Twelve Hours of Sebring Saturday Notebook

Hoping for a better result than they had in the Rolex 24 At Daytona season opener, where they were the first car to retire after completing just 42 laps due to transmission woes, the Claro/TracFone DeltaWing team began the weekend with high hopes. The team qualified in the top 10 for the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida and was feeling confident before a broken left rear suspension led to an early exit.

Drivers Katherine Legge, Memo Rojas and Andy Meyrick were encouraged by the car’s performance as the weekend progressed, as the coupe came to grips with Sebring’s 3.74 miles of bumpy concrete and asphalt. Rojas started the race and experienced throttle issues on the pace lap, which led to a quick stop in the pit box to adjust the electronics. Following another stop early in the race, Rojas rejoined the fray 10 laps down and began to come back through the field. Handing over to Legge at the two-hour mark, the team had gained two of those laps back before incurring the suspension damage on lap 60.

“We will keep digging and working. The car will be fast at many of the tracks we’ll be racing on this year, so we will focus on that," Rojas said. “These things happen in a development program such as this – the team will keep making the car stronger. We’ll continue our progress and come out strong at the next race."

IMSA, ACO SIGN SIX-YEAR AGREEMENT: Shortly before the green flag waved on the Twelve Hours of Sebring, officials from the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) and the Automobile Club l’Ouest (ACO) announced a six-year extension of their strategic alliance to advance sports car racing in North America and around the world. The extension runs through the 2020 racing season. IMSA is the sanctioning body for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

IMSA and the ACO will introduce new Prototype regulations in 2017 that will govern the top class in the TUDOR Championship and the LM P2 class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the World Endurance Championship (WEC), European Le Mans Series (ELMS) and the Asian Le Mans Series (Asian LMS). The extension carries the partnership through the first four-year cycle of the Prototype regulations.

Next year, IMSA and the ACO will introduce new specifications for their top GT classes: GT Le Mans (GTLM) in the TUDOR Championship and GTE at Le Mans, FIA WEC, ELMS and Asian LMS. Additionally, the TUDOR Championship will shift its GT Daytona (GTD) class to full FIA GT3 technical regulations in 2016. Those GT regulations will be in effect through the 2019 season.

“Since announcing our original strategic partnership here at Sebring two years ago, the bond between IMSA and the ACO has gotten stronger," said IMSA Chairman Jim France. “This partnership will make it easier for our top teams to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and for top international teams in Prototype and GT racing to join us for our marquee events such as the Rolex 24 At Daytona and Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring."

The partnership will continue to provide automatic entries for the 24 Hours of Le Mans to TUDOR Championship competitors. The licensing agreement allows IMSA to continue to utilize the Le Mans name for its GT Le Mans class and the Petit Le Mans event.

“We are very delighted to strengthen even more our partnership with IMSA," said ACO President Pierre Fillon. “It was essential for the ACO to rely on this strategic alliance to implement the harmonization for LM P2 and LM GT categories that we can guarantee a long-term visibility for the endurance teams. With Jim France, we share the same values and commitment."

TICKETS ON SALE FOR LONE STAR LE MANS: Tickets are on sale for the Lone Star Le Mans event, taking place at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas Sept. 17-19. Scott Atherton, President and Chief Operating Officer of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, and Gérard Neveu, CEO of the FIA World Endurance Championship, celebrated the on-sale announcement by donning Stetson cowboy hats, a classic symbol of Texas culture, at the classic Twelve Hours of Sebring race in Florida.

The two racing series, the FIA World Endurance Championship and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship by IMSA, will come together on the same weekend in Austin, Texas, for Lone Star Le Mans. Tickets can be purchased now at Circuitoftheamericas.com or by calling (512) 655-6300.

IRON MAN AWARD: Less than a third of the way through the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, a Prototype and a Prototype Challenge car collided as they made their way down pit road, sending one of the cars into Kevin Fox, a crewman changing the left front tire on the Fifty Plus Racing Riley BMW Prototype. Another crewman scooped him up and carried him to the pit wall. Fox lay still for a moment, then stood up and walked to the golf cart used by track medics. He was taken to the hospital, evaluated and released. There’s no doubt, though, that Fox will be sore in the morning.

BREAKFAST WITH THE WINNERS: Fans are invited to join drivers from the 63rd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida Sunday morning from 7:30 to 10:30 a.m. for “Breakfast with IMSA." Located at the Chateau Elan Hotel and Conference Center outside of Sebring International Raceway, “Breakfast with IMSA" also will include a watch party of the 8 a.m. ET highlight show of the Twelve Hours of Sebring.

The breakfast includes a buffet, Q&A sessions and autograph opportunities with drivers. Tickets are $18 in advance, $20 at the door. Call 888-84-HOTEL to make your reservations ASAP as seats are limited. Steven Cole Smith

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