AC Motorsport secured its first TCE win of the 24H SERIES season at Sebring, despite losing time by stopping on-track on Stéphane Perrin’s final outlap.
AC Motorsport’s Stéphane Perrin has confirmed that the technical issue that brought the leading #188 Audi RS 3 LMS briefly to a halt on-track inside the closing 90 minutes of last weekend’s Hankook 24H SEBRING, was solved by a simple “reset”.
The Belgian team, which took its first 24H SERIES’ TCE victory of the year at the Sebring International Raceway season finale, led the division for 20 of the opening 22 hours, and a quick spin at the start of Stéphane Perrin’s penultimate stint – on the Frenchman’s outlap, no less – was the only blemish in an otherwise commanding performance.
In a dramatic turn however, AC Motorsport’s Audi slowed to a halt on-track shortly after its pit stop, and mere moments into, ironically, Perrin’s final stint of the race. After a small delay, the Audi eventually got going again, but its previous 2.5-minute lead back to Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing’s chasing duo of Volkswagen Golf GTIs cut back to just over one minute.
Despite the scare, AC Motorsport’s engineers opted against pitting the Audi for a precautionary stop – a decision that would have cost the team the lead – and the #188 RS 3 LMS instead ran smoothly all the way to the chequered flag.
"I was behind the wheel, and you shouldn't panic," Perrin explained in an official statement. “I did a 'reset' of the whole thing, and the mechanics kicked off again.”
Such was the Audi’s pace throughout the closing stages, AC Motorsport’s advantage had increased again to more than 1m 45s at the flag.
The result marks AC Motorsport’s first win of the series following agonizing near-misses at Circuit Paul Ricard and the Hockenheimring: the former was derailed by a broken bearing in the left rear wheel hub assembly with just two hours to go, while the Audi was bested at the latter by an extraordinarily close 4.3 seconds after 12 hours.
The Hankook 24H SEBRING is also the first for AC Motorsport since the Hankook 24H DUBAI in 2020, an event at which Canada’s Matthew Taskinen, who partnered Perrin, Mathieu Detry and Rik Breukers at Sebring, also competed for AC Motorsport!
“We won the TCE Division of [CREVENTIC’s] first 24-hour event organized at Sebring, and that is worth all the titles!” Perrin continues. “A result which confirms that Matthew Taskinen is definitely our mascot. He hadn't ridden since Dubai 2020 and our last victory, and he comes back ... when we win again! We have to keep this young Canadian by our side!"
Though these two delays were the only significant individual problems for AC Motorsport, the Hankook 24H SEBRING as a whole was beset by additional issues during the weekend. Extreme and unforeseen weather meant trans-Atlantic shipping was significantly delayed, meaning teams and organizers alike only received their containers for the Sebring race weekend on the Friday evening. Alongside completing official Free Practice, Qualifying and the start of the 24-hour event on Saturday, teams also spent time under a brief red flag period when heavy rain around Sunday lunchtime left treacherous amounts of standing water on Sebring’s notorious slick concrete start-finish straight. Fortunately, judicious action from Sebring’s track staff meant the race resumed under one hour later.
"It's probably rarely seen in a 24-hour race, but we went through Free Practice, Qualifying and the race in quick succession! …Each pilot [had just] five small laps to discover the place. A little short, so thankfully we had the simulator. Add to that the difficult weather from the start, with a little drizzle returning regularly, and you could easily complicate the task of the drivers… on slick tires on a constantly evolving track.
“Then on Sunday, around noon, a very violent storm flooded the track, forcing Race Control to wave the red flag for an hour. We were traveling at 60kph with permanent aquaplaning.”
Though unable to overhaul eventual champion Autorama Motorsport by Wolf-Power Racing (#1), AC Motorsport’s victory at Sebring did push the Belgian team up into 2nd in the Overall TCE Teams’ standings, above Autorama’s second entry and CWS Engineering’s troubled Ginetta G55.
- Images – Petr Frýba