SEBRING, Fla. - The Heart of Racing Porsche drivers Mario Farnbacher (Germany), Ian James (Phoenix) and Alex Riberas (Spain) finished fourth in the GTD class of Saturday's rain and caution-filled IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida.
Farnbacher started fourth in the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche and promptly drove into the top three on the first lap. He stayed there for the first 51 laps until he took the GTD lead. From there, he continued to turn laps nearly two seconds faster than the rest of the GTD field until the skies opened up, the rain came and lightning forced officials to red flag the race on lap 63. By this time, Farnbacher had been in the car nearly three hours to start the 12 hour race.
"I had a good start," Farnbacher said. "I just tried to keep my pace at the front. I managed to be second after the start. But, Jeroen [Bleekemolen] was a little bit faster than me at the beginning so I just let him by. It just made sense at the beginning not to fight a lot. After that, it was good to learn what the other cars were doing over distance and to learn what the other cars are doing better and worse in different parts of the track.
"In the rain, it was fun. I've never driven this track in the rain so I am learning every lap. Although, it is tough when you're behind other cars because you can't see because of the spray. As it started to rain harder, it was a bit sketchy on the concrete part of the track - like Turn 17, the start/finish and Turn 1."
After a two hour and 25 minute weather delay, the race went green with Farnbacher in the GTD lead. He made a pit stop three laps later for tires, fuel and a driver change. This is when James got in and he kept the No. 23 Porsche in the top five before handing it over to Riberas on lap 95. From there, the trio drove the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche to the GTD lead on lap 175 with two hours remaining and they maintained the top spot for the next 24 laps.
On lap 199, Farnbacher got back in the car for the final 50 minutes of the race and was fifth when the pit stops cycled through. With about 12 minutes remaining, Farnbacher was running third and looked poised to capture the team's first podium of the season. But, on the final corner of the last lap, Farnbacher got passed and finished fourth.
"The crew guys and my teammates did great job," Farnbacher said. "It was a really, really tough race. I'm tired. I drove my butt off. I think during the last 50 minutes in every single turn there was a boom somewhere - we got by somebody. There was some nice, tight racing. But, [we] didn't have enough to win it."
James drove two flawless stints to keep The Heart of Racing near the top of the GTD class leaderboard.
"The team did an amazing job," James said. "We were the only Porsche left there in the fight. For us to be fighting for the win all day long, it was amazing. The crew did not miss a beat on the pit stops. The car ran flawlessly. We just weren't quite quick enough in the end, I guess."
"[During my stint], there was a real mixture really, it went from wet to dry to wet and we had lots of cautions. Someone dropped some oil down during one of my stints and it was pretty tricky out there. Mario and Alex drove amazingly. I think we deserved to be on the podium. But, we came up just one [spot] short."
During Riberas' stints, he had the No. 23 Porsche in contention thanks to a great team effort.
"A big thanks to the entire Alex Job Racing crew today and The Heart of Racing," Riberas said of today's effort. "Everybody did such a great job. The car felt fantastic all the way through the race. These guys did everything they could. They deserved a victory. We were so close. To be honest, I think we can feel really proud of what we did today. We lost a podium right there at the end. Mario and Ian drove like legends. They really are amazing drivers. I'm really proud and happy to be their teammates.
"The car felt really good and it was behaving exactly how we wanted it to. I was leading the race when we pulled away from the Ferrari. It seemed like we had a shot at the victory if we didn't have any cautions. But, that wasn't the case. We had to settle for fourth. But right now, the goal is to win a Championship."
"Mario did the best he could to go for the win," Team Owner Alex Job said. "I told him in one lap, 'Go get those Audi's' and he got them both on the same lap. Unfortunately, one of them got him back on the last corner of the last lap. But, Mario, Ian and Alex all did an awesome job. The No. 23 car was in the hunt for the win all day long. We'll have to come back here next year and go for number 11."
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next heads to the west coast April 29 - May 1 for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GTD (GT Daytona) Class is made up of some the world's most sophisticated cars, including the Porsche 911 GT America, Ferrari 458, Aston Martin, BMW Z4, Viper SRT and Audi R8. All GTD Class cars run on the spec Continental tire.
The Heart of Racing accepts donations and pledges for Seattle Children's Hospital at teamseattle.com.
The Heart of Racing
Founded in 1996, by Don and Donna Kitch, Team Seattle and The Heart of Racing is a group of sports car road racing fans, drivers, and corporate partners making a difference in our community by combining two passions: A love of motorsports and a commitment to Seattle Children's Hospital and pediatric cardiac health care nationally. The team uses the promotion and exposure of the racing program to fund raise and increase awareness of the financial needs for quality pediatric medical care. Since inception, Team Seattle has generated over $5.5 million for their cause. The Heart of Racing accepts donations and pledges for Seattle Children's Hospital at teamseattle.com.
Alex Job Racing
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing with 70 wins (since 1995); including two Rolex 24 GT Class wins in 1999 and 2013. This record is supported by 48 pole positions and 106 podium finishes. The team has won five championships (GTC 2013, 2012, GT in 2004, 2003 and 2002) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts ten Sebring 12-hour wins.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD (GT Daytona) Class is made up of some the world's most sophisticated cars, including the Porsche 911 GT3 R, Ferrari 488 GTB, Lamborghini Huracan, Aston Martin DB9, BMW M6, Viper SRT and Audi R8 LMS. All GTD Class cars run on the spec Continental tire.