Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK - Wednesday 19 March, 2014

David Brabham Blog: So Close At Sebring

I must admit, despite finishing second in the 12 Hours of Sebring with Extreme Speed Motorsports, I was absolutely gutted. I’m not normally like that but I was really honed in to win this year.

I’ve won several classes at Sebring, but I haven’t won overall. There was a great vibe in the ESM team, we knew the competition would be terrific but were confident we could pull it off. I think that was why I was so gutted. Not just for me, but for the whole team because they deserved to win.

The car wasn’t quite in the range we would have liked early on in the race and we had to drive around particular issues. But as the race wore on the car responded more and more, the grip level went up, the tyres started to work better for us and we were fast. Several times Scott [Sharp], Ryan [Dalziel] and myself had to fight back to the front and we had some great dices.

As we got closer to the finish, our greatest fear was a yellow because of the DP cars, particularly the Chip Ganassi cars, as they seemed to have a ton more horsepower than anyone else. We knew that if they were anywhere near us at the re-start they’d be first into turn one. That happened to me and I had to really fight to get the lead back, it wasn’t easy.

I had one objective in my mind, to get to the front and hand the car over to Ryan in the lead, as I knew that was the only way we were going to win. I had to dig extremely deep and really focus on taking every opportunity. I was in a higher zone, putting in qualifying laps every lap, I really worked my balls off to get back up there and it was a lot of fun.

Ryan took over and we had a 16 second lead with 90 minutes to go, so in some sense job done. He was super quick and kept us in a great position. That final yellow came at completely the wrong time for us. It put the advantage back to the Ganassi camp and catapulted them right into the lead.

I don’t think full course yellows were warranted in that situation and the resulting lengthy safety car killed our race, in a sense. It was a shame. It’s these ridiculously long yellows the championship seems to have that risk killing the racing, and it could dangerously turn the fans off.

I hope the series reviews the race and how they deal with these yellow situations, because they just take so long. My concern is for events like Long Beach, it’s a short race and local yellows are more difficult to implement on a street circuit. If you have several long yellow periods there, you won’t get much racing.

In the car, we get more and more pick up on the tyres under yellow, so when we do restart the cars are a right handful for four or five laps. Then you’ve got a field of over 60 cars to consider – that’s too many cars for me.

Driving standards were also to blame. There seems to be too many drivers that don’t have the necessary skills to drive in that environment and we had some nasty accidents. I think we were very lucky someone didn’t get hurt.

I feel very strongly that things need to be looked at and change for the better. I hope the series will be prepared to adjust and adapt to something that’s a bit more sustainable.

The ESM Patrón team can still be extremely proud because we did absolutely everything right, it was a faultless race. Such was the circumstances, however, we couldn’t get the win.

I think ESM performed at their best level yet. They really came together, everyone was on the same page, the strategy and pit stops were perfect, and they had everything under control. I have to say it was a pretty impressive performance and a privilege to be part of it. I’ve no doubt they’ll be even stronger by the time I rejoin them at Petit Le Mans.

It was great to have Geoff and Matt at Sebring, as we don’t get to see each other much and we get on so well. Matt is having a purple patch with his racing; he’s on fire and a really impressive kid. The John Gorsline Scholarship is another award to his credit and it was nice to be there for that.

On Monday, it was good to see Matt’s first Indy Lights run on an oval for the Cooper Tires test at Homestead. He did a great job; he’s consistently fast and looking really strong again this season.

My son Sam will also be fighting for the MSA Formula Ford Championship this year. Both Sam and Matt will start their campaigns on the same weekend, with Sam at Brands Hatch and Matt in St. Petersburg. Both have a great opportunity to do well and have a shot at the title, which should make for a great family season both sides of the Atlantic.


All image © Robert Lyon