There weren’t many people who had thought they would see Anders Fjordbach on the entry list for the 67th running of Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
And neither did he until Friday 8 March. But then he got a phone call from a friend.
Fjordbach has raced in the Asian Le Mans Series throughout the winter with Chris McMurry. Chris is the father of Matt McMurry, who races for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsport #52 in the LMP2 category in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The team was one man short for the 12 hours race, and luckily Chris had Anders’ phone number on his phone.
The conversation more or less went – do you have any plans next weekend? If not, then come to Sebring and do 12 hours racing.
So off he went on the plane on Tuesday, having the Wednesday to learn the team, before the IMSA part of the weekend started Thursday.
It was straight into the fire for the young Dane. Due to the lack of time for preparation, he didn’t manage to do much other than pack his suitcase with his racing suit and the helmet, and off he went.
Matt has driven a lot of laps on the track, Gabriel Aubry was new, but would also participate in the FIA WEC round during the weekend, so he would get plenty of laps – but Anders only had the four practice sessions to learn the track, before the race started. He got a total of 37 laps before the race start. Due to the density of the traffic, he didn’t manage to put a flying lap together, but on the team’s data, they could see that he was pretty much on par with the two other drivers, if only he could put a full lap together.
Matt McMurry qualified the car on Pole Position in the category, so he would do the start.
The big difference compared to the qualifying was 25 degrees and dry, while the Saturday race started in 20 degrees and wet. Because the weather forecast said a quite a lot of rain during the race, the team put a wet weather setup on the car, softening everything so it would fare better in the rain.
The race was started behind the Safety Car, but the field wasn’t released until 40 minutes later. McMurry took it easy at the start, to make sure to get the car through the race.
He started out with a double stint, and then Fjordbach was put in the car after just over two hours of racing. He did the first 15 minutes on rain tires, which appeared to the completely wrong, because the track dried so fast, that everybody had to go for slicks, making the lap times drop a lot.
It all went well for Anders, until the left rear suspension all of a sudden broke, and he had to nurse the car back to the pits, and all the way back to the team’s awning, so the mechanics could start changing the faulty parts. It took a total of 48 minutes before #52 was back on track.
The young Dane got into a good rhythm, doing quite stable lap times, which is tough with both faster and slower traffic having to be negotiated all the time.
After two half and two full stints, he handed over the car to Gabriel Aubry, who got one and a half hours in the car, before Matt McMurry got about 90 minutes, and then Anders was back for a double stint.
Things weren’t made easier by Anders getting a slow puncture during his final laps. But the reply on the radio was to stay out, and cope with the situation as keep the car running, until they would pit shortly afterwards.
He did manage to do that, but Anders wasn’t in the best of spirits when Racing24-7.net caught up with him just a few minutes after he had jumped out of the car.
“The car was set up for rain, because the team expected more rain. So it was way too soft plus the camber settings etc. don’t go well on a dry track. Then I got the slow puncture at the end, that was bothering me – why did both those things have to happen right when I was in the car? I didn’t touch any curbs or anything else – it just happened all of a sudden.”
The race result ended up being a second place in the LMP2 category, so there was a bit of silverware to bring home.
And when he got over the immediate disappointment, it was surely a very important addition to his CV, being able to tell future teams – I HAVE already done Sebring, and I HAVE already done my 10 mandatory laps at Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans. So I’m ready for the big sports car races now.
He currently sits as the second reserve with High Class Racing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2019, but he already knows that there are a minimum of 6 European Le Mans Series races to do, in an ORECA 07 identical to the one of PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports #52, and then most likely an Asian Le Mans Series 2019/20 programme, that High Class Racing steps into with their two well known Dallara LMP2 cars.
Anders Fjordbach has big expectations to the European Le Mans Series, where the first test of the new car, and not least a tire test for Dunlop has put his optimism up quite a few notches.
Is that hope for real, or just a fluke in testing? We will know a lot more on 14 April, when the European Le Mans Series starts at Paul Ricard in the south of France.