GTE-Pro winner Richard Lietz said Porsche’s two-driver approach to the FIA World Endurance Championship 1000 Miles of Sebring was a tough physical test for himself and Gianmaria Bruni.
Bruni took the checkered flag under safety car conditions ahead of Nicky Catsburg in the No. 81 BMW M8 GTE after taking the lead during the final round of pit stops.
His driving partner said that Porsche’s strategy was touch-and-go and that the physical demands of the Sebring track became more apparent in the race when the No. 91 was double-stinting.
“We thought a lot of times about it and at the end we said it’s easier in the practice sessions because you don’t have to share with a third driver,” Lietz told Sportscar365.
“But for sure, in the race a third one would have been easier for us. But we decided in the race to make single stints and the single stints at the end was acceptable.
“Double-stints would have just made it painful on the body. At the end it was the correct decision. Even if we are both 35-plus years old, we made it through the race.”
Bruni added that the conditions in the final half-hour were treacherous and that the race directors were correct not to return to green flag running for a one-lap sprint.
“It was very difficult, lots of aquaplaning. I couldn’t see the cars in front,” said the Italian.
“It was good int he corners, very good grip, but in the start/finish and back straight it was just unbelievable aquaplaning.
“So I think it was a good choice to stick with the safety car otherwise there would have been a lot of crashing.
“I have to say that the Porsche is really good inside. The air conditioning was good – it’s a hard car to drive but very comfortable. We did a lot of preparation on the fitness camp one month ago [to manage the two-driver strategy] so in the end it was very good.”
Catsburg: “The Rain Helped Us”
BMW’s Catsburg, who shared the No. 81 M8 with Martin Tomczyk and Alexander Sims, said the late-race rain shower that forced all cars to pit for wet or intermediate tires helped to keep his car on the podium.
The Dutchman was running tight on fuel after going off-strategy earlier in the race and would have lost multiple positions if his had been the only car to make a quick splash at the end in dry running.
Instead, he only lost one through a slow tire change that cost the MTEK crew 10 seconds to Bruni.
“If it hadn’t rained, it would have hurt more. The rain helped us,” Catsburg told Sportscar365.
“Early on in the race we had to box early because we had a severe problem with one of the tires, so we were a bit short on fuel.
“We were hoping and hoping for yellows, but nothing happened. It was the cleanest race ever.
“And when it started to rain it was so treacherous out there, they kept telling me to keep it on track.”
Catsburg suggested that the wet conditions in the final stages were compounded by the extended period of dry running that covered the majority of the eight-hour race.
“The problem was that we had a lot of dirt on the window, so it was really hard to see if it was actually raining or not,” he said.
“It’s hard to determine how slippery it is. Until you start sliding, you don’t really know what’s going on.
“I just tried to keep it on track and I think, in the end, when we went out on the drying wet tire, I was gaining a bit on Bruni.
“But then later on it stabilised a bit and then unfortunately the safety car didn’t come in. I would have loved to try to battle him.”
John Dagys contributed to this report.