you would like to be at the 12 Hours of Sebring next year, then you can register with us now to be the first in line to choose your travel, accommodation and tickets. Register your interest by calling Travel Destinations on 0844 873 0203 or email info@traveldestinations.co.uk

12 Hours of Sebring

A Resurgence for Sebring

The Sebring 12 Hours has been through a series of down years since the arrival of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, replaced the American Le Mans Series, but it appears that the beloved American endurance event is ready to return to its former self again. The beauty of the Sebring 12 Hours is the ground on which it is set. The ex-US Army training base morphed over the years into a motorsport mecca, which for the teams and drivers presents a unique challenge and for fans a true sportscar spectacle.

12 Hours of Sebring
They say that the Sebring 12 Hours is half the length of the Le Mans, but twice as hard. The harsh, cracked and bumpy asphalt is unmistakable and for fans trackside it is fascinating to watch. In terms of viewing, spectators can watch from almost every corner on both the inside and the outside aside from the back straight. You’ll see sparks fly and hear the constant scrape of under trays and splitters grazing the bumps; think the Nordschliefe, but without the hills. If you spend the 12 hours navigating the circuit, not only will you get to see some spectacular sights as the lights fade, the headlights and brake discs begin to glow as the race roars on into the night, but you’ll also witness the party atmosphere for which Sebring is famous.

Like Le Mans there’s always a good mix of both sportscar enthusaists and party-goers, making the campsites fun and friendly, and a real sight to see. You’ll see all sorts of wild set ups from the biggest RV to the smallest tent, and be made welcome by the hoards of American fans who enjoy sharing their food and drink with passers by. There’s always fireworks displays and plenty of support races to watch before the main event. The crowd figures are still good, even early in the week when people set up prior to the on track action too. You won’t get bored.

12 Hours of Sebring
And while the local area around the circuit doesn’t offer much in terms of sight seeing, the major benefit of travelling to Sebring is the geographical location in the USA. You’ll be flying into Orlando, which is a lovely city to spend time in before or after the meeting. You could also fly into Miami too, another popular holiday destination and bolt-on a holiday.

And specifically in 2017, it’ll present fans with one of the first opportunities to see the new breed of American sportscar Prototypes: the DPis, which are set to include factory efforts from Cadillac and Mazda as well as a Nissan-badged Extreme Speed Motorsport programme.

12 Hours of Sebring
Add that to what is always a diverse grid of cars and drivers – with many star-drivers joining the series regulars, and a small contingent of European teams making the trip ¬– and you’ve got yourself a perfect excuse to fly across the Atlantic for a weekend at the motor cars.

Join us in Sebring this March. We have some lakeside condos available just minutes from the track.

Written by Stephen Kilbey
Photos by Dailysportscar