SEBRING, Fla. (February 21, 2014) – Paul Miller Racing and No. 48 Audi R8 LMS drivers Bryce Miller, Christopher Haase and Matt Bell successfully worked through a full agenda of scheduled testing and development Thursday and Friday in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Racing annual Sebring Winter Test at Sebring International Raceway.
Paul Miller Racing returned to Sebring on the heels of a breakout performance in the team’s debut race with Audi Sport customer racing in January at the Rolex 24 At Daytona. In that race, new team driver Haase won the pole and, with Rene Rast also part of the 24-hour lineup, the No. 48 quickly emerged as the GT Daytona (GTD) class pacesetter in the first half of the race. An overheating issue that emerged twice in the early Sunday morning hours ultimately knocked the No. 48 from winning contention but the Paul Miller Racing team served notice they will among those to beat in 2014.
At the Sebring test, typically thorough and meticulous preparation by the Paul Miller Racing crew maximized the No. 48’s on-track time and – without a single mechanical glitch – allowed the crew and drivers to run through a wide and thorough range of setup changes on the car. This also allowed new team drivers Haase and Bell to each log a substantial amount of laps in their first visit to Sebring International Raceway.
The strong endurance race showing at Daytona, and a comparably productive test this week at Sebring, both have Bryce Miller very optimistic about the team’s chances in the perhaps even more grueling Sebring 12-hour race.
“The team has good momentum from Daytona and Christopher and Matt and I are all understanding one another better and working better together as we get to know each other,” Bryce Miller said. “It is all moving in the right direction and I think we learned a lot these last two days. It was good to have a drop in track temperature on Friday just to feel a different track condition and to try some different changes. We had some different driver feedback across the changes but overall I think the result showed.”
While Miller, son of team owner Paul Miller, is a Sebring veteran, both Haase and Bell were indeed making their career debuts on the legendary and notoriously tough Sebring road course. Haase has conquered the 24 Hours of Nurburgring sports car race in his native Germany – another legendary track known for its unique and unforgiving attributes – but Sebring was still an eye opener for the Audi driver.
“For me, it was the first time at Sebring here and on my first track walk I was a little bit scared,” Haase said. “I have never seen a track like this in my life, it is really bumpy, quite difficult and you just have to get used to it as a driver. The first session I just used it to get myself into the track, to feel the car, get the traffic and after that you just have to build up yourself as a driver. So far we have done everything very well, we improved the car step-by-step in the right direction and I am very optimistic for the race.”
Bell, a Brit who is no relation to American sports car driver Matt Bell but the younger brother of fellow sports car racing standout Rob Bell, also quickly realized Sebring is a track like no other.
“This compares to nothing at all,” Bell said. “Sebring is pretty unique to me. There may be somewhere else in the world like it but I have never been to it. I actually liked it instantly as soon as I got out on track, I have really enjoyed these two test days. Thursday was all about building confidence in the track and getting to learn the little nuances of the place but by the end of the test we made some good steps forward.”
As the most experienced driver on the team – he ran in the lead pack throughout his race-opening stint last year at Sebring when the team finished sixth – Bryce Miller made sure he was there for his new teammates when they took their first laps on the Sebring circuit.
“I made sure to be wearing the team radio headset for Chris and Matt when they had their first outings,” Bryce Miller said. “The initial comments you get from first timers is just hilarious. All the bumps, and the chattering and the jumping, it is completely foreign when you first come here. They ended up getting really good lap times here and good experience we can bring back for race week because Sebring is all about experience.”