Chip Ganassi Racing captures victory at Twelve Hours of Sebring

Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas and Marino Franchitti celebrate their win with Team Owner Chip Ganassi and his PRS Guitar trophy.

© 2014, Michael L. Levitt

With a bit of luck and a late-race yellow, Chip Ganassi Racing powered through to claim victory in Saturday’s 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the second round of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

After an unforgettable around-the-clock endurance classic, that saw nearly half the race run under yellow, Marino Franchitti took the No. 01 Telcel Riley-Ford across the line 4.682 seconds ahead of the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b of Ryan Dalziel in second.

Dalziel held the lead heading into the final hour but his margin was equalized after a Corvette DP stopped on track and brought out the race’€™s 11th full-course caution with 51 minutes remaining.

All of the leaders pitted for fuel-only stops except for the No. 01 Ganassi DP car, which came in for service just moments before the yellow was called, and inherited the lead as a result.

It set up a 21-minute run to the checkered flag, which saw Franchitti bridge out to a six-second gap to the fellow Scot by the second green flag lap, although Dalziel closed the margin in the final moments due to traffic.

The win marked the first victory for Chip Ganassi in his team’™s Sebring debut, while Ford notched the first win for its new EcoBoost engine, in only the powerplant’€™s second race.

Additionally, Ganassi becomes the first team to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500 and Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Dalziel and co-drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham settled for second, ahead of the pole-sitting No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Sebastien Bourdais, which completed the podium in third.

The top-three were separated by less than ten seconds at the checkered flag, aided by the late yellow, which lasted 30 minutes to retrieve the stationary Marsh Racing Corvette DP.

OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan of Olivier Pla, Alex Brundle and Gustavo Yacaman finished fourth, while the No. 2 ESM HPD ARX-03b of Simon Pagenaud, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown made it three P2 cars in the top-five.

Nine cars finished on the lead lap.

Prototype Challenge class honors for the second consecutive race went to CORE autosport, following a thrilling dual between RSR Racing in the closing stages.

The late yellow saw the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 of Colin Braun retake the lead and hold off a hard-charging Bruno Junqueira for the class win, which was just 2.428 seconds at the line.

Braun shared the winning CORE entry with team principal Jon Bennett and James Gue, the latter who exchanged the lead with RSR’€™s David Heinemeier Hansson prior to the final round of driver changes.

While the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry completed the podium in third, the class was marred by two massive accidents, plus a number of spins and off-course excursions that attributed to the five-plus hours of yellow flag running time.

David Ostella lost control of his Performance Tech Oreca FLM09 and was hit by the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Frankie Montecalvo exiting Turn 17. It resulted in a brief red flag period in the fourth hour.

Two hours later, Gaston Kearby spun in Turn 16 and rejoined in front of Alex Tagliani, who slammed into the No. 87 BAR1 Motorsports entry. All four drivers escaped serious injury.

Porsche, meanwhile took a double class victory, with a sweep of the GT Le Mans and GT Daytona classes.

The No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR matched the feat achieved by the sister No. 911 entry at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, taking the win in the second straight round of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.

Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister, Porsche’s longtime pairing, teamed with Sebring debutante and class pole-sitter Michael Christensen to secure the victory. The trio won by 5.296 seconds.

It was a mostly clean race for the No. 912, although there was one incident of contact approaching the eight-hour mark when the No. 912 contacted the No. 49 Spirit of Race Ferrari 458 Italia GT3 on entry to Turn 7.

But ahead of the 11th and final caution flag, the No. 912 took the opportunity to pit ahead of the rest of the GTLM field, as Bergmeister brought the car home to the finish. The car stayed out when others needed to pit during that caution period.

SRT Motorsports scored its second podium of the year, and first for the No. 93 SRT Viper GTS-R, with the trio of Jonathan Bomarito, Kuno Wittmer and Rob Bell in second.

The No. 55 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE of Joey Hand, Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx finished third despite no less than four pit speed penalties assessed.

The privateers, the No. 57 Krohn Racing Ferrari F458 Italia and debuting No. 17 Team Falken Tire Porsche 911 RSR, rounded out the top-five with surprise but deserved results.

Krohn’€™s car featured Tracy Krohn and Nic Jonsson in their 100th race together as co-drivers, and third driver Andrea Bertolini even led late in the going. Marco Holzer joined Falken full-season drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler in the No. 17.

In GTD, roughly five or six cars had a shot at the class win before Magnus Racing ultimately prevailed with the No. 44 Porsche 911 GT America.

The trio of Andy Lally, John Potter and new third driver Marco Seefried delivered the new car’€™s first victory, and the team’€™s first Sebring win as well, by 1.864 seconds.

Lally, like Bergmeister in GTLM, was able to pit earlier than the rest of the class competition ahead of that last caution period and jumped to the lead when others needed to complete their final pit stops.

AIM Autosport came home in second on its TUDOR Championship debut, with the lineup of Townsend Bell, Bill Sweedler, Jeff Segal and Maurizio Mediani in the No. 555 Ferrari 458 Italia GT3.

Alex Job Racing came up just short of its record-10th Sebring class victory with third and fourth for its two Porsche 911 GT Americas.

The Team Seattle/AJR No. 23 of Ian James, Mario Farnbacher and Porsche Junior driver Alex Riberas took the final podium position ahead of the WeatherTech-backed No. 22, driven by Cooper MacNeil, Leh Keen and Philipp Frommenwiler.

It was a disappointing fourth for the No. 22, as a stop-and-hold plus 80 second penalty was assessed to that car for Incidents.

According to team owner Alex Job, the No. 22 was ruled to have been the car that contacted the aforementioned No. 49 Ferrari, rather than the No. 912. The team served the penalty but the time loss was ultimately too much to recover.

Audi made it into the top five on its Sebring debut of the R8 LMS, with the No. 35 Flying Lizard Motorsports entry driven by Filipe Albuquerque, Seth Neiman and Dion von Moltke.