Tuesday, March 22, 2016 – Fresno, CA – PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports endured a treacherous run at the 64th Annual Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on Saturday. The day started under sunny skies and beautiful south Florida weather, but by the two-hour mark of the race, the forecasted rain made its way to the track, and so did the lightning. The race was red-flagged for the fifth time in 64 years for two hours and fifteen minutes.
Although the track conditions were less than ideal, and the team was working with a brand new electronics package, they were still able to lead much of the race and finished second in class. With a second place finish at the Sebring 12 Hour and another at the season opener at the 24 Hours of Daytona, the team and drivers Robert Alon, Jose Gutierrez and Tom Kimber-Smith now lead the PC points championship.
“We thought we were in pretty good shape until Friday’s qualifying session when we discovered there was a TC (traction control) related issue that we hadn’t caught,” explained Kimber-Smith, 31, of Wokingham, England.
“When we discovered the issue, that put us on the back foot straight away because of set-up. We had set the car up one way, but now that we understood the way the TC works, we had to go a different way. Going into the race, we had what we had. Very early on we knew we were going to struggle to make the tires last on our car, and we seemed to be struggling more than everyone else, but we were able to manage.”
“The race was absolutely crazy. I only did half an hour to start off with, and then Robert got in for what seemed like all of the race. Robert did a great job, and Jose did excellent as well. They both survived the rain, and then I got in at the end in the dry, which was good, and was fighting with Colin (Braun) all the way to the end. It reminded me a bit of last year, but this time we were unfortunately the ones finishing second.”
Alon, 25, of Encino, CA spent the majority of the race battling the rain. Although he has been to Sebring many times in a Prototype Lites car, this was his first 12 Hours of Sebring.
“I’m really pleased with our finish here at the 12 Hours of Sebring. Of course we want to be on the top step, but we fought through a lot of obstacles this weekend, so to come away with another podium finish makes me very happy,” stated Alon.
“The rain was unlike anything I’ve ever had to drive through. There were times when you could barely see the car in front of you, so with that being said, I’m happy with my performance in the car and being able to keep us on the track and on the lead lap.”
“As a whole, I think we are definitely making progress. Jose and Tom were fantastic today and the entire PR1 crew was just top notch again this weekend. Looking forward, we just need to keep our heads down, stay consistent and keep doing what we’ve been doing from the start.”
Alon and Kimber-Smith’s teammate Gutierrez, 19, of Monterey, Mexico also made his 12 Hours of Sebring debut. This marked Gutierrez’s first race at the infamous 17-turn circuit.
“It was a difficult race with the changing weather conditions. This was the first time I’ve driven in the rain here, so it was a lot different than when I drove at the test, but PR1 did an awesome job with the strategy calls and the varying conditions,” said Gutierrez.
“We finished P2, so we’re very consistent. This puts us in the championship lead, so that’s a great way to finish the weekend.”
Gutierrez, the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup driver with PR1 will have to wait until Watkins Glen before getting back behind the wheel for the third round of the endurance championship.
“It’s going to be a long wait for Watkins Glen to get back in the car, but I know Robert and Tom are going to do a great job at the races leading up to Watkins Glen. I wish them and the team all the best, and hope they will still be leading the championship when we get to Watkins Glen later this year.”
The next round of the 2016 WeatherTech Sports Car Championship will be at the Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 16. It’s been three years since PC cars have run at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. Alon and Kimber-Smith hope to extend their championship lead at the southern California street circuit next month.