Did you happen to watch the Sebring 12 Hours yesterday? How shockingly dull was that? So boring in fact, it defied the caffeine coursing through my veins and threatened to send me to sleep on a couple of occasions.
The Sebring 12 Hours is the curtain-raising event on the sportscar racing calendar, and is easily American Le Mans Series’ biggest event. A challenging 3.7 mile circuit, Sebring draws a massive following and has an ambience second to that of the blue riband Le Mans 24 Hours race.
Yet there was one crucial ingredient missing this weekend: Audi.
The German marque missed out on Sebring this year as they were unable to make the necessary changes to their R15’s aerodynamics to comply with ACO’s 2010 rules. Yet, it became perfectly clear that they were actually at Sebring, lurking in the background with a fully compliant R15, just not participating. Instead, the car is probably at this very moment in time, pounding the tarmac at Sebring in a 24 hour test, the day after the race.
Has the ALMS become so irrelevant for Audi that they don’t see the benefits of winning the race again? I’ll let you decide that one…
So no Peugeot/Audi showdown this year, and from the moment it became clear that Audi would not be participating, a Peugeot win was a foregone conclusion. And what do you know? The only diesel in the field clinched a straightforward one-two, having led the way from the start of unofficial testing.
There were flashes of brilliance, with Emanuele Pirro in the Drayson-Lola managing to get between the two Peugeots through a frankly amazing manoeuvre within the first 30 minutes of racing. But from there on in, things quickly turned processional.
The number of very early mechanical issues experienced by key teams really crippled the competition within just about every class. Well before the six hour mark it was abundantly clear that only luck, rather than racecraft and strategy would decide the outcome of the race. There was no suspense, no excitement and it certainly wasn’t a vintage edition of the race.
Unlike last year.
Now there was a classic Sebring 12 Hours that had thrills aplenty. There was little to choose between the two turbodiesel marques that fought one-another right down to the wire. Audi-versus-Peugeot. Just like it should be.
A thrilling game of cat and mouse as the two Audis and two Peugeots ran more or less together, only separated by 30 seconds at most at any one time, and reduced to nothing when either of the teams forewent new rubber upon their pitstop.
It also produced some great wheel-to-wheel racing, most notably a head to head between Allan McNish and Franck Montagny at the midway point. Shame we weren’t treated to anything approaching this level of excitement this year: