Tudor Championship Set for Success in Second Sebring 12 Hours

March 15, 2015 9:11 pm Last Updated: March 16, 2015 9:37 pm

The Tudor United Sports Car Championship will be running the 63rd Twelve Hours of Sebring this weekend—the second race of its second season, the oldest and arguably the most iconic on its schedule. What can it offer this year, having learned from last season?

Based on the success of the 2015 24 Hours of Daytona, it seems safe to assume the race will offer quite a lot.

Now in its second season, the Tudor Championship has worked through many of the teething problems its first season presented. Based on the 2015 season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, issues of class balance and officiating have (hopefully) been relegated to the past; the 2015 Rolex 24 was a solid endurance race, with the teams which made the fewest errors and made the quickest recoveries coming out on top—exactly how endurance racing is supposed to work.

Add to that a solid grid and the prediction of perfect weather, and the 2015 Twelve Hours of Sebring could be the race fans hoped for in 2014.

Plenty of Errors to Learn From

The Tudor United SportsCar Championship, a combination of the failed American Le Mans Series and Rolex Sports Car Series, did not have a particularly auspicious debut in 2014. Its first race, the Rolex 24, was a decent if uninspiring race until a questionable late-race caution and a hasty penalty, rescinded several hours later, marred the finish

The Tudor Series’ first attempt at the Sebring 12 Hours did not run smoothly at all. To start with, Ben Keating’s Riley Motorsports Viper caught fire early in the race, and burned to a crisp while fire marshals waited for word from the booth to go on track—a sensible safety precaution, but to spectators the delay in reacting seemed unusually long. This exacerbated a debate among teams and fans started when Tudor scrapped the old policy of having a dedicated traveling safety team.

The Riley Motorsports GTD-class SRT Viper burned for several minutes before marshals were able to extinguish it. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
The Riley Motorsports GTD-class SRT Viper burned for several minutes before marshals were able to extinguish it. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

In all about half the race ended up being run under cautions, which is partly just bad luck (and some bad driving) but also highlighted Tudor’s complicated yellow-flag procedure and its unwillingness to use local cautions.

On top of all that, officials made a pair of huge (and this cannot be over-emphasized) officiating errors by penalizing the AJR Porsche for a collision caused by the #911 PNA Porsche, and then penalizing the #912 PNA Porsche for the same foul, while the actual offending car was never penalized.

Race officials were unable to distinguish between the #912 PNA Porsche (L) and the #22 AJR Porsche (R) and were unwilling to review video evidence which clearly identified which car deserved the penalty. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Race officials were unable to distinguish between the #912 PNA Porsche (L) and the #22 AJR Porsche (R) and were unwilling to review video evidence which clearly identified which car deserved the penalty. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Tudor spent the rest of the season making adjustments, and based on how the 2015 Rolex 24 proceeded, all the problems have been fixed. Officials used local yellows to let drivers recover from small errors instead of stopping the race and a new review process ended erroneous penalties.

Most important Tudor seemed finally to get the balance between its two types of prototype chassis correct at Daytona—after a year of imbalance, it seemed during the Rolex that a P2 or a Daytona Prototype could have an equal chance to win.

Of course, Daytona is a track like no other, and a new balance will need to be struck for Sebring, but Sebring, without Daytona’s long banked sections, won’t offer the challenges Daytona does.

Sebring is one of the oldest road-racing tracks in North America, and the 12 Hours is one of the oldest sports car races—a true classic, that until 2011 attracted the best teams from around the world.

The #02 Ganassi Riley-Ford EcoBoost won the 2015 Rolex 24. Winning driver Scott Dixon will team up in the #01 Ganassi car with Scott Pruett and Joey Hand; Pruett drove the #01 to victory in the 2014 Sebring 12 Hours. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
The #02 Ganassi Riley-Ford EcoBoost won the 2015 Rolex 24. Winning driver Scott Dixon will team up in the #01 Ganassi car with Scott Pruett and Joey Hand; Pruett drove the #01 to victory in the 2014 Sebring 12 Hours. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Full Grid, Star Drivers

As of March 10 47 cars are entered—six fewer than Daytona—but that is to be expected. Ganassi has entered only one Riley-Ford Ecoboost, and RG racing did not enter its Riley BMW. Otherwise the prototype class is identical to the Rolex 24 entry. The NASCAR stars are gone, but IndyCar’s Justin Wilson will be taking a turn or two in the #60 Shank Racing Ligier-Honda and 2014 IndyCar champ and 2015 Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon will co-drive the #01 Ganassi Riley-Ford.

