On Track

A race blog by Allen Moody

Allen Moody takes racing fans behind the scenes of the 63nd 12 Hours of Sebring, giving them an in-depth look at the events leading up to race day.

Caution flags, yellow and red, dominate Twelve Hours

The Mobil 1 62nd Twelve Hours of Sebring got off to a fiery start Saturday morning.

Through the first four hours, there were six full-course caution flags thanks to a slew of violent crashes.

And when the race was four hours in, 39 of 101 laps had been raced under caution.

While not the most exciting spectacle for fans, the good news was everyone walked away from the wreckage.

Less than one hour into the race, Riley Motorsports' No. 33 caught fire, and driver Ben Keating was forced to evacuate.

The fire erupted into a blaze rather quickly, but it took nearly 45 minutes for crews to clear the track as drivers raced under a yellow caution flag.

Most teams decided to make a pit stop during the caution flag, primarily to check on their car's health and switch drivers.

Not DeltaWing, though. Andy Meyrick was relentless and guided the DeltaWing DWC13 into first place overall and in the Prototype Class.

The final minutes of the second hour brought another dust-up.

Driving the No. 62 GTLM Ferrari F458 Italia, Gianmaria Bruni was bumped off the track and into the tires.

After collecting himself, he prepared to drive back on the track, but he didn't merge fast enough with the next slew of cars and Christina Nielsen, driving the No. 30 GTD Momo Porsche 911 GT America, slammed into the back of Bruni's fender.

Nielsen's tire was dislodged from her axle, and the tire bounced down the straightway and off the track. With the car totaled, Nielson and her team dropped out of the race.

Later, Frankie Montecalvo's collision into the tires brought out only the fourth-ever red flag, meaning the race stops, at Sebring International Raceway.

Driving the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM90 in the Prototype Challenge Class, Montecalvo came roaring around Turn 17 too fast, smashing into the tire embankment.

When his car rolled back onto the track, Sebastiaan Bleekemolen's SRT Viper GT3-R T-boned Montecalvo.

With all of the caution flags, 39 of the 100 laps run in the first session were during caution flagged.

The debris left over from both cars was spread across the width of the track, but Montecalvo's car was an especially violent wreck.

Thankfully, both drivers emerged from their cars unharmed.

"It was pretty unusual to have so many caution flags that early in the race," Sebring Media Raceway Communications Director Ken Breslauer. "The record is 11, which was 1997. That was mostly due to heavy thunderstorms."

The three previous red flags all occurred in the 1990s.

In 1993, heavy rain flooded the track and brought the race to a halt.

The rain was so profuse that the race set the record for the amount of time of laps raced under caution - 5 hours, 55 minutes.

The storms returned again in 1995, and hydroplaning cars caused a delay and brought out the red flag.

However, in 1997, Bill Adams wrecked into an embankment near Turn 17, and the debris field left behind was so dangerous the red flag was waved.

But as the sun began to set and the track began to cool, wrecks were kept to a minimum.

The five- and seven-hour marks were immaculate, and the race saw its longest period of competition under a green flag.

Many of the collisions can be contributed to the large number of entrants in this year's race. Originally, the number of cars was closer to 70, but it dipped down to 63 just before race day.

It wasn't the most ever on the track - that was in 1983, when 83 cars clogged the raceway. Amazingly, there were no major accidents that year.