Halfway through the 60th Anniversary Sebring 12 Hours, Audi—as expected—has a comfortable lead. With the course under yellow, Dindo Capello in the 2 Audi R18 TDI leads teammate Timo Bernhard; the pair has a two-lap lead over the next car in line, Nick Heidfeld in the 12 Rebellion Lola-Toyota.
The Audis have almost a second in hand over the competition. Whether the FIA/ACO have failed to properly balance diesels and gasoline-powered cars yet again, or whether the enormous Audi budget has given the team an insurmountable edge, Audi still has no competition but itself.
Audi’s day has not been without incident: the 1 car has suffered some kind of shifter problem, possibly electrical, which has cost the car several laps. Still, Audi has the two fastest cars on the track by a comfortable margin. Things could go wrong, but … likely, won’t.
Behind the Audis, the fight for the best of the rest has been thrilling, as Simon Pagenaud has turned some amazing laps, and the 22 JRM HPD and Rebellion Lolas have been keeping the contest close.
In LMP2, Pierre Kaffer in the 49 Pecom Racing Oreca 03-Nissan leads pole-sitter Olivier Pla’s 24 Oak Racing Morgan-Judd by a lap. The battles in this suddenly popular class made up for the all-Audi show in P1.
GT has been the most hotly-contested class. Currently Tom Milner’s 4 Corvette racing C6ZR1 leads Marc Lieb in the 77 Felbermayr-Proton Porsche 911 RSR and Antonio Garcia in the 03 Corvette. Right before the yellow only five seconds separated the top three; they had changed the lead a couple times in the minutes prior to the full-course caution.
The race hasn’t been the crash-fest many feared, despite the tremendous traffic density. There were only a few minor collisions; more cautions were called for mechanical failure than collisions.
Toni Vilander brought the 51 AF Corse Ferrari—the GT pole winner—into the pits ten minutes into the race. The car went straight back to the paddock for repair. This car was in and out of the garage throughout the first half of the race with undiagnosable electrical issues.
Five minutes later, Rui Aguas in the 61-AF Corse Waltrip GTE-Am Ferrari F458 stalled on the course, bringing out the first full-course caution. The race restarted at 11 a.m., and stayed green for another two hours, with the Audis running 1–2–3.
At 1 p.m., the 37 Conquest Endurance P2 Morgan-Judd stopped on the side of the track in Turn Ten. It took 23 minutes to clear the track and pit the field.
After 15 minutes of racing, Jaime Melo in the 59 Luxury Racing GT Ferrari collided with Olivier Lombard 23 Signatech P2 Oreca 03-Nissan, sending the Oreca into the tires. This didn’t bring out the yellow flag, but five minutes later the caution flag did fly, when Cooper MacNeil’s 022 AJR GTC Porsche 911 GT3 Cup somehow tore loose its rear bumper. The GTC Porsche circulated dragging its rear bodywork for a few laps before pitting to tear off the loose parts. Both cars later retired.
The race went green around 2 p.m. and ran uninterrupted for 40 minutes before the next caution. At 3 p.m., the race restarted yet again. Ryan Hunter-Reay retired the 95 P2 Level 5 HPD with oil cooler failure.
The race enjoyed another long, uninterrupted run until the 37 Conquest Endurance P2 Morgan-Judd stalled for a second time, right at the halfway point.
Aside from predicting that one of the Audis will win overall, the rest of the race is totally up for grabs. As evening approaches, the race will over-intensify. As good as it has been so far, the best of the 2012 Sebring 12 Hours is yet to come.