SEBRING, Fla. (March 17, 2011) – In Thursday’s practice sessions for the 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the Paul Miller Racing driving trio of Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and René Rast spent the day working toward a comfortable setup on their No. 048 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR with Yokohama tires.
The team made steady forward progress throughout the day’s three sessions and finished night practice well within striking distance of the top 10. Those competitive lap times give the team confidence heading into the qualifying session on Friday and, more importantly, Saturday’s 12-hour race.
“We’ve learned a lot about the car this week and we’ve learned a lot about the tires as well,” said Bryce Miller. “The conditions here at Sebring change quite dramatically, especially with all the different tire compounds and classifications that are running here this week. We are now starting to find a balance, finally, and this is a good feeling going into tomorrow because tomorrow will be qualifying and we’re running out of time. This was an important session for us that put us on track to move forward and it gives us a baseline to work from. I’m very eager and optimistic and looking forward to tomorrow.”
With more than 50 cars on course in each of the three sessions, finding clear space on the 3.7-mile circuit is a challenge in the best of circumstances. Making things even more difficult were a glut of red flags on Thursday that brought each practice session to a halt and reducing precious track time. However, while the two-hour evening session was slowed by a few red flags as well, each of the three Paul Miller Racing drivers got a reasonable amount of seat time.
That was particularly valuable to Rast, the team’s 24-year-old Sebring rookie, who is participating in his first 12 Hours this weekend. Rast took advantage of the opportunity to see the Sebring circuit in the dark for the first time and was pleasantly surprised.
“I thought it would be worse,” Rast said. “I like to drive in the dark. I did some races in the dark and it’s very cool. The only problem I had was that I didn’t know which car was behind me, but I like to be here and I like the track. It’s cool.”
Maassen, the five-time Sebring class winner, was also pleased with the team’s progress on Thursday. He pointed out that there are still plenty of areas for improvement, but they’re definitely moving in the right direction.
“I joined the team on Monday and actually I found that the car was already not too bad,” Maassen said. “I was surprised I was able to do a 2:04.5, which was OK at that time of the week, but unfortunately it got warmer during the week, so we had more and more problems with the heat on the track and we had to adapt our setup to that.
“Now, in the night session, everything was back to good. We are really happy with the car. We ran out of fuel on purpose so we could see how much fuel we can use out of the car. Tomorrow, we still have to find the best setup for the hot conditions. For the night, I think we have a good setup and I’m happy with the car, but when it’s getting really hot, I’m not sure if we are really good already.”
The team will have just one more one-hour practice session tomorrow from 10:40 to 11:40 am ET on Friday before the 15-minute qualifying session at 3:00 pm. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida will take the green flag at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Live race coverage 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.