12 Hours of Sebring – Rob Barff Diary
Wednesday & Thursday – Practice and Qualifying
in March isn’t
just about Disneyland and alligators: it also hosts one of the
very biggest, toughest motorsport events in the world.
I know about the rather
unique challenges of the 12 Hours of Sebring, having raced here
last year with the DeWalt TVR team. The course is fast, the surface
is punishing, unbelievably bumpy and the heat…………
well, it turned the TVR into a blast furnace. A really, really tough
This year though it’s
entirely different. The car, for the first time in more years than
I care to remember, is a purpose designed race car (rather than
a car designed initially as a road car). While it is still hot out
there (86 degrees on Thursday), an open car certainly has the edge
on driver comfort.
to explain just how impressive the Rollcentre Dallara Judd really
is. The car is hugely quick in a straight line, it pulls like a
train, and the four litre V10 Judd pumps out around 600 horsepower,
which is more than enough to grab your attention as a driver. The
carbon brakes too are tremendous and the downforce takes the whole
package to a completely different level from a GT car: even at medium
speeds you can genuinely feel the difference.
As is often the case
with a new car, there is a steep learning curve. It can be frustrating
at times, with trial and error the order of the day as we work our
way through the inevitable difficulties. The team though have been
tremendous, and their work rate is unbelievable (the pit crew has
so far managed a grand total of around 13 hours sleep in the past
four days). Joao (Barbosa) has been doing the lion’s share
of development laps: he has more experience of this sort of car
than Martin or I and he can take us forward far more quickly. Martin
too has had plenty of time in the car, learning the circuit and
the car’s capabilities.
I’ve had fairly
limited time out in the car so far this week, but the laps I’ve
done have been very encouraging. Within 10 laps I was down to a
1:53, just a second or so down on the time that Joao set in qualifying,
for sixth place overall on the grid. While all-out speed is important,
consistency in these races is the key, that’s what really
sets a good sportscar team apart and that’s what we’re
Thursday evening was
night practice: a big prototype like the Dallara, on a circuit like
this, catches the little GT cars at a fantastic rate and traffic
can be a big problem if you aren’t very wide awake indeed.
I’m just glad to get more time in the car and more opportunity
to get to grips with its potential.
(Rob posted a string
of very competitive times in the session, his first laps in a prototype
We’ve finally hit
the jackpot with the set up, the car felt really good, much more
friendly to drive than before, more compliant over the bumps.
I had some trouble getting
a clean lap in the night practice session and set lap times in the
1:57s and 1:58s: with better luck in traffic the car feels easily
capable of a 1:52 or 1:53. We’ll see on Saturday!
The race promises to
be fantastic. The three Audi R8s are immensely capable with stellar
driver line-ups. On our form so far however we could be in the hunt
for best of the rest and if the Audis stumble! Who knows what might