Miller, Maassen and Bell to Debut New No. 48 Dunlop/Chopard PorscheAfter an offseason chock full of exciting developments, Paul Miller Racing is ready to kick off its assault on the 2012 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón GT class at the 60th Anniversary Twelve Hours of Sebring this Saturday, March 17 with co-drivers Bryce Miller, Sascha Maassen and Rob Bell sharing the No. 48 Dunlop/Chopard Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.
The team is fielding a brand-new Porsche with a brand-new tire partner in Dunlop this season and will be looking to get the new season off to a great start in the most grueling ALMS race of the season.
"I'm really excited for Sebring," said Bryce Miller. "We've had limited time with this car relative to the factory team, but we're really excited about the improvements that have been made. Certainly, it's a big upgrade for us. I think our expectations for us this year will shift based on the fact that we're dealing with equipment this year which positions us far better for success.
"We've really grown a lot over the past year and I personally feel that the team has earned their way into this position of opportunity. We have a really strong team from top to bottom. The Dunlop relationship is also an exciting partnership and I think that could also contribute to moving us forward. The way this race is driven and the way that the cars are set up to go the distance, it's quite a bit different in terms of approach than a lot of other endurance races, just because the track is so demanding. That being said, I think we've racked up some endurance experience and we've shown as a team that we know how to go and approach these races and deliver results. We just need to apply ourselves and look for the best opportunity that we can."
Miller will be making his third start in the Twelve Hours of Sebring this year and is looking for his first top-10 result in the race, which also kicks off the new FIA World Endurance Championship. His full season co-driver, as he also was last season, is Porsche racing stalwart Maassen, who owns five Sebring class victories and two pole positions.
Maassen has driven hundreds - if not thousands - of laps around the extremely bumpy 3.74-mile Sebring International Raceway in Central Florida. As a result, he knows the many pitfalls that can derail even the very best team's efforts, and he also knows the joy that comes while standing atop the victory podium after the race.
"Sebring is the toughest race of the season, the first race of the season and the race with the most points during the season," Maassen said. "So it is very important to be ready for that one! We have many new things in the team, which all should help us improve from last year, but it will for sure be difficult to make it all work perfectly this week. I am confident that the Paul Miller team and Dunlop will get it done and we will be happy with our new Porsche. Hopefully after 12 hours, we'll be even more happy!"
Champion British sports car racer Rob Bell will join the team for the Twelve Hours of Sebring and Petit Le Mans endurance events. Bell is no stranger to Paul Miller Racing, having driven for the team in the Daytona 24 Hours each of the past two years, but this will be his first experience with the team in ALMS competition. Bell made his Twelve Hours of Sebring debut with another team last year and finished 10th in the GT class.
"This is a very exciting time to be a part of Paul Miller Racing and I'm delighted to be involved," Bell said. "We have a new 2012 spec Porsche and a new tire partner in Dunlop. While the Porsche is relatively new to me, I've work extensively with Dunlop for the past five years and hope my knowledge of their tire can help this week.
"The team has also retained personnel with a wealth of knowledge and experience. Sebring is always a fantastic experience. It's one of the most demanding circuits in the world, which offers a huge challenge to both car and driver. All in all, I'm looking forward to the challenge ahead and can't wait to get started!"
Official on-track activities at the Twelve Hours of Sebring get underway on Thursday, March 15 with the first of three practice sessions running from 10 to 11 a.m. ET. The second practice runs from 2:50 to 3:50 p.m., with night practice slated from 7:35 to 9:20 p.m.
Friday's activities include a fourth practice session from 9:55 to 10:55 a.m., followed by an all-driver autograph session in the Sebring International Raceway paddock from 12:00 Noon to 1:00 p.m. Qualifying for the GT class is scheduled to run from 3:35 to 3:50 p.m. on Friday afternoon.
Saturday's race day activities include a 25-minute warm up session beginning at 8:00 a.m. The green flag will drop on the 60th Anniversary Twelve Hours of Sebring at 10:30 a.m.
ESPN3.com will broadcast qualifying at the race live. Qualifying will air at 3:15 p.m. ET on Friday and the Twelve Hours of Sebring will air in its entirety beginning at 10:15 a.m. on Saturday. Television coverage will air on ABC at 12:00 Noon ET on Sunday, March 18.
Live audio coverage of qualifying and the race will also be available on RadioLeMans.com and live timing & scoring data from every on-track session is available at AmericanLeMans.com.
PHOTO: The brand-new No. 48 Chopard Porsche is ready for its first race this week at the Twelve Hours of Sebring. Credit: Bob Chapman/Autosport Image.
Paul Miller RacingTwelve Hours of SebringDriver History
Bryce Miller2011 - Finished 14th in GT class2008 - Finished 13th in GT2 classTotal Sebring Starts: 2Best Sebring Result: 13th (2008)
Sascha Maassen2011 - Finished 14th in GT class2010 - Won LMP2 class2008 - Finished 6th in LMP2 class2007 - Finished 8th in LMP2 class2006 - Finished 2nd in LMP2 class2005 - Finished 13th in GT2 class2004 - Won GT class2003 - Won GT class2002 - Won GT class2001 - Won GT class2000 - Finished 10th in GT classTotal Sebring Starts: 11Total Sebring Victories: 5 (2001-04, 2010)Sebring Pole Positions: 2 in GT (2001, 2002)
Rob Bell2011 - Finished 10th in GT classTotal Sebring Starts: 1Best Sebring Result: 10th (2011)
About Paul Miller RacingPaul Miller Racing is among the top GT teams competing in North American sports car road racing. In 2012, the team will contest the Daytona 24 Hours and the full American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón. The team enjoys a long-standing relationship with Porsche and competes with the support of Dunlop Tires, Chopard, TOTAL Lubricants, Search Marketing Group, Trim Nutrition and Motegi Racing.