Photo: Courtesy of IMSA

2019 12 Hours of Sebring Preview

By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer

The 67th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring has a special position on the world motorsport stage this coming weekend with the added race for the FIA World Endurance Championship on Friday afternoon.

While the Australian Grand Prix may have top billing around the world motorsport stage, Sebring will have more action than any other track in the world with not only the 1000 Miles of Sebring on Friday but the Michelin Pilot Challenge also has a two hour race on Friday. But enough about the other races, let’s dive into the second race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.

Daytona Prototype International DPi has 11 entries for Sebring, the same cars as the Rolex 24 at Daytona just two months earlier. However, there are a few driver changes in the DPi class, notably with Christian Fittipaldi’s retirement from motorsport there was a vacancy at Action Express Racing that was filled by Brendon Hartley. Hartley will be doing double duty with the WEC race as he’ll be in the No. 11 SMP Racing LMP1 machine.

Other drivers have shifted around or are eliminated entirely from Daytona in DPi. Fernando Alonso and Kamui Kobayashi are out at Wayne Taylor Racing owing to their commitment to the Toyota Gazoo Racing entries in LMP1 while Matthieu Vaxiviere will stand in. Kyle Kaiser will not race at Sebring alongside his Juncos Racing teammates while Loic Duval will not race for CORE Autosport as he did at Daytona.

Rene Rast will not be racing at Sebring for Mazda Team Joest while Juan Piedrahita moves from the No. 84 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry to the No. 85, replacing Devlin DeFrancesco and Rubens Barrichello.

The LMP2 field was cut in half to only two cars as DragonSpeed are focusing their efforts on their LMP1 and LMP2 cars in the WEC race. Performance Tech Motorsports and PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports will compete in the pro-am Prototype class with each car having yet one driver unconfirmed for the third driver role.

GT Le Mans remains mostly unchanged except that there is no Risi Competizione Ferrari joining the pairs of Corvettes, BMWs, Ford GTs and Porsches. Porsche, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing and Corvette Racing have no changes to their lineups but the No. 3 Corvette lineup of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller are pulling double duty by racing a C7.R in the WEC race.

BMW Team RLL have Philipp Eng as their third driver in the No. 24 car instead of Alex Zanardi and Chaz Mostert while in the No. 25 car Tom Blomqvist will be in after missing the Rolex 24 with visa issues. He’ll share that car with Connor De Phillippi and Colton Herta.

The class taking the biggest hit in terms of numbers from Daytona is GT Daytona. From 23 cars at the Rolex 24 to 17 at Sebring, let’s look at who isn’t at the once around the clock classic. Via Italia Racing (Ferrari 488), EBIMOTORS (Lamborghini Huracan), Spirit of Race (Ferrari 488), WRT Speedstar Audi Sport (Audi R8 LMS), NGT Motorsport (Porsche 911) and Black Swan Racing (Porsche 911) are not racing while every driver lineup went from four drivers down to three.

Perhaps the biggest variable will be how much the track will change over the weekend. Rain is in Saturday’s forecast and there’s no telling how much faster the track would be without the rain. Either way, teams will be scrambling when the heavens open up.

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A 2012 graduate of LSU, Christopher DeHarde primarily focuses on the NTT IndyCar Series and the WeatherTech Sports Car Championship. DeHarde has actively covered motorsports since 2014.