Wayne Taylor Racing leads Cadillac sweep at Sebring

Ricky Taylor edged out Joao Barbosa to give Wayne Taylor Racing and Cadillac victory in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring and a sweep of the “Florida 36 Hours” with wins in North America’s two premier endurance races.

Taylor took his Konica Minolta-sponsored No. 10 Cadillac DPi-V.R to a 13.614-second victory over Barbosa’s Action Express entry, following a race-long battle between the two Cadillacs.

While it was, at times, a near mirror-image to January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, there was no late-race contact or drama, with the Taylor car stretching out its lead as darkness hit.

The race-winning pass came with less than three hours to go when Jordan Taylor got around Filipe Albuquerque for the lead while in traffic.

A call to short-pit the No. 10 Cadillac with 1 hour and 8 minutes to go, just moments prior to the race’s sixth and final full-course caution, kept Ricky Taylor out ahead and proved to be a pivotal moment in the race.

It was the Taylor brother’s second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory, and the first for new third driver Alex Lynn, in his team and series debut.

Jordan Taylor, meanwhile, has become the latest driver to earn the “triple crown” of class wins at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona and Sebring.

Barbosa, Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi were forced to settle for a runner-up finish for the second straight race, with the sister No. 31 Whelen-backed entry giving Cadillac a sweep of the overall podium.

It came after a charge through the field for defending Prototype champions Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Toyota LMP1 factory driver Mike Conway, after Curran spun the car from the lead in the third hour and lost two laps when it failed to re-fire.

The incident initially promoted the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson to third, and ran in podium contention for much of the race but was unable to match the pace of the Cadillacs and finished fourth.

The around-the-clock enduro proved to be a test of endurance for the majority of P class competitors.

The pole-sitting No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca 07 Gibson, who showed the most promise to dethrone the Cadillacs, battled electrical issues, leading to an alternator change and multiple trips to the garage.

Both of the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis retired, first the No. 22 car due to a broken exhaust after running as high as fourth, followed by the No. 2 entry, which went behind the wall early with the continuation of boost-related issues from qualifying.

While the No. 55 Mazda RT24-P recorded a fifth place class finish, following a trip to the garage to repair a coolant leak, brake issues led to a crash easy by Joel Miller, which later rejoined only to be retired due to suspension issues.

Shifting issues, meanwhile, plagued the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier JS P217 Gibson, which soldiered home to 7th in class, behind the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Riley Mk. 30 Gibson after multiple trips to the garage with engine and starter motor gremlins.

Prototype Challenge class honors went to the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09 of James French, Pato O’Ward and Kyle Masson, finishing an impressive fifth overall.

It came in another flawless run for the Brent O’Neill-led team, which as was the case with the Taylor car, scored back-to-back wins to kick off the season.

French crossed the line two laps ahead of the No. 8 Starworks entry of Garett Grist, Maxwell Hanratty and Sean Rayhall, a lineup that was only confirmed on Thursday.

The pair of BAR1 Motorsports cars, including the class pole-sitting No. 26 entry, faced setbacks, although both also got to the finish.

Remarkably, all four of the PC entries had clean races on-track, with no notable incidents.

Antonio Garcia put in a starring drive once the sun went down, keeping a brace of Ford GTs at bay in the final hours to claim GT Le Mans class honors.

The No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller was strong all race after qualifying fifth but came to life in the final hours.

The Pratt & Miller-led squad used clever pit strategy to catapult to the class lead with just over an hour remaining and held off all comers to take home a third consecutive Sebring class win.

It is the first time a team has claimed three consecutive class wins since Level 5 Motorsports won four consecutive races in 2010-2013.

It was not a straightforward run to the finish in GTLM, as Patrick Pilet’s No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR was consistently the fastest car on track in the night portion of the race, only to be sidelined in the late running.

Pilet had chased down Garcia and begun to apply pressure to the race leader when he abruptly dove into the pits with 31 minutes to go after suffering a tire puncture, then compounded by a pit lane penalty for running over the air hose.

It knocked Pilet out of contention for the win, and he settled for seventh in class.

Even after the demise of the No. 911 Porsche, Garcia still had to fend off Joey hand in the No. 66 Ford GT in the final 30 minutes.

Hand and co-drivers Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais were seeking a Sebring class win to go along with their titles at Le Mans and Daytona, but were forced to settle for the second step on the podium.

Third went to James Calado in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE car, after a last-lap spin by the No. 67 Ford of Richard Westbrook, who was relegated to fourth.

The third Ford, entered by the WEC UK-based team, completed the top-five in class.

Jeroen Bleekemolen secured class victory for Riley Team AMG in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG GT3 after a dominant run throughout.

From seventh place on the grid, Bleekemolen and co-drivers Ben Keating and Mario Farnbacher swiftly moved up through the field and proved the be the combination to beat in the early going.

The only drama in the final hours came when the field was slowed for the final full course caution, when a fuel-only stop for the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 got Alessandro Balzan out ahead of the Dutchman.

However, it didn’t take long for Bleekemolen to retake the lead, getting around last year’s Sebring class winner with 44 minutes to go and cruising to a 4.453-second class victory over the Italian and co-drivers Christina Nielsen, and Matteo Cressoni.

It marked the first class win for Mercedes-AMG in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition in only its second race, and the first for the German manufacturer in the 12-hour race at Sebring since 1957.

The battle for third turned on its head in the head in the closing moments when Jeroen Mul ran off track in the and Tristan Vautier leapfrogged from 8th on the final restart to take the final podium position in the class pole-sitting SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes-AMG.

Christopher Mies was fourth in the Land Motorsport Audi R8 LMS, while Mul slid all the way back to 11th in class in the No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.