SEBRING, Fla. – In the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón, there is no challenge tougher than the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida, which runs for the 59th time this Saturday beginning at 10:30 a.m. ET at Sebring International Raceway.
The once-around-the-clock event held every March attracts the world’s best sports car racers – and the world’s best sports cars – for worldwide bragging rights, at least until June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Especially in the GT class, it’s a tooth-and-nail battle for 12 hours around a very fast, very bumpy, and — if you make it that far — very dark 3-7-mile circuit, which tests the greatest of man and machine.
That’s the challenge that awaits the talented trio of Bryce Miller, of Summit, N.J.; Sascha Maassen, of Aachen, Germany; and René Rast, of Minde, Germany, who will co-drive the No. 048 Marquis Jet/TOTAL/IPC Porsche 911 GT3 RSR on Yokohama tires for Paul Miler Racing at the end of this week against an extremely deep and talented field of 19 GT cars entered for the race.
“I am really excited to be driving the Porsche RSR again,” says 28-year-old team leader Bryce Miller. “The Sebring 12-hour is a great event, but it is also very difficult on the car, the tires and the drivers. Sascha and René are valuable additions to our team in a race like this, so we are all very excited to have them on-board.”
All three drivers in the lineup bring with them a championship-winning pedigree. Miller played a central role as a driver on the 2007 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series team championship-winning Farnbacher Loles Motorsports team, while Maassen is a multiple-time American Le Mans Series class champion, and Rast is the reigning Porsche Supercup champion.
Being parts of various championship-winning efforts proves that all three drivers have what it takes to be successful in endurance racing. Of course, it also helps to have visited Sebring’s victory lane before, which the 41-year-old Maassen has done a total of five times, with four consecutive GT-class victories from 2001 through 2004 and an LMP2 class win last year.
“Sebring is the longest – and because of the nature of the track and the usual heat – the most difficult race of the season,” Maassen says. “We are just starting as a team to learn about the car and the tires, so our challenge will be to learn quickly and survive the toughest challenge of the year. I am very optimistic, as all key parameters – team, car tires and drivers – are very good.”
And Maassen ought to know. On the other end of the Sebring spectrum, however, is 24-year-old Rast, who will be making his debut in the 12 hours – and his North American racing debut for that matter – this week. What does he expect?
“I’m looking forward immensely to the race and cannot wait to get into the car for my first few laps to drive,” Rast says. “I’ve watched at lot of onboard videos and I have thoroughly gone through the data to be prepared as best as possible for the race. I’m also looking forward to working with the new team and my new teammates. I hope we will finish the race and gather as much experience as possible.”
While all three drivers have extensive experience in the cockpit of Porsche machinery, they all expect to learn a lot throughout race week and in the 12 hours itself. In fact, work began yesterday and continued today in promoter test sessions that the team is using to work on reliability.
One area where the team has focused a considerable amount of attention is on their new Yokohama tires, which will be one of the main components they expect to gain much more knowledge about at Sebring. They like what they see so far.
“We’re quite encouraged by the Yokohama tire,” says Bryce Miller. “That’s a program that we’re really excited to be a part of. We hope to help give them a result that more properly reflects the performance of their tire, but also to help with progressing the development of that tire along. That’s an exciting project to be involved in, both as a driver and as a team.”
Miller and the team have already enjoyed some excitement this year as they finished second in the GT class in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. But while that was certainly a great way to start the year, this week brings with it an entirely new challenge.
“Endurance races are just about making less mistakes than the next guy,” Bryce Miller says. “I think we can take from that experience, sharpen it and apply it going forward. The whole team is really motivated and the energy is really good. That result was really needed for the team given how hard they’ve been working. It’s a relief to have that for the morale and just to keep the momentum going.”
The 59th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh From Florida takes the green flag at 10:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, March 19. 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.