Peugeot vs Lola - Frey vs Porter at Sebring Classic 12 Hours!
Masters Endurance Legends USA drivers dominated early on in the Historic Sportscar Racing 2019 Classic 12 Hour at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, taking the first six spots in opening race in the competitive Group C class on Saturday.
Racers are classified in four groups, with each group running a 42-minute race, including a brief pit stop, three times on Saturday, with one additional round to decide the championships on Sunday. Class C is by far the fastest of the four.
In round 1, Michael Frey was the class of the field, competing 20 laps of the ultra-bumpy, historic 3.740-mile road course, which in part uses a concrete surface dating back to World War II when it was used as a military training facility, with a blistering best lap of one minute, 52.129 seconds in his number 15, 2008 Lola B07/18 5500cc.
Very close behind was David Porter in his number 7, 2007 Peugeot 908 HDI 5500cc/T, finishing 8.8 seconds in arrears of Frey. In third was the number 2, 2005 Audi R8 LMP 3600cc of Travis Engen. And in fourth was Robert Tornello, in a former IMSA Daytona Prototype, the number 90, 2012 Chevrolet Corvette Coyote DP 5500cc.
The first car one lap down was the number 63, a 2011 Oreca FLM09 6200cc driven by Dwight Merriman and Kyle Tilley, finishing in fifth place. And sweeping the top six for Masters drivers was the number 007, the 2013 Aston Martin Vantage 6000cc of Oliver Matthai and veteran Marco Werner, who has won the 24 Hours of Le Mans three times, and also has three wins in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Less lucky was George Krass, who finished 14th overall after his number 50, 2003 Chevrolet Corvette C5.R 7000cc lost a clutch, a malady that was judged to be unrepairable, sending Krass to a Group B Chevrolet Camaro for the remainder of the weekend.
Late entries Chris Milner and Nigel Greensall finished 15th in the number 74, 1998 Riley & Scott MkIII 5500cc, and finishing in 17th was the number 68, 2014 Elan EP02 2300cc of Gregory Thornton and Bradley Hoyt.
While Round 1 was relatively uneventful, the second round saw considerable controversy. Porter and Frey started side-by-side, with Porter’s Peugeot pulling Frey’s Lola into the first turn, and establishing a modest lead early in the race. After the mandatory pit stops, Frey again appeared to be in charge when he made contact passing a slower car in turn 7 and spun. Travis Engen had passed the car, already “but then the gap just closed up when I tried to pass,” Frey said. The incident brought out a full-course caution.
This allowed Porter to motor to an easy victory, more than one minute ahead of second place, Engen in his Audi R8. Third was the Aston-Martin GT car of Werner and Mathai, with Tornello fourth in his Corvette Coyote.
Frey made a spirited run back to fifth place in his Lola, knocking out the second-fastest lap of the race, a 1:54.037. Porter’s best time of 1:53.950 came late, on lap 16 of the 18-lap race. Frey said that the slightly cooler track offered favourable conditions, but the slightly slower times than the first race was the result of “your level of confidence” in the dark, as Sebring is very sparsely lit at night. Rounding out the field in 14th was the Riley & Scott of Milner and Greensall, who made only one lap before being side-lined with mechanical issues.
Thornton and Hoyt, who completed only three laps in their Elan EP02 in race 1, did not answer the bell for the second round. The big loser in Round 2 was the Oreca FLM09 or Merriman and Tilley, retired for technical issues for the duration of the event.
The cumulative results after Rounds 1 and 2 showed that all is not lost for Frey, but Porter and his Peugeot had a 2 minute, 27.073 second advantage over Frey and his fast Lola. Engen was third 2:42.187 behind Porter, and in fourth was Tornello, 3.26.671 in arrears of Porter. Werner and Mathai are fifth overall, a full lap down to Porter.
Round 3 took the green flag at 10 p.m., again with Porter and Frey on the front row. With a deficit of nearly two and a half minutes to Porter, all Frey could do was win the race, and he did so in stellar fashion, making his mandatory pit stop early, on lap seven, with Porter not making his pit stop until lap 14 in the 20-lap race. And despite having a best lap two-and-a-half seconds slower than Porter’s best lap, Frey won the round by a scant 1.07 seconds.
While Florida is a standing joke worldwide for its geriatric drivers, Engen, at 75, is making a mockery of that stereotype, with a solid third-place finish. Fourth was Werner and Mathai in the number 007 Aston Martin.