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FIA World Endurance Championship, Round 1 in Sebring, USA, Preview
Porsche with seven works drivers at anniversary classic in Florida

One of the most famous long distance races in the world turns 60: The twelve hour classic on the Sebring International Raceway is the oldest and toughest sports car race in the USA. Not only does the American Le Mans Series kick off the new season at the anniversary event on 17 March on the legendary airfield circuit in the heart of Florida. Fans can also experience the long-awaited debut of the new World Endurance Championship as well as the first race outing of the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, which underwent improvements in many areas. As the most successful manufacturer in the history of the race, Porsche is strongly represented with seven works drivers.

The race
On 15 March, 1952, the 12 hour race celebrated its inauguration. Immortalised on the winners’ list are racing legends like Juan Manuel Fangio, Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, Jacky Ickx and Mario Andretti. Hollywood stars have also fulfilled their racing dreams here: For instance, Steve McQueen who finished second overall in 1970 with a Porsche 908.

Real test for Le Mans

The circuit
The 5.954 kilometre Sebring International Raceway with its 17 corners was built on a former military airfield and is notorious for its bumpy surface. Added to this are the often very high temperatures. These stress factors on man and machine make this race a real test of endurance leading up to the Le Mans 24 Hours.

The Porsche drivers
Porsche factory pilots Marc Lieb (Germany), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Patrick Pilet (France) contest the new World Endurance Championship in Sebring at the wheel of the new Porsche 911 GT3 RSR fielded by the Felbermayr-Proton team. In the American Le Mans Series, Porsche works drivers Joerg Bergmeister (Germany), Patrick Long (USA) and Marco Holzer (Germany) make a bid for the title with Flying Lizard Motorsports. Competing for the Falken Tire squad, Porsche factory driver Wolf Henzler (Germany) teams up with Bryan Sellers (USA) and Martin Ragginger (Austria). Also facing strong opposition from BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, Jaguar and Lamborghini in the GT class are Sascha Maassen (Germany), Bryce Miller (USA) and Rob Bell (Great Britain) for Miller Racing as well as the Americans Darren Law, Seth Neiman and Andy Lally in the sister Porsche 911 GT3 RSR entry of Flying Lizard Motorsports.

"Important first evaluation"

Comments leading up to the race
Hartmut Kristen, Porsche Head of Motorsport: “In many aspects, the race on this demanding circuit gives us an important first evaluation – as the debut of the new FIA World Endurance Championship, the season-opener of the American Le Mans Series and with the initiation of the new 911 GT3 RSR. With this vehicle we have provided our customers with a technically mature, high performance race car. And the clashing of teams from the USA and Europe provides even more suspense.”
Marc Lieb: “Sebring is the toughest race of the year, even tougher than the Le Mans 24 Hours. That’s because of the many bumps. Our main priority is to make a good start into the World Endurance Championship season. I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge.”
Richard Lietz: “The fact that Sebring hosts the first round of the World Endurance Championship makes it a very special challenge for us. Obviously, we want to start the season with as many points as possible. In Sebring you can’t afford to make the slightest mistake, otherwise you don’t have a chance.”
Patrick Pilet: “I can’t wait to return to Sebring. It’s a fantastic race. I’ll be doing all I can to help Marc and Richard make a great start into the World Endurance Championship.”
Joerg Bergmeister: “Sebring is a very special race on a very special circuit. With our greatly improved RSR we have without doubt taken a major step forward. Still, during testing not all of our opponents put their cards on the table. I think the first race will show us where we stand.”
Patrick Long: “Those who want to be serious contenders for the championship have to be right up the front in Sebring. This is the only race where you can earn the most extra points. For us it’s already the fourth season with Flying Lizard Motorsports. That is undoubtedly an advantage.”
Marco Holzer: “Sebring is a long and gruelling race and it requires a lot from drivers. It’s a challenge but it is also great fun. I’m particularly looking forward to driving the further-developed RSR with Joerg and Patrick at this classic.”
Wolf Henzler: “In the first race of the season the cards are reshuffled. Our new car is definitely an improvement. We’ve already tested in Sebring but we still need a little time to find the right tyres and a suitable suspension set-up. But we’re on the right path.”

