Historic Sebring International Raceway has been bustling with activity for days as the drivers and teams preparing for the 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring utilize every moment possible to test and fine-tune the 42 sports cars that will make the endurance run on Saturday, Mar. 16, 2013.
“In many respects, sports car racing is the same now as it was in the days of Gurney, Clark, Hill, Foyt and Stewart, especially when you come to a place like Sebring,” said retired American driver Rob Dyson, whose Dyson Racing Team is entered in the P1 class. The two-time winner of the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona (1995, 1997) has a good perspective on both the sport and this event. “Of course the track has changed a bit over the years, but this place is still the same hard, crusty and intense race circuit it was decades ago. The reliability of the cars is really put to a test here and, of course, everybody that races here wants to win. That is the objective for coming here, because it is such a prestigious race. The great drivers of the past raced as hard as they could and racing in those days was a lot more dangerous. Even when I started racing in the early ‘70s there were a lot of people getting hurt. In that respect I think racing has improved dramatically.”
Dyson pointed out just how much has changed from when he drove in the early days of IMSA with the GTP cars. “There was a lot less science behind it, it was a lot more cut and dry. The cars were a good basic design and you could tweak them. But nowadays there is a tremendous amount of data enabling us to tune a car a lot faster and to optimize the car. The reason for optimizing is, because the horsepower has been reduced, you need more speed through the corners. In the GTP days there was lots of horsepower so you were really fast down the straightaways, but not as fast as today’s cars through the corners. Today you have to make sure the cars work not only mechanically but aerodynamically and the union of those two factors makes things a lot more precise. Today’s cars at Le Mans do 205 down the Mulsanne Straight. When I was racing there our cars would do 240 mph, but we were slower through the corners. The interesting fact is that today’s cars, although slower down the straight, have quicker lap times. All of this adds to the complexity of how you tune the car and the demands you make on the car and on the driver.”
Dyson, who said he has loved the sport for as long as he can remember, concluded: “Le Mans is the granddaddy of endurance racing and then came Sebring with all its history. When Daytona came on the scene in the early ‘60s those three races became the flagships of the sport. Race tracks can be built all over the world, and they can create race events all over the world, but when you talk about car races you want to win, those three are on every driver’s list regardless of what form of racing they normally do.”
The 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón began with the 61st Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida on Mar. 11-16. Green flag for the 12 Hours of Sebring was at 10:45 a.m. ET on Saturday, Mar. 16. SPEED's live coverage begins at 10:30 a.m. ET.
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