Action Express Claims Top Chevy DP Spot, While Corvette GTLM Cars Struggle In Closing Hours
Written by: Matthew Boyce
The #5 Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP started the weekend with a bang and ended up being the highest placing Corvette Prototype at the 62nd running of the 12 Hours of Sebring. Sébastien Bourdais put the red, white and blue Corvette on the pole with a lap of 1:51.917 seconds, the teams first ever pole position. When the green flag dropped on Saturday morning, João Barbosa was quick to jump to a commanding lead. The team’s dominant performance followed up there winning drive at Daytona. While the #5 led or hung in the top five for the majority of the twelve hour contest, a late-race caution nixed their chances at winning the first two rounds of the 2014 season.
With Sebring being the second longest race of the season, there was no doubt that each and every team would have to live up to the challenge of the grueling twelve hour contest. Not only did the #9 Action Express Racing Corvette survive, but they did it with only two drivers for a majority of the race. Brian Frisselle, the starting driver for the #9, became ill inside the car after only an hour and twenty minutes in the car. Unfortunately for Frisselle and team, Brian was not cleared by IMSA to continue racing that day. Burt Frisselle and Jon Fogarty, driving triple stints throughout the rest of race, brought the car home to an eighth place finish.
The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette flirted with another top five finish at Sebring and just like the #5 Action Express Corvette, the WTR entry stayed amongst the top five throughout a majority of the once around the clock race. With less than two hours to go, Ricky Taylor had to pit the #10 due to another car leaking oil on the track, making visibility difficult. With the team now being off sequence, if the race had gone green the rest of the way, the #10 WTR entry would have been shuffled to the front of the pack. However, a yellow fell just under an hour to go, negating any advantage the team may have had, resulting in a seventh place finish. The #10 still holds second place in the 2014 season point standings.
Marsh Racing came into Sebring still learning the ins and outs of their new Corvette Daytona prototype. The #31 Whelen Engineering Corvette started in the 15th position and moved up into the top ten at the four hour mark. Eric Curran, Boris Said and Guy Cosmo kept the car out of trouble throughout most of the race, but on the 250th lap run and with under an hour to go, a gearbox issue would force the team to retire. The #31 would finish 41st overall.
Just like the #31, the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette began the race towards the front of the field. After starting the race in the seventh position, Richard Westbrook maintained a top ten position until he handed over the car to Michael Valiante. Valiante was able to navigate the #90 to the front of the pack by lap 76 before relinquishing the car to Mike Rockenfeller. Shortly after rejoining the race and while running in third, the #90 suffered a mechanical problem bringing out a yellow flag. The Spirit of Daytona crew worked hard to get the car back into the race, but after fixing a throttle control issue the team was behind fifteen laps to the leader. During the final seven hours of the contest, the #90 team clawed their way back, gaining two laps to the leader and finishing in the top ten.
The 62nd 12 Hours of Sebring for the Corvette Racing factory effort could be described simply as “up and down.” The Corvette Racing GTLM teams ran towards the front of the class for a majority of the race, with both the #3 and #4 swapping the top spot through the first half of the race. However, there quest for class victory was dashed for both teams in different ways.
The #3 Corvette C7.R started the 12 Hours of Sebring on a sour note, damaging the front nose on the opening lap of the race. The resulting repairs cost the #3 a lap on the field. That loss was negated by the halfway point as Antonio Garcia was able to drive the C7.R to the front of the GTLM field. Two hours later, the #3 would suffer a fuel pump issue, dropping them out contention for a class victory and relegating the car to an eighth place finish in the GTLM class.
The #4 Corvette C7.R, just like the #3, had a similar disappointing ending to the 2014 12 Hours of Sebring. Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Robin Liddell powered the #3 to the front and led a majority of the ten hours of the race. Unfortunately, two late incidents on course and a late race mechanical issue put the win out of reach for the #4, resulting in a sixth place finish.
The TUDOR United Sports Car Championship returns to action April 11th thru April 12th at the historic street course in Long Beach, California.
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