Photo by John Thawley Intersport Racing and Kumho Tires took third place in the LMP1 class at Saturday's running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Drivers Jon Field, Clint Field and Richard Berry completed 325 laps on the rough and bumpy 3.7-mile Sebring circuit in the first race of the 2007 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) season.
After an up and down week with the team's new Judd-powered Creation that included a qualifying crash, starting the race from the back of the grid and dealing with three punctures during the race, Intersport was satisfied with the results. "It was a roller coaster weekend," said driver Jon Field. "What we learned in the race is that we've all got some work to do. We know Kumho is committed and we're committed. All in all we got as good a result as we thought we could get in our first time on track with the car. Anytime you take home a trophy it's a good day, especially at Sebring."
Intersport originally intended to compete with Kumho in LMP2 this year and tested several new LMP2 tires at the Sebring winter test in late January. But in mid-February, Intersport and Kumho seized the opportunity to compete in LMP1 this season, even though it would mean contesting Sebring with a new LMP1 car and engine on smaller LMP2 tires.
"We know the Kumhos did well on the (B-K Motorsports) LMP2 car today, which is great," said Field. "In all fairness, when we get the bigger tire it will probably come to us. It'll be good."
Kumho motorsports manager Rudy Consolacion was glad to have Kumho be one of only two tire manufacturers to achieve a podium finish. "This track is very hard on tires, cars and crews," noted Consolacion. "To finish this race is an accomplishment, and to finish on the podium is quite an achievement."
Consolacion is looking forward to the Acura Sports Car Challenge in St. Petersburg, FL, on March 31, when Kumho will unveil its new P1 tire. "We'll have a properly sized tire for the Intersport Creation, and I think that will make a big difference in the car's performance. We're eager to develop our P1 tire and help Intersport take the fight to the class-leading Audis."
In LMP2, B-K Motorsports debuted its new Mazda-powered, Kumho-shod Lola at Sebring. The car arrived in the U.S. one week before the race with less than two hours of testing, so the team knew the Sebring race would probably be an extended test. As expected, the car made a few trips behind the wall during the race so the team could work on some minor issues. Even so, the car completed the 12-hour race.
The Mazda was quick, turning race lap times within 1.7 seconds of the class-winning Acura. Drivers Ben Devlin, Jamie Bach and Raphael Matos were all impressed with the car. "We've come a long way in two weeks," said Devlin. "I don't think we even had four hours on the car before the start of the race. The guys worked so hard this week and it hasn't been easy. I've got to say thanks to them."
After the race, John Doonan, manager of motorsports team development for Mazda North America, was very happy. "I was concerned before the race, honestly," said Doonan. "I was in England for the shakedown test a few weeks ago and we had a few issues. I didn't think we'd run as long as we did because 15 weeks ago this motor didn't exist; it was an idea on a piece of paper. Everybody put in such an effort just to get here. Kumho, AER, Lola, Mazda engineers in Japan and North America, the B-K Motorsports crew; everybody clearly wants to work together.
"We have a few minor issues that we're going to address, and I don't think it will be too long before we can run with the guys up front. We're pretty happy."