After 12 hours, Sebring comes down to pass in sprint race to finish
Another starring drive by Pipo Derani has delivered Tequila Patron ESM another major endurance race victory, with the young Brazilian taking his Ligier JS P2 Honda to a thrilling win in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Derani, who took the final restart with 12 minutes remaining in third, got around both Action Express Racing Corvette DPs, first Filipe Albuquerque with seven minutes to go and then leader Dane Cameron the following lap.
He bridged out a slight gap in the closing minutes, crossing the line 2.926 seconds ahead of the No. 31 Corvette DP of Cameron in second.
Albuquerque in the No. 5 entry finished third in the mixed-condition race, which saw a two-plus hour red flag period for weather.
The win saw ESM claim its second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win following its triumph in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with the same lineup of Derani, Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown.
The Florida-based squad becomes the first team since Doran/Moretti Racing in 1998 to have won what’s known as the “Florida 36 Hours” overall.
Derani held the lead prior to the final round of stops, which saw both Action Express entries leapfrog ESM’s Ligier-Honda in the pits after taking fuel-only, compared to four new Continental tires for Derani.
He restarted in fourth, behind the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda of Olivier Pla, who faded on the restart and pitted on the final lap with a suspected mechanical issue.
The No. 81 DragonSpeed Oreca 05 Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre, Nic Minassian and Henrik Hedman finished fourth in the team’s P2 debut, following an impressive late-race charge by the ex-Toyota LMP1 factory driver.
Lapierre jumped to 2nd on the restart but was no match for the Action Express entries, or Derani, for that matter, and fell back.
The No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP completed the top-five after also contending for the win in the closing stages.
Both of the Mazda Prototypes got to the checkered flag with no mechanical issues, giving the team its first-ever double top-10 overall result.
The No. 55 entry of Tristan Nunez, Jonathan Bomarito and Spencer Pigot finished 6th, and on the lead lap, after overcoming an early pit lane penalty and trip into the barriers during the rain.
Mazda’s sister No. 70 entry was 8th, benefiting by a late-off by the DeltaWing under the final caution.
The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, one of the pre-race favorites, retired in the 9th hour with electrical issues.
CORE autosport scored Prototype Challenge honors, in a battle-scarred class that saw every car hit trouble at one point over the race.
Colin Braun took the No. 54 Oreca FLM09 to a 1.282-second class victory over Tom Kimber-Smith in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry in second.
The two cars fought tooth-and-nail, with Kimber-Smith having taken the lead from Braun following the final round of pit stops but losing it just prior to the final yellow.
Braun shared class honors with Mark Wilkins and team owner Jon Bennett, who rebounded from an early race spin in the rain.
The No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry completed the class podium in third.
Corvette Racing has gone back-to-back at Sebring and also in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with the No. 4 Corvette C7.R claiming top class honors in GT Le Mans in Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
Tommy Milner took the No. 4 entry to its second consecutive class win, holding off the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of Dirk Werner by 4.006 seconds at the end of the 12-hour marathon.
Milner and co-drivers Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler also teamed to win January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, in what was the closest finish in class history.
Saturday’s win at Sebring, however, was a little more routine.
The Pratt & Miller squad qualified fifth and sixth, led by the No. 3 car of Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen, and Mike Rockenfeller.
Both Corvettes slipped down the running order when heavy rains pelted the track in the early hours, but each made steady progress as the track began to dry out.
The No. 3 car was taken out of contention when Kevin Estre in the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR collided with the Corvette entering Turn 1 in the eighth hour.
Despite Estre’s race-ending crash, the sister No. 912 Porsche managed to complete the class podium in third, with Earl Bamber finishing five seconds back.
Davide Rigon, Toni Vilander, and Giancarlo Fisichella piloted the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE to fourth in GTLM, with the No. 67 Ford GT in fifth, after fading in the late stages.
Remarkably, five different manufacturers finished within the top-five overall, and all finishing on the lead lap.
Alessandro Balzan in the pole-sitting No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 slipped past Jens Klingmann’s No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 for the win in GT Daytona.
The move came in the final 10 minutes to give the new turbocharged Ferrari its first win in international competition.
Balzan accomplished the feat with co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Jeff Segal. Nielsen becomes the first female class winner at Sebring since Liz Halliday in 2006.
The late-race pass denied Klingmann and co-drivers Ashley Freiberg and Bret Curtis from victory but gave the Turner squad its first podium finish with the new car.
Rolex 24 class winners Andy Lally, John Potter, and Marco Seefried brought the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS to third in class.
Mario Farnbacher took the No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3-R to fourth, with the sister No. 22 WeatherTech-backed entry completing the top-five in class.
The outcome of the GTD class was impacted by a number of late-race penalties.
The No. 98 Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3 of Richie Stanaway was handed a drive-through penalty with 90 minutes to go, knocking them out of the lead at the time.
It came after a four-minute stop-and-hold penalty for the previous-leading No. 16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3, for an improper wave-by while under a yellow.
Corey Lewis had built up nearly a one lap lead at the time.