Extensive modifications

The Porsche 911 GT3 RSR
As the top model of Porsche Motorsport’s customer racing vehicles, the Porsche 911 GT3 RSR heads into the 2012 racing season with extensive modifications. Particularly noticeable is that the width of the body has grown by 48 millimetres. The aerodynamic concept is complemented by a new ducting of the intake air. The particularly efficient six-cylinder boxer engine, with a mandatory air-restrictor, generates 460 hp (338 kW) and drives the 310 millimetre wide rear wheels. The diameter of the front wheels has increased to 680 millimetres.

Porsche successes
With 18 overall and 64 class victories, Porsche is the most successful manufacturer in the history of the Sebring 12 hour race. The first overall win in 1960 went to Hans Herrmann and Olivier Gendebien with the Porsche RS 60. In recognition of his successes and service to the race, Hans Herrmann will be honoured in the Sebring Hall of Fame this year. In an unprecedented winning streak from 1976 to 1988, Porsche celebrated 13 overall wins in a row with drivers like Hurley Haywood, Al Holbert, Brian Redman, Bob Wollek, A.J. Foyt, Bobby Rahal and Hans-Joachim Stuck. The most recent overall win for Porsche was in 2008 with Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas and Emmanuel Collard at the wheel of the RS Spyder fielded by Penske Racing. That same year, Joerg Bergmeister, Wolf Henzler and Marc Lieb also secured GT2 class honours with the 911 GT3 RSR run by Flying Lizard Motorsports.

The schedule
The twelve hour race in Sebring starts on Saturday, 17 March, at 10.30 hrs local time (16.30 hours CET) and will be broadcast on internet live on www.alms.com. The GT qualifying can be seen on Friday from 21.20 hours CET on www.porsche.com/alms-live.

The series

The World Endurance Championship
Sports prototypes and GT vehicles race in the new World Endurance Championship. They are divided into four classes that start together but are classified separately:
LMGTE Pro class: This class is reserved for slightly modified standard sports cars with 440 to 500 hp and a minimum weight of 1,245 kilograms (e.g. Porsche 911 GT3 RSR).
LMGTE Am class: Like the LMGTE Pro, but the regulations stipulate that there must be no more than one professional driver per vehicle.
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 550 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with around 440 hp and a 900 kilogram minimum weight.

The 2012 calendar
These eight races on three continents make up the 2012 calendar of the World Endurance Championship:

17.03. Sebring/USA
05.05. Spa-Francorchamps/Belgium
16./17.06. Le Mans 24 Hours/France
26.08. Silverstone/Great Britain
15.09. Interlagos/Brazil
29.09. Sakhir/Bahrain
14.10. Fuji/Japan
27.10. Shanghai/China

The American Le Mans Series
The American Le Mans Series (ALMS) was created in 1999 for sports prototypes and GT vehicles. At the season-opener in Sebring, the field is divided into five classes that start together but are classified separately:
GT class: This most popular class amongst car manufacturers traditionally receives the most support: Slightly modified standard sports cars with 440 to 500 hp and a minimum weight of 1,245 kilograms (e.g. Porsche 911 GT3 RSR).
GTC class: This class is reserved for vehicles from one-make race series like the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
LMP1 class: Sports prototypes with up to 550 hp and a minimum weight of 900 kilograms.
LMP2 class: Sports prototypes with ca. 440 hp and a 900 kg minimum weight.
LMPC class: Prototype brand trophy series for the ORECA FLM 09.

The 2012 calendar
These ten races in the USA and Canada make up the 2012 calendar of the American Le Mans Series:
17.03. Sebring/Florida
14.04. Long Beach/California
12.05. Laguna Seca/California
07.07. Lime Rock/Connecticut
21.07. Mosport/Canada
05.08. Mid-Ohio/Ohio
18.08. Road America/Wisconsin
01.09. Baltimore/Maryland
15.09. Alton/Virginia
21.10. Road Atlanta/Georgia