SEBRING, Fla. – Tequila Patron ESM has taken a dramatic second successive win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup at the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida.
Courtesy of back to back incredible passes by Luis Felipe “Pipo” Derani in the No. 2 Ligier JS P2 Honda on the pair of Action Express Racing Corvette DPs, both at Turn 7 on successive laps, the team has followed its win at the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a win at Sebring.
The Nos. 31 and 5 Corvettes were second and third.
Other class winners are CORE autosport (No. 54 Oreca FLM09, PC), Corvette Racing (No. 4 Corvette C7.R, GTLM) and Scuderia Corsa (No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3, GTD).
For Corvette, it’s their second straight win for the team and the No. 4 car after also winning in a thrilling photo finish over the sister No. 3 car at Daytona; meanwhile Scuderia Corsa has won the worldwide race debut of the new Ferrari 488 GT3.
The driver winners by class, since I didn’t include them in the initial copy:
- P: 2-Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek, Ed Brown, Pipo Derani
- PC: 54-Colin Braun, Jon Bennett, Mark Wilkins
- GTLM: 4-Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler
- GTD: 63-Alessandro Balzan, Christina Nielsen, Jeff Segal
Additional in-race posts:
Derani’s charge came following a strategic gamble from the Patron ESM team to change left side tires on the final stop, to aid the car on the primarily right-hand corner circuit.
An earlier caution had brought that car back into contention after being down more than a minute, and once Johannes van Overbeek handed the car off to Derani, it was left in the Brazilian’s hands from there.
Derani restarted in fourth but quickly dispatched of Nicolas Lapierre in the No. 81 DragonSpeed Oreca 05 Nissan for third on Lap 232 after the final restart.
On Lap 234, Derani made his first lunge to the inside of Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP, to the inside at Turn 7.
A lap later, he repeated the feat on Dane Cameron in the No. 31 car at the same corner.
Although Derani had the fresher tires, it shouldn’t mean that the overtakes should be overlooked. He still had to make the moves in the dark.
The Action Express lineups – Cameron, Eric Curran and Scott Pruett in the No. 31 car and Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 car – drove nearly flawless races save for one spin by Curran at Turn 10 in the ninth hour when running second.
DragonSpeed finished fourth (Lapierre, Nicolas Minassian and Henrik Hedman) with the No. 90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP in fifth (Marc Goossens, Ryan Dalziel and Ryan Hunter-Reay).
Goossens told NBC Sports post-race that Derani had barged past him following a Lap 207 restart, then spun in traffic at Turn 7. The No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R car, which was leading GTD at the time, had led the field back to the restart as the first class leader behind a safety car.
Behind them, both Mazda Prototypes finished with sixth and eighth, marking the team’s first double finish since Long Beach last year and easily their best set of endurance race results. The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda ended seventh after a last lap pit stop.
Heartbreak struck the DeltaWing with just under 20 minutes remaining, poised for a lead lap finish in at least seventh, when Andy Meyrick retired with steering issues. The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP and No. 50 Highway to Help Riley BMW retired; the No. 24 Alegra Motorsports Riley BMW also showed strongly before retiring.
The pro-am class debuted a series of new electronic updates but it was nothing short of a fraught race for the second tier prototype class at Sebring.
To their credit though, Colin Braun and Tom Kimber-Smith upheld the class honors in the No. 54 CORE autosport and No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09s, respectively, in a great dice for the lead. Braun, who co-drove with Bennett and Mark Wilkins, ultimately prevailed.
Kimber-Smith shared the PR1/Mathiasen car with Jose Gutierrez and Robert Alon.
In a battle of attrition and incidents, Starworks Motorsport made it to the podium in third place with the No. 8 Oreca FLM09 driven by Renger van der Zande, Alex Popow and David Heinemeier Hansson. The other four cars in class – as did each of the podium finishers – had at least one incident during the race.
Corvette Racing bagged its second straight win, albeit not in nearly as dramatic fashion as it did in Daytona.
But courtesy of a particularly storming drive from Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R he shared with Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler, the team pulled off another win to start the year. Milner had to hold off the rest of the GTLM field in the waning stages following the last caution flag of the race.
BMW Team RLL got on the podium with its No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM that started on pole and dominated the majority of the race in class (Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and Bruno Spengler), while Porsche also got on the podium with the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Fred Makowiecki, Earl Bamber and Michael Christensen.
Risi’s No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE and the first Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, the No. 67 car, made it five different manufacturers in the top five.
A heavy coming together between Kevin Estre in the No. 911 Porsche and Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette took those two cars out of contention, with only Magnussen’s car able to continue.
Some sixty years after Italian Eugenio Castellotti co-drove with Juan Manuel Fangio in a Ferrari 860 Monza to the overall win at Sebring, the new Ferrari 488 GT3 won on its worldwide (and de facto North American) debut in the hands of Scuderia Corsa.
Alessandro Balzan made a final pass of Jens Klingmann in the final 10 minutes, getting a run out of Turn 7 before making a pass to the outside of Klingmann entering Turn 10.
Balzan, the 2013 GRAND-AM Rolