EBRING, Fla. – Friday at Sebring International Raceway represented the final opportunity for Paul Miller Racing to make adjustments to its No. 048 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on Yokohama tires.
With Friday’s practice and qualifying sessions now in the rearview mirror, the team heads into Saturday’s 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida feeling good about its chances. Lead driver Bryce Miller – who is sharing the No. 048 Porsche with Sascha Maassen and René Rast for the 12-hour enduro – put the car 17th on the grid in the 15-minute GT-class qualifying session with a best lap of 2:05.784 (105.896 mph). The race takes the green flag tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. ET.
“I actually feel really good about our direction, we keep moving forward,” said Bryce Miller. “We took late delivery of this car and then we had a fire here at the winter test, which cost us preparation time as well, but the team has still done a fantastic job of preparing a reliable car for this race and that’s really the most important thing.
“It’s a new car to our team and it’s a new tire to our team. We are continuing to learn more and more every session. We chose to use qualifying today as a test session, so we made a lot of changes before qualifying. I think it really paid off, but now we have to adjust the tire pressures to accommodate the different setup. Tomorrow, I think we will have a better car. I was quite pleased with the out lap and the first few laps before the temperatures and the pressures grew. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
The team has spent the entire week focusing on making the car as comfortable and reliable as possible rather than focusing on outright speed, which all involved believe will pay dividends in the race. They believe a top-10 result is well within reach, especially if they avoid the many pitfalls that can bring their race to a premature end.
“I think our whole objective is to be as conservative as we can and be careful,” said team owner Paul Miller. “We know there’s going to be some reliability problems with some of the cars that are here. There’s going to be a lot of attrition in this field and our whole game plan is just to make a big effort to be around at the end.”
If pre-event testing and night practice last evening are any indication, look for the black and white No. 048 Porsche to make its move toward the sharp end of the GT field in the latter stages of the race. That appears to be when the car and its tires are at their best and it’s why a careful and conservative strategy through the early hours of the race will be vital.
“We know that tomorrow night is going to be where we hit our stride,” says Paul Miller. “The other cars will be coming back to us at that point and our pace will be relatively quicker. We feel that by 7:30-8:00 tomorrow night, we should be very much on the leader pace. We’re just going to have to let attrition take its toll. We’re going to be down a number of laps, we’re obviously aware of that, but we think if we can keep pushing, we can pick up some positions between nightfall and the end of the race. We feel good about it.”
What the owner feels best about, however, is the team’s performance throughout the week at Sebring. It’s been a long road to get to this point and it’s gone off without a hitch in every official practice and qualifying session.
“The thing I’m most excited about is that all day yesterday and today, we’ve had zero issues mechanically,” Paul Miller said. “We’ve been able to run every single lap of practice and every single lap of qualifying with no issues other than just trying to get the car balanced and working with these tires.
“We have a lot of new fellas on this crew that have worked with the (Porsche GT3) Cup car, but they haven’t worked with an RSR and an RSR is really a whole different animal, so there’s a learning curve here. We’re really excited about the consistency of the program we’ve had over these two days. We haven’t been distracted by accidents or crashes or broken bits or anything; it’s been a very productive couple of days. I’m extremely proud of all these guys.”
Live race coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring will be available beginning Saturday at 10 am ET on ESPN3.com and AmericanLeMans.com with an ABC television broadcast airing from 12:30 to 2:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 20.
Paul Miller Racing is among the top GT teams competing in North American sports car road racing. In 2011, the team will contest the full American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, as well as the Rolex 24 At Daytona. The team enjoys a long-standing relationship with Porsche and competes with the support of three international sponsors in Marquis Jet, IPC Information Systems and TOTAL Lubricants.
Follow the team on Twitter @paulmilleracing, @bryceracer and @ReneRastRacing and become a Facebook fan at facebook.com/paulmillerracing and Facebook.com/brycemiller.net.