Charley Robertson brings a fans’ view in 2015 when the #3 Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R won the GTLM Pro class at Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
From the archives of Vette Vues Magazine. This article appeared in the May 2015 issue of Vette Vues Magazine. The Corvette Enthusiast’s Magazine!
Story and Photos by Charley O. Robertson
After the excitement of the Rolex my husband, Jim, and I couldn’t wait to get to Sebring. Finally, the day arrived! Due to the Corvette corral scheduling, the main activities were held Thursday morning and that meant getting up at 2:00 am. Surprisingly for me, I sailed out of bed and was ready (well almost) on time.
The weather was beautiful on the way down and we got to the corral just in time for Doug Fehan’ seminar and the drivers autograph session. The Corvette corral was surprisingly full that morning and one of the joys of attending a race is greeting old friends from all over the U.S., Europe, and Canada.
For the next 30 minutes Doug Fehan, Corvette Racing Program Manager, entertained us by answering our questions of which IMSA’s AoP (Adjustment of Performance, which replaced BoP) came up several times. Doug was patient in answering the questions and explained that the pre-Sebring AoP adjustment was partly due to the restrictor increase that was given to Corvette Racing for the Rolex race. After Doug’s seminar, fans were able to meet and greet the drivers, Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Ryan Briscoe, of the #3 C7.R, and Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud, of the #4.
Our day continued with checking out the long “Vendor Row”, located near the paddocks, and looking for anything Corvette related. Some of you know that our club, Circle City Corvettes, Dothan, Alabama, hosts an auction for the National Corvette Museum during our annual Beach Caravan, May 14-16, 2015. Again, Vendor Row did not disappoint as Jim began to express concern about how we were going to get all this stuff back home. Jim thinks I pack everything but the kitchen sink. Not true! I do leave the stove and refrigerator at home among a few other items! Later, a walk to the Corvette Paddock area allowed fans the opportunity to see the C7.R’s up close and talk to the team before they headed out to the afternoon practice.
Late afternoon everyone gathered for the Corvette Parade Lap. With the Porsche corral empty, IMSA lined up 100 Corvettes in their spot and then sent us out on the track at a very nice speed at over 90 mph. Not bad for a parade lap! The evening ended at the highly recommended Sunset Grill Restaurant. Our friends from England, Gary and Ann, club members, Bill and Jackie, and everyone’s friend, Harlan Charles, GM Corvette Product Manager, met us for a wonderful supper, overlooking one of the many beautiful lakes in Sebring.
Friday dawned, not so early for me, but the weather was perfect, sunny and warm! The Drivers Autograph session was held late morning and Corvette Racing had, and always has, one of the longest fan lines. People start to line up an hour early just to get their items autographed and talk to the Drivers. Jim and I were fortunate in that we were able to help out Pratt-Miller so we could see first-hand the long lines and fans. It is also a great time to observe the colorful people who walk by, dressed in the most amazing costumes, something that Sebring is noted for. Also, seminars with Harlan Charles, Jim Lutz, Corvette DP Prototype manager and Spirit of Daytona Driver appearances took place. At Sebring there is so much to do that sometimes it is impossible to do it all, yet we try!
One of the more interesting parts of Sebring is Green Park, aka the Snake Pit. Fans will build the most amazing and infamous camps scattered throughout the park. It is truly a “Mardi Gras” like atmosphere. Heading over there, I brought two lady friends with me to tour part of the Snake pit. I believe they enjoyed most of it, although they also realized it was not a good idea for women to be over there at night. In all the years I have been going I was surprised that it was fairly clean on Friday and less rowdy than usual, although there were still many interesting camps to view.
Soon the excitement of qualifying was upon us. Anyone who has been at a race understands the feeling you get from the roar of the engines, especially the big V8 Corvettes. For several minutes we watched the GTLM class fight for pole. The competition was fierce and when it was over the #3 C7.R placed 3rd with the #4 in 7th place. After qualifying several of us, including new friends Sonny, Kathy & Donna, headed to another famous Sebring Restaurant known as “Cowpoke’s Watering Hole” Before this restaurant changed hands it use to have a live gator inside an enclosure in the restaurant!
