Second of two home-state races for the Florida-based team
JUPITER, Fla. (8 March 2023) – Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) returns to the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring with one goal: repeat the performance that saw the team take a hard-fought victory in last year’s endurance classic (Saturday, March 18 at 10:10 a.m. Eastern on Peacock TV and USA Network).
To put the No. 33 SCM Exelixis/Focal One Ligier JS P320 back in Victory Lane, the veteran team along with drivers João Barbosa, Lance Willsey and Nico Pino will have to negotiate the constantly changing track conditions that are the stuff of engineering nightmares – and of course, the bumps that inspired their own hashtag (#RespectTheBumps).
The race also serves as the second round of IMSA’s Michelin Endurance Cup, comprised of four legendary endurance races (Daytona, Sebring, Watkins Glen and Road Atlanta). SCM currently tops the Endurance Cup standings after leading the most laps ((282 of 737) and finishing second in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
Sebring’s 3.71-mile, 17-turn layout boasts a combination asphalt and concrete surface, with much of the concrete area leftover from the track’s days as a World War II training base. The grip level changes dramatically between those two surfaces, and that significantly changes the handling of the car. The bumps never change, but the grip level changes hour to hour, day to day – and that requires the team be prepared to pivot quickly. SCM tested two cars at Sebring in late February, with Barbosa and Pino each posting significant track times (Willsey was an unfortunate victim of flight woes).
“We came in with last year’s setup and it was quick right out of the box – which was actually a surprise,” said team principal and Florida native Sean Creech, who has been racing at Sebring for over 30 years. “The track changes dramatically even from morning to afternoon – but at least we know that if we’re quicker in the afternoon, we’ve made gains. We tried a lot of stuff at the test, that’s what you’re there for, and a lot of it was stuff we haven’t tried before. It’s more for the database, whether it’s what to do or what not to do.”
At Sebring, comfort is key: as in finding the balance between a car that is quick and a car that is comfortable to race for 12 hours over the myriad of bumps (turns one and 17 being the most notable). Barbosa believes that a well-handling car for one driver will be a good car for all three drivers, despite variations in driving styles – though he thinks one difference now is that most drivers brake with their left foot, while Barbosa brakes with his right foot.
(Barbosa knows what it takes to win at Sebring, having earned three victories and eight podiums in 12 races, pacing 4,285 laps – or 16,030 miles.)
“The goal is always a quick car, and a comfortable car for all three drivers,” said Barbosa. “We know the track will change a great deal, with so many different cars on track, different rubber, different times of day. You have to have a car that enables you to push hard at the end of the race, so you might not be as quick in the early stages. We had a really good test last month with a lot of valuable information, so that will help us react more quickly now.
“Sebring is very challenging and not very wide, so staying out of trouble is key,” Barbosa continued. “You also have to remain patient during the day, when the car might not be at its best, because given how much the track changes a lot during the course of the race, the night will be different. And of course, you have to respect the bumps – not just the drivers, but the team as well. Sebring is very demanding on the car, so preparation is so important.”
The other end of the experience spectrum from Barbosa is the 18-year-old Chilean. Pino saw Sebring for the first time at the test – and liked what he saw. Having already raced for 40 hours this year (the Rolex 24 at Daytona with SCM and four races in the Asian Le Mans Series), Pino is pacing as many miles on track as he is in the sky.
“Sebring is such an iconic track, and the bumps are a part of that,” said Pino. “I really enjoyed it, it was fun. Of course, it is rough, so much preparation needs to go into the car to be ready for that. We tried many things during the test and made a lot of improvements. It was good to have the chance to learn the track, get used to the bumps and to get the flow. I didn’t find the track that tough physically – most of my tiredness came from the traveling, driving on two different continents in two days!
The team will also compete in this weekend’s VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, with Willsey behind the wheel of the No. 30 Ligier JS P320 – gaining crucial track time for the entire team.
“I look forward to kicking off the final push to the iconic Sebring 12-hour race by competing in the VP Racing series,” said Willsey. “In addition to pushing hard for a victory for the team, it will serve as a valuable test going into the endurance weekend. To be competitive at the Sebring 12-hour places extreme emphasis on the performance of the entire crew. Coming off of 24 hours of flawless execution by the team at Daytona, I am confident we are in a great position to compete for a victory.”
SCM thanks partners Exelixis and Focal One for their continued support. In addition, the team will have bracelets as a fan giveaway to increase awareness that March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month.
This weekend’s pair of VP Racing SportsCar Challenge events will be on Sunday, at 8:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Eastern, with live timing at scoring.imsa.com.
The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring takes the green flag Saturday, March 18 at 10:10 a.m. Eastern. The race will be live streamed in its entirety on Peacock TV, with the final four and a half hours live on USA Network. International viewers can watch via IMSA.tv, with IMSA Radio also available at IMSA.com.