EBRING, Fla. – The final hours of the 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida showcased the incredible potential of Paul Miller Racing, the No. 048 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on Yokohama tires and a great combination of co-drivers in Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and René Rast.
As the hot Florida sun went down and a full moon rose over the legendary, 3.7-mile Sebring International Raceway circuit, Rast was turning laps on the same pace as the GT-class leaders. And while the team’s chances of a podium finish were dashed due to a problem with the car’s gearshift linkage within the first two hours of the race, a top-10 result appeared to be well within reach.
Sadly, a suspected problem with the car’s differential – which first began to rear its ugly head during Miller’s second stint behind the wheel in mid-afternoon – forced Rast to pull the car off course at the opposite end of the circuit from pit lane with slightly more than two hours remaining, ending the race for the No. 048 team. They were credited with 14th in the final GT-class standings.
“When I went in the car, I could immediately hear that something was wrong with the car,” Rast explained. “They told me the traction control did not work. I heard a strange sound as I was accelerating out of the corner and I thought maybe it was the traction control. The strange sound was getting worse and worse every lap and after one-and-a-half hours, the car was not moving anymore.
“I still enjoyed it a lot, especially at the end of the race. I had fun in the night, because I was a lot faster than a lot of other guys. It’s my first time here in the ALMS and it’s completely different to Europe. I enjoyed it a lot. There were so many different cars. It’s nice to get that experience.”
It was an experience that both Miller and Maassen both wished they’d have gotten as well. Nevertheless, the team was able to run its fastest laps of the entire week at Sebring in the eighth and ninth hours of the race, and it certainly appeared that it would continue to get better right up through the end of the 12-hour race.
“It was really promising when the temperatures came down,” said Maassen. “The car was getting quicker and quicker every time. Every five degrees cooler track temperature, we were going half a tenth quicker per lap time. I’m really disappointed, because I wanted to drive in the night. These were the conditions we liked the best with our car.”
Despite the premature ending, it was an impressive showing for a car that wasn’t even in the team’s possession two months ago and caught fire within its first few laps at ALMS Winter Test at Sebring last month. It was also a testament to the effort put forth by a team working with a Porsche RSR and Yokohama tires for the first time.
“The team really rose to the occasion to prepare this car to go the distance that it went tonight,” said lead driver Bryce Miller. “I’m really proud of the guys. They put in a hell of an effort. Sascha and René both have been great co-drivers and both of them have great ability and speed. It’s been a real pleasure to co-drive with both of them.
“It is a disappointment, just because it looked like we were on target for a possible top 10. That possibility was looking very real for us with two hours to go. Here at Sebring, there’s so much punishment on the cars that I think that’s a good statement by our team. They really overcame a lot of challenges. We also come away from this week having learned a lot about the car and the tire, so it’s really valuable to have all of this data and we can bring that with us to the future races.”
Team owner Paul Miller echoed his son’s sentiments on the team effort, and correctly predicted on Friday that the car would be a force to be reckoned with when night fell on the race. But even he was surprised with just how fast the car was this evening.
“It was much better than anything we anticipated,” said Paul Miller. “We knew in Bryce’s second stint that we had a diff problem, but it didn’t get worse. Those times that we got, the 2:04s and the 2:03s that Sascha and Rene were doing – and I’m sure Bryce would have done them too if he had another shot – but those times were done with a differential that was broken. I think we might have even gotten into the high 2s.
“Everybody did great and they did great together. They communicated well and they shared a lot of information. We had a lot of fun this week, which is important, because if you’re not having fun doing this, then you might as well go do something else. They were great together and I was really happy to see the way the chemistry worked out. It’s just an amazing testament to the hard effort and the hard work that went into this. I’m really proud of the guys for the job they’ve done.”
Next up for the Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and Paul Miller Racing is Round 2 of the nine-race 2011 American Le Mans Series, the Tequila Patrón American Le Mans Series at Long Beach on Saturday, April 16.
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.