“NO-FIN FINALE” FOR THREE CARS – It's a safety enhancement that began taking off last year, and really came to the forefront onboard last year's new Audi R18 TDI and Peugeot 908. It's also, in this writer's opinion, not exactly enhanced the visual and aesthetic appeal of the current P1 and P2 cars from a side-on view. “It” is the shark fin, the mandatory aero device that splits the roll hoop and is fully in place for 2012.
That is, of course, except for three cars here in the P1 category which are “fin-less.” Rebellion Racing's two Lola B11/60 Toyotas (ABOVE) and Pescarolo Team's Pescarolo 01 Judd are both older chassis, and have been granted special exemptions by the ACO to run without the fin this race, although as a result, both carry a 15kg weight penalty. The Lola coupes are still fully 2011-spec, while the Pescarolo, a Spyder, is a 2010-spec car already grandfathered and given a final race exemption (RIGHT).
As both teams will be upgrading to their new cars for the second round of the WEC at Spa-Francorchamps in May, this marks their last race without the fin. It's a less heralded note this week but an end of an era, for the moment, in prototype racing. An example of what Rebellion's cars might look like from Spa onward is on display this weekend, with the Kodewa Lotus team in a similar black-and-gold livery but with a fin, as it's a 2012 Lola chassis (BELOW).
However, those fans still wanting to see prototypes without the fin still can from Long Beach onwards with the PC class's Oreca FLM09 chassis, in its third year in the series.
BUSY BELL �� Justin Bell joins the ABC broadcast team this weekend, as a temporary fill-in for Bill Adam and alongside returnees Brian Till and Johnny O'Connell. Bell, who raced this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona with Magnus Racing in partnership with Racing4Research, is confirmed for at least two and possibly up to four races. Besides Sebring, it's Petit Le Mans in October and likely Mid-Ohio and Mazda Raceway.
“Driving, I realized I never could be the Jeff Gordon or Tom Kristensen I quite wanted to be, but hosting, I feel like I can be the Tom Kristensen of that,” Bell joked. As he'll be in the booth, ABC's broadcast team also includes pit reporters Jamie Howe, Kelli Stavast and Rick DeBruhl. John Hindhaugh and Jeremy Shaw will again anchor the commentary on the live ESPN3.com telecast.
Also, Justin Bell is not the only Bell in attendance this weekend. Townsend Bell – who will also be busy this year between splitting his duties from racing in ALMS in Alex Job's new Lotus Evora and pit reporting for the NBC Sports Network's IndyCar coverage – worked in collaboration with Justin Bell on SPEED's program “Shut Up and Drive.” Townsend Bell will be in a GTC Porsche for Job this race (RIGHT), as the team's Evora will premiere at Long Beach.
ALSO OF NOTE – Porsche legend Hans Hermann was one of several inductees into the Sebring Hall of Fame. Twice the overall winner at Sebring, Hermann has over 80 career wins to his name.
Two former Grand Prix drivers make their major sports car debuts this week as Nick Heidfeld and Karun Chandhok run in separate LMP1 prototypes in the WEC. Heidfeld's debut comes in the Rebellion Racing Lola B11/60 Toyota, one of the 2011-spec cars, and Chandhok's in JRM's new HPD ARX-03a.
Lastly, Friday marked the 11-year anniversary of the passing of Bob Wollek, who was struck on a bicycle in the paddock in 2001.
The race goes green Saturday at 10:30 a.m. ET, with live coverage on ESPN3.com beginning at 10:15 a.m. ET. Sunday's race telecast will be at noon ET on Sunday on ABC.