Saturday, race day! It was another beautiful and sunny day with warm temperatures, my perfect weather! Fan traffic is always heavy so it is best to get there early. By 8:00 in the morning there was already a nice line of cars trying to get into the track. The Corvette Corral was large, and those in-charged decided that all 250 Corvettes would be packed inside the corral rather than sending some of the Vettes to the overflow area. It was truly an awesome sight, with all those hundreds of beautiful Corvettes, including several new Z06’s, in the corral.
The morning began with a Practice with all the classes on the track. At the Corvette Corral, we could pick from some very yummy breakfast foods and a much needed cup of coffee. Several seminars, by Michelin, Mobil 1, Corvette Accessories and Ron Fellows, entertained us.
One of the most exciting parts of going to the race is the Open Grid-Fan Walk. Here is your chance to walk down pit lane and view the cars by all classes up close, and talk to drivers and crew. It never seems long enough before the announcer screams “Clear the Grid”
The race began at 10:40 am. Many wonder what do you do during a 12-hour race. Plenty!! Besides re-checking the vendors in case I missed anything exciting to buy, an activity Jim wishes I would forego, Sebring Raceway offered many track activities for the fans. It has many great viewing areas to watch the race, mainly in Green Park. Plan on wearing good walking shoes for the vendors and paddock area are on one area of the track and Green Park on the opposite end. We were treated to a great lunch at the Corvette Corral and afterwards, we headed back to Green Park. One of the interesting parts of our walk was coming up to a colorful camp display and finding out it was run by a neighbor of ours! After enjoying a beer we continued our walk taking photos as we went. A little farther down we came up to the Turn 10 Group where we had a nice conversation with artist, Lee Self! Lee has done some very awesome Corvette drawings and paintings. Check him out on facebook! After a 2nd beer we continued on our way until we had walked the entire perimeter of the park, enjoying all the “colorful” camp displays. We would do this again later that night where everything looks entirely different and you can see the beautiful glowing rotors on the race cars.
Sometimes it is difficult to follow the race as there are so many activities to participate in. However, thanks to live timing and Twitter on your mobile phone, and the IMSA radio via the loud speakers, you can still have an idea of how the racing is going. In the GTLM class the Porsche Factory team led through most of the race, followed by the rest of the GTLM class, including the two C7.R’s. But at Hour 9 things began to change. The #4 car, driven by Oliver Gavin, spun at Turn 3. At first it was thought to be driver error. However, Ollie continued to have problems and was forced to retire the car due to a broken brake pedal return spring. Corvette Fans then turned their hopes on the #3 car.
In the last hour the two factory Porsche’s, #911 and #912 continued to lead with the #3 C7.R in 3rd. When the #912 came in for a pit stop the crew had problems removing the center nut from the left rear wheel. It cost them two laps and they fell to 7th place. The #911 was leading the #3 C7.R when suddenly it started to slow allowing Antonio Garcia to pass the Porsche. The #911 suffered a gear box issue putting it out of contention and allowing Garcia almost a full minute lead of the #62 Ferrari in 2nd and the Falken Tire Porsche 911R in 3rd place. The #3 C7.R was not the fastest on the track but with some excellent luck and fewer pit stops, thanks to one of the best pit crew in the world (the other being the crew for the #4), the #3 car brought in the win for Corvette Racing!
It is always exciting to be at Victory Lane. This year I was fortunate to have a better position than in the previous years. The Corvette crowd was loud during the celebration, expressing their joy and support to Team Corvette. Our yells and whistles far surpassed any of the other fans loyal to Corvette Racing’s competition.
The night is not over without another visit to the paddock. Although the Pratt & Miller crew are busy packing up Doug’s Golf Dome they, as well as several of the drivers, take time to talk to the fans that show up.
It is always sad to me when a race is over and one has to head back home to the real job. Although 12 hours may seem like a long time it is over in a blink of an eye. Sebring is a race I highly recommend for anyone who has never been there nor ever been to a race. The history of the track, the Mardi Gras type atmosphere and 12 hours of racing makes Sebring one of the best and most exciting IMSA-Tudor races to attend, and I can’t wait until next year!
The #3 Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R, driven by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Ryan Briscoe races to victory Saturday, March 21 2015 in the GTLM Pro class of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.
The #4 Chevrolet Corvette Racing C7.R, was driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Simon Pagenaud in the GTLM Pro class of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring race at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida.