March 20, 2010
SEBRING INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY - Pity poor Paul Gentilozzi. One of the nicest guys in racing, Paul is owner of the popular JaguarRSR team, but they were plagued with problems during the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida. The No. 75 Jaguar XKRS was heavily damaged during a fire in Wednesday's test, and they missed Thursday night practice while making repairs.
They also skipped Saturday morning's warm-up, but Gentilozzi started the race OK. However, he completed only 11 laps in the first 35 minutes before he pitted because of a cooling problem. The team officially retired at the 55-minute mark.
"We ran the first few laps and saw the water temperature start to rise," Gentilozzi said. "We tried some things that we knew were possible causes of that issue. Once the Jaguar RSR crew was able to fully assess the problem, we determined that we were unable to fix it in a satisfactory manner here at the race track. Rather than risk damage to the car, we decided to end the race.
"I can't say enough of how good the Jaguar RSR team was," Gentilozzi continued. "They have worked hard, long hours, week after week, day after day. Never once was there a time where anyone looked like they had any quit in them. Every problem we have been dealt, these guys have responded to with vigor and excitement about the program and the car. We are just going to keep moving forward, no one is ever going to give up."
Antonio Garcia pitted the No. 3 Compuware Corvette C6.R just before the two hour mark because of a broken power steering hose and a small leak underneath the car and lost seven laps making repairs. Then Garcia was penalized for exceeding the pit lane speed limit and had a stop-and-go penalty as well.
Later, the No. 3 Corvette C6.R suffered heavy damage to the right front wheel when it was hit in pit lane by its sister car, the No. 4 Corvette! Jan Magnussen was leaving the pits in No. 3 when Emmanuel Collard brought No. 4 into the pits, and slammed into the No. 3 Corvette.
Magnussen immediately pitted again with a crushed right wheel and heavy body damage and Collard received a stop-and-go penalty. The No. 3 car then went behind the wall to repair the front suspension and lost more than 11 laps to the GT2 leaders.
Just entering the 11th hour, Scott Sharp escaped without injury when his No. 01 Tequila Patron Ferrari 430 GT burst into flames entering Turn 17 in full view of the Patron team and VIP hospitality center. He was running fifth in GT2 in the maiden race for his new Extreme Speed Motorsports team, based in Stuart, when his rear end of his car erupted in bright flames.
"All of a sudden, the car went up in flames," said Sharp. "I stopped as soon as I could."
It took Sharp just a few seconds to climb out, but they were scary seconds, as SCCA corner worker and ALMS rescue personnel rushed to his aid. The incident brought out the race's fifth caution.
The No. 12 Autocon Lola was excluded from the race after failing to start within the first hour. The team was changing an engine following the morning warm-up. Bryan William was a solid fourth in the warm-up with a lap of 1:54.113 = 116.627 mph.
The team was forced to change the engine after the warm-up, and missed the start of the race. Under American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron rules, the team only had one hour to join the field.
Terry Earwood, the chief driving instructor for the Skip Barber Racing School based at Sebring International Raceway, has been named as the BFGoodrich Tires Motorsports Person of the Year.
"Both on-track and in lectures, Terry Earwood delivers passionate and engaging high-performance driving instruction," said Roberts Kukainis, Motorsports Manager, BFGoodrich Tires. "Half the time you're laughing, but all the time you're leading about shifting, breaking, choosing lines and getting the most out of your racecar and tires. We are proud that Terry Earwood and the Skip Barber Racing School choose BFGoodrich high-performance tires as a key component to teaching drivers to go faster."
Terry's father, Charlie, was a long-time Sebring International Raceway official who joined the Sebring Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
First Sebring Winner Visits
Ralph Deshon, the winner of the very first sports car race at Sebring International Raceway a 6-hour event on Dec. 31, 1950 is a special guest at this year's race, along with his son. He drove a Crosley Hot Shot to victory in the historic event. The car he drove to victory was actually driven to the track by spectator Victor Sharpe.
Tres Stephenson was honored by the American Le Mans Series Friday night for his 25 years at the helm of Sebring International Raceway. Stephenson, wife Lisa and daughters Tori and Alex were present at the annual VIP dinner hosted by Dr. Don Panoz at the Four Points by Sheraton Chateau Elan. Series President and CEO Scott Atherton presented Tres and his family with a special travel package and other gifts.