SpeedSource's Mazda diesels were quicker at Daytona but didn't last. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
SpeedSource’s Mazda diesels were quicker at Daytona but didn’t last. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

SpeedSource Mazda will return with its pair of SkyActiv diesels. The team showed good speed at Daytona; Sebring should suit their cars even better.

The DeltaWing benefited from off-season development but couldn't last for 24 hours at Daytona. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
The DeltaWing benefited from off-season development but couldn’t last for 24 hours at Daytona. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

The DeltaWing DWC13will also be back. This car too showed good speed at Daytona but succumbed to mechanical failure.

The #3 Corvette Racing C7.R will be looking to for its second GT Le Mans class win of the season. Core Autosport lost a Prototype Challenge class win in the 2015 Rolex 24 when driver Colin Braun hit a slower car with 20 minutes to go. The team will be looking to both make up for that loss and to defend its 2014 Sebring class win. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
The #3 Corvette Racing C7.R will be looking to for its second GT Le Mans class win of the season. Core Autosport lost a Prototype Challenge class win in the 2015 Rolex 24 when driver Colin Braun hit a slower car with 20 minutes to go. The team will be looking to both make up for that loss and to defend its 2014 Sebring class win. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

In GTLM, AF Corse is entering only a single Ferrari 458. IndyCar stars Ryan Briscoe and Simon Pagenaud will be back with Corvette Racing, Briscoe in the Rolex-winning #3 C7.R, Pagenaud in the #4. Porsche factory driver Patrick Long will again be co-driving the #17 Falken Tire Porsche, and ALMS P1 champion Lucas Luhr will join the RLL Team BMW #24 Z4 GTE squad.

Prototype Challenge is the same as at Daytona, save Bar1 is entering only a single Oreca-Chevrolet. In GT Daytona, Scuderia Corsa has only a single entry, and Konrad Motorsport has not entered its Porsche GT America.

Extreme Speed Motorsports will be trading its brand new HPD ARX-04b coupes for last year's open-topped models. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Extreme Speed Motorsports will be trading its brand new HPD ARX-04b coupes for last year’s open-topped models. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

One unhappy note: Extreme Speed Motorsports won’t be back with its pair of HPD ARX-04bs. The new cars, which were barely delivered in time for Daytona, simply weren’t sufficiently developed. The new cars will be shipped back to the factory, while the team will dust off the ARX-03bs it ran in 2014. (ESM finished second last year, so while the new cars might have more development potential, the 03bs still have the potential to win.)

Competition in the GTLM and GTD classes is always intense at Sebring. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Competition in the GTLM and GTD classes is always intense at Sebring. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

Sports Car Racing’s Evolution Will Be Televised—or Streamed

The Tudor Championship is the latest in a chain of North American sports car racing series stretching back to the 1960s Hopefully Tudor management has learned from its forbears and will succeed where each of them eventually failed.

One thing the Tudor folk have realized is that fans who can’t make it to the track still want to watch the race Thanks to a deal between Fox Sports and Tudor, the entire twelve-hour race should be available to fans in North American and worldwide either on cable TV or via the Internet.

Michael Shank Racing traded in its 2014 Riley-Ford for a Ligier-Honda—with the same driver line-up of John Pew, Oz Negri, and Justin Wilson. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Michael Shank Racing traded in its 2014 Riley-Ford for a Ligier-Honda—with the same driver line-up of John Pew, Oz Negri, and Justin Wilson. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

The first two hours will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1, starting at 10:30 a.m. EDT Saturday, March 21. From 12:30 p.m. until 7 at night the race will be on Fox Sports 2; then it moves to the Internet on IMSA.com.

Fox Sports Two picks up the action at 10 p.m. and broadcasts the end of the race and winners’ interviews.

Finally, a two-hour summary will air on Fox Sports 1 at 8:30 am on Sunday, March 22.

As always live timing and scoring will be available at IMSA.com.

Tickets for the 63rd 12 Hours of Sebring are available online at Sebring Raceway‘s website.

Magnus Racing will be back to defend its 2014 GT Daytona victory. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)
Magnus Racing will be back to defend its 2014 GT Daytona victory. (Chris Jasurek/Epoch Times)

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