Winners Crowned at Twelve Hours of Sebring
A thrilling Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts took place with teams in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship adding their names to the annals of the longstanding event. Rain at the start of the racing and plentiful action throughout kept fans tuned in throughout the 12-hour sports car spectacle.
DPi: The No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R team of Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran were the class of the field throughout the event, and they were rewarded with an overall victory in a grueling IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship battle on Saturday.
Morning rains and exceedingly wet track conditions prevented the green flag from flying for the first time until 40 minutes into the 12-hour race. But once it did, the No. 31 was flying, too. The team combined to lead a race-high 249 of a possible 348 laps, including all three points-scoring segments toward the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup.
It wouldn’t be an easy victory, though, as the No. 31 team had its hands full with the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Renger van der Zande, Matthieu Vaxiviere and Jordan Taylor over final two hours of the race.
Taylor nearly got past immediately after a pit stop with an hour and 20 minutes remaining when Nasr took over the No. 31 from Derani, but on that occasion, Nasr eventually managed to pull away. Taylor wasn’t done yet, though. He closed all the way up on Nasr with 21 minutes left in the race, getting to within 0.2 seconds, but still not quite close enough to make his move.
The fifth and final full-course caution came out with 15 minutes to go, giving Taylor one last shot on the ensuing restart with under 10 minutes remaining, but Nasr built just enough of a lead to seal a 1.030-second victory over the No. 10. It was the closest overall finish in the 67-race history of the Twelve Hours, eclipsing the 2016 margin of victory of 2.82 seconds.
“Jordan was already warmed up, he was in the car, and I got in the car knowing that he was going to be close,” Nasr said. “From the time I jumped in the car, all the procedures getting the belts on the team stopped changing tires and go – and he was right there.
“I couldn’t do a little mistake today. It was all about hitting our marks and I did that from Lap 1 to the checkered flag. There were some pretty tricky moments out there, like I caught traffic a few times and I had a four-second lead, and that last yellow flag as well that came with four laps to go, man, that was really tricky. I could see they picked up their pace, but we got the job done first.”
It was the first Sebring victory for both Nasr and Curran – who together co-drove to both the 2018 WeatherTech Championship and the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup Prototype titles. It was Derani’s second consecutive Sebring victory and his third in four years, making him the first driver with three overall wins in four years since the legendary Phil Hill won in 1958, 1959 and 1961.
“It means the world,” Derani said. “Today was just one of those days where everything went perfect, but we had a lot to lose in the beginning with the rain at the beginning. Two and a half hours I was in the car and there was lot of stress because there’s a lot to lose. You’re thinking, ‘OK, there’s 11 hours to go. What should you do? Push?’ But in the end, everything worked perfectly thanks to this amazing team.”
Derani and Nasr will continue as full-season co-drivers in the No. 31, while Curran will rejoin the team for the next Michelin Endurance Cup round, the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 30.
“As a sports car driver, you kind of have your list of the races that you want to win on your bucket list, and the Sebring 12-hour is right up there at the top,” Curran said. “I don’t know how many years I’ve been racing the Sebring 12, but back to the ALMS days and obviously finishing second last year and finishing second prior to that, to come so close to a win, but not quite enough. So, it feels really special to now win this thing, finally, in a Whelen Cadillac.”
Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley made it two Action Express Racing cars on the podium with a third-place run in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi. Finishing fourth was the No. 7 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi team of Ricky Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi which battled back after falling off the lead lap in the wet conditions early on.
The No. 54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Romain Dumas completed the top five. It was Nissan’s second consecutive top-five at Sebring after winning the race last year with Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM entry.
LMP2: The No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA team scored in a seesaw battle in the early stages gave way to a dominating LMP2 class victory for drivers Kyle Masson, Cameron Cassels and Andrew Evans. At two hours and 43 minutes into the race, Anders Fjorback slowed on course with left-side suspension problems on the Motul Pole Award-winning No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA.
The issues sent the No. 52 to the paddock for lengthy repairs, giving the No. 38 team an easy, 13-lap victory. It was the first Sebring victory for both Cassels and Evans, while it was the second for Masson, who also won in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class with the Performance Tech team back in 2017.
“Today was a really hard 12 hours,” Masson said. “Sebring is so bumpy. To get through the day with the car holding up completely, no mechanicals, it was a flawless execution. I’m just happy we brought the car home safe.
“For me, the rain was something I prayed for. I love driving in it and I love racing in it. I showed that this morning. I perform well in it is maybe the reason I love driving in it. I brought our car up to sixth overall, and to be passing the pole-sitting Penske DPi was a great feeling. I was very calm and cool, and experience builds calmness in the car. It was a lot easier today than two years ago remaining level-headed throughout the day.”
GTLM: No manufacturer has come close to Porsche’s success through the years at Sebring International Raceway, and while Saturday’s win in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts brought its win total at the track to 96, this one certainly didn’t come easy.
A bold move by Nick Tandy with just under one hour remaining to get by the No. 67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe – who was on his out lap after a pit stop –ultimately proved to be the winning pass for Tandy and his No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR teammates Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki.
At the time, the pass was for the second position after the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT dominated the majority of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class race with Briscoe and co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Scott Dixon at the wheel.
But roughly 25 minutes after Tandy made his pass on Briscoe, the race-leading No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia fell out of the lead with a scheduled pit stop, moving Tandy to the top of the leaderboard with 35 minutes remaining. Briscoe closed a four-second deficit to just one second in the closing minutes but spun on a late-race restart ensuring a second consecutive Sebring victory for the No. 911 team.
In total, the No. 911 Porsche led only 30 of the 330 laps, including the final 18 laps of the race.
“I didn’t realize the Corvette had to pit,” said Tandy. “I got ahead of them before the yellow. We had to stop a lap before them on the second to last stop and we had a bit of a tire advantage to leap frog them on the out lap. But then we were going to really have to take it easy on the fuel tank. I’m glad we didn’t have to do that at the very end.”
“Porsche is the most successful brand on this track,” added Pilet. “We never get pressure from our bosses, we put the pressure on ourselves. We wrote another line on the Porsche story. It was nice to be part of that story.”
A late-race yellow flag for the stopped BMW of Bill Auberlen set up a seven-minute sprint to the checkered flag. Briscoe spun shortly after the restart, handing the second position to his teammate Joey Hand in the No. 66 Ford GT, but by that point Tandy opened up too much of a gap. Hand settled for second with teammates Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, 1.951 second back, while Briscoe finished sixth.
At the end of the day the four different manufacturers that make up the GTLM class full time took the top four positions with the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller rounding out the podium. The No. 24 BMW M8 GTE of finished fourth with drivers Jesse Krohn, John Edwards and Philipp Eng.
The race was slowed by five full-course cautions, including a 40-minute yellow flag to start the race due to poor track conditions from a heavy rain Saturday morning.
GTD: When it comes to endurance racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, Grasser Racing Team is unbeatable.
The Austrian team solidified its position on Saturday night as one of the top endurance racing teams in the series, winning the 67th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts in the GT Daytona (GTD) class in the No. 11 Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
GRT has made three starts in the WeatherTech Championship and has walked away from all three races with first place trophies. Including Saturday, GRT was also victorious at the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2018 and 2019.
Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers – co-drivers of the No. 11 Lamborghini at Sebring – have been a part of GRT’s winning lineup at each race. Competitors in the GTD class should take note, as GRT signed up for the full 2019 IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup season, which in addition to Daytona and Sebring includes the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen and the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“It’s so cool to be back at Sebring and we couldn’t wish for a better start to the season, winning Daytona and Sebring,” said Bortolotti. “I hope I don’t wake up in half an hour. It feels like a dream. I’m really happy, I can’t believe it right now. It was a tough race, we made no mistakes. We had some contact with some lapped cars. All other classes are fighting as well. It’s such a difficult race to win. I’m really proud of this result.”
Not only was the win significant for GRT, but also Lamborghini as a manufacturer. In the last six Michelin Endurance Cup races, Lamborghini has taken home the checkered flag four times, with Lamborghini team Paul Miller Racing winning at Sebring one year ago.
“For the brand Lamborghini, it’s unbelievable,” said Ineichen. “To win at Daytona is one thing, and to then come here and win is even more incredible. The first time to get a back-to-back win, I think in IMSA for Lamborghini. Lamborghini gave us a great car. Daytona was the first race for the GT3 Evo and we won with a brand new car. Now to win again, it’s proof what Lamborghini did, and they gave us such a good car.”
Further exemplifying Lamborghini’s strength in the WeatherTech Championship, the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of John Potter, Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly finished second. The car came alive in the evening and seriously challenged GRT for the win, keeping within a second of the No. 11 for the majority of the final 45 minutes.
Rounding out the podium was the No. 63 WeatherTech Racing Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal.
Next up for the WeatherTech Championship is the 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach on Saturday, April 13. The race features only the DPi and GT Le Mans (GTLM) classes as part of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach event weekend. WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will have a presence in the Lifestyle Expo which fans can visit for tickets, contests and merchandise.
IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca for the penultimate event in the 2019 championship on September 13-15. The event kicks off “Monterey Speed Week” in which INDYCAR competes the following weekend at the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey September 20-22. Tickets and information are available here or by calling 831-242-8200.