Allan McNish, Tom Kristensen and Dindo Capello were easily the most experienced and most accomplished teammates of the 63 starters in the 60th anniversary Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.
Tonight the trio added to their exemplary records at Sebring International Raceway, recording a four-lap victory in the outgoing Audi R18 Plus TDI--and first since 2009--in the most difficult endurance race on the planet.
This was McNish's fourth win at Sebring, Capello's fifth and Kristensen's sixth overall, although McNish joked on the victory podium that it was Kristensen's 25th and he wasn't that old!
This is Audi's 10th Sebring victory and its first 1-2 since 2005.
"We had a tough year last year but it's great to start the World Endurance Championship (WEC) with a win," McNish said. "We had some small things to worry about," Kristensen added. "We focused more on the keys like keeping the corners right - you have to keep doing this every lap, lap after lap. You have to make sure that (the following car) knows you're there. The key is to look for the rhythm."
Second in the LMP1 class went to teammates Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Loic Duval in a second Audi R18. Audi's third car had gearbox problems early in the going and ended up 16th, 16 laps behind the leader. The third-place car in LMP1 was the Pescarolo of Jean-Christophe Boullion, fighting for WEC points.
The third placed car overall was an LMP2 prototype, a production-based HPD ARX-03b fielded by Starworks Motorsports, who finished second at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in late January. Driven by endurance specialist Stephane Sarrazin (who was on the winning Peugeot team at Petit Le Mans last year), Vicente Polotlicchio and Ryan Dalziel, this trio completed 319 laps, only six behind the winners. Sarrazin admitted he was close on fuel at the close while Dalziel crowed, "After Daytona, nothing surprises me about Starworks. Last Sunday night this car was in pieces."
Second in LMP2 went to Joao Barbosa, Scott Tucker and Christophe Bouchut in a second HPD ARX-03b, recovering from a Friday shunt, while the Morgan/Judd of Jacques Nicolet, Mattieu Lahaye and Olivier Pia took third in the LMP2 class.
While the prototypes take much of the glory, the final three hours of GT racing were as tight as a sprint race. The contest went to the final lap where Joey Hand fell to but finally got the best of Olivier Beretta, the American moving his BMW E92 M3 inside the Italian's Ferrari F458 Italia and forcing Beretta into a spin, which allowed Jan Magnussen to slip one of Corvette Racing's C6.R's into second place around the Ferrari.
When asked about the last few laps Hand rebounded, "What about the last three and a half hours? I pushed and pushed and pushed," he said, giving credit to to teammates Dirk Muller and newcomer Jonathan Summerton. "We came into the pits and came came out first," on their final stop, where the team elected to two-stint their Dunlop rubber. "Our tires are worn out, but we focused forward, as Big Bob (team owner Bobby Rahal) said. We didn't have the ultimate pace but we have endurance and smarts."
In other classes, the LMPC crown went to EJ Viso, Burt Friselle and Alex Papow's ORECA FLM09, a lap ahead of Buch Leitzinger, Ken Dobson and Rudy Junco Jr. and two laps in front of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Eric Lux. It was Viso's first ALMS run and his first win in a long time; the INDYCAR regular was extremely excited and wants to do more American Le Mans Series races.
The GTE-Am race went to Christian Ried, Gianluca Roda and Paolo Ruberti's Porsche 911 RSR 997, one lap ahead of the Corvette C.6R of Bourret/Gibon/Belloc and 10 laps in front of a second Corvette of Bornhauser/Canal/Lamy.
In the Porsche-based GTC class, Bill Sweedler, Townsend Bell and Dion von Moltke took the win over Alex Job Racing teammates MacNeil/Keen/Dumoulin and LaSaffe/Faulkner/Bleekemolen rounded out the podium/
The American Le Mans Series' second race is next month, on April 14th during the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The World Endurance Championship reconvenes in May at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.