Kiwis back to race in Sebring endurance event this weekend
New Zealand interest in this weekend’s Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race has been boosted by the announcement earlier this week that Scott Dixon will make his Le Mans 24 Hours debut in June.
Dixon has been confirmed as part of the four-car, 12 driver line-up for Ford’s return to the Le Mans race on the anniversary of the Blue Ovals’ landmark 1966 victory when Kiwis Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon drove the winning Ford GT.
50 years later Ford is chasing Le Mans honours in the GTE-Pro category with its new GT supercar, joining the GT wars with Aston Martin, Porsche, Corvette Racing and Ferrari opposition.
Dixon gets to race the new Ford GT contender for the first time at Sebring, part of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s two car entry in the spring Florida classic. His team-mates this weekend are Australian Ryan Briscoe and British GT ace Richard Westbrook.
Ford joining endurance racing series with the new Ford GT and Scott Dixon at the wheel. Picture/Photo / Chip Ganassi Racing
It will be Dixon’s second sports car outing of 2016 following a delayed run to 13th place in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with one of the Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford prototypes.
Dixon has made three previous starts on the demanding 6.02km Sebring circuit which first staged racing in 1950 on the concrete runways and surrounds of a US Army air base where B-17 Flying Fortress crews were trained during World War II.
He drove an Acura prototype in 2009 for Gil de Ferran’s team and has achieved sixth and fourth place finishes in the Ganassi Riley-Fords in 2014 and 2015.
This weekend’s race is likely to be Dixon’s only race outing in the new Ford GT ahead of Le Mans.
However it will be interesting to see whether Dixon spends Easter weekend behind the wheel of the new Ford at the FIA World Endurance Championship prologue at Paul Ricard in France. A clash with the Detroit IndyCar Series double-header means he will miss the official Le Mans test day in early June.
Earl Bamber (centre) teams up with Frederic Makowiecki (left) and Michael Christensen (right) for the Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring this weekend.
Among the opposition Dixon will face in the GT-LM category will be fellow Kiwi – and reigning Le Mans champion – Earl Bamber (Wanganui) driving a Porsche 911 RSR as part of Porsche North America’s factory team with Frederic Makowiecki (France) and Michael Christensen (Denmark).
They were strong contenders in the Daytona season opener until the Corvette Racing duo took control in the closing stages and the Porsche finished third.
A third Kiwi will be in action this weekend at Sebring — a race where New Zealanders have enjoyed success with Bruce McLaren winning the 1967 race in a Ford GT40 and Steve Millen claimed a 1994 victory in a Nissan 300ZX Turbo.
Aston Martin Racing factory driver Richie Stanaway (Tauranga) gets another outing in an Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 car ahead of his full-season FIA WEC programme.
The Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber, Frederic Makowiecki and Michael Christensen in action at Daytona in January.
Stanaway is teamed with Paul Dalla Lana (Canada), Pedro Lamy (Portugal) and Mathias Lauda (Austria) in a lone Aston Martin entry up against the Audi R8, Lamborghini Huracan, BMW M6, Dodge Viper, Ferrari 488 and Porsche opposition in a 20-car GT Daytona field.
The team was in contention for GT Daytona class honours until the final hour when a late fuel stop shuffled them back to fourth in class.
The Mobil1 Sebring 12 Hours is round two of the 12-round WeatherTech Sports Car Championship and also the second of four races in the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
Qualifying is on Saturday morning (NZ time) with the race start is set for 3.40am (NZ time) on Sunday.