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Teams Reflect, Rebuild after Sebring Crash Fest

PC team owners reflect, rebuild following a costly 12 Hours of Sebring…

Last weekend’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring was a race to forget for a number of TUDOR United SportsCar Championship competitors, including nearly half of the teams in Prototype Challenge.

Two massive accidents wrote-off three Oreca FLM09s and left one spec prototype heavily battered, totaling nearly $1 million in damage in the class alone.

That wasn’t including a handful of other crashes, which when added up, made for one of the most carnage-filled races in recent memory.

Arguably the biggest, and most publicized, incident came in the sixth hour when the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports entry of Gaston Kearby spun and re-entered the track directly in front of oncoming traffic.

Kearby was collected by open-wheel veteran Alex Tagliani in the No. 08 RSR Racing car, who escaped with only a sore wrist following one of the biggest impacts ever seen in a PC car.

“The car did a great job withstanding the crash,” team owner Paul Gentilozzi told Sportscar365. “It did everything that it was engineered to do.

“Had it not been Alex, who has a lot of experience and great reflexes, had he not veered, the ambulance trip would have been much different for both drivers.”

The RSR entry, which was among the cars in contention for the class win, was totaled in the accident, having sustained damage exceeding $200,000, according to Gentilozzi.

“At a couple hundred thousand dollars of damage, it far exceeded the insurance coverage,” he said. “We crushed the tub and vaporized everything on the front of the car. Left-front suspension, left-rear suspension, bell-housing, right-front suspension.

“You get to a point where the damage is so great that the components add up to more than the whole [car] is worth… It becomes a significant financial burden to the team because of it, unfairly, to be honest.”

Kearby’s BAR1 machine was also a write-off, forcing the Brian Alder-led team to weigh their options on sourcing a replacement chassis. No decision has been made, although he’s found three available used cars.

“One [option] is to buy a replacement car and the other is to buy a new tub and rebuild this car,” Alder said. “Obviously it takes a lot of time to build a new tub up, so we’re seeing which would makes the most sense business-wise.”

Gentilozzi, meanwhile, said he should have more answers next week on his team’s rebuild plans, either going with a replacement tub from ORECA or purchasing a complete new car.

Both the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Performance Tech Motorsports entries were also caught up in a frightening moment in the fourth hour, when David Ostella ran wide in Turn 17 and clobbered the tire barriers, sending him into an oncoming Frankie Monecalvo.

Montecalvo was leading the race at the time. It resulted in another written-off PC car, ironically the PR1’s second consecutive in debuting a new car. The team has purchased one of three brand-new PC cars from Level 5 Motorsports for its rebuild.

“It was brand-new coming into Sebring as it only had 1,000 miles on it before the start of the race,” team owner Bobby Oergel said. “It is what it is. We’re going to put a new tub underneath a new car again and it will be back to being as good as it was to begin with.”

As for Performance Tech, the Florida-based squad run by Brent O’Neill came away with the least amount of damage, with only minor, repairable damage to its FLM09 tub, but still a costly rebuild job ahead.

“We’re one of the fortunate ones,” O’Neill said. “I’m not really sure how it happened but we didn’t tub our car. It’s got one little knick, on the lower left side, where the control arm bruised the tub on the way down. The rest of it is all just parts.

“We’re full speed ahead, already picking up parts and pieces. We actually brought all of the bodywork home with us from Haas at Sebring. It will probably take us two or three weeks to get it done.”

With six weeks before the next TUDOR Championship PC round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, all four teams are expected to return to action with new or repaired machinery, but a few are left with a bad taste in their mouths after some of the driving standards seen at Sebring.

Gentilozzi has been one of the more outspoken, as the longtime team owner seeks recourse after the accident triggered by Kearby, who was making his second professional sports car racing start.

“We’ve looked at the video a hundred times and I’m still angry,” Gentilozzi said. “I’ve been doing this for 45 years and had my share of accidents that were my fault. But I can tell you that I never did this…

“I don’t hold this against BAR1 at all. Brian [Alder] and those guys are good guys and are racers and they’re trying to do the right thing. But this is grossly negligent.”

John Dagys is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Sportscar365 as well as the recently launched e-racing365 Web site for electric racing. Dagys spent eight years as a motorsports correspondent for FOXSports.com/SPEED Channel, and contributes to other publications worldwide. Contact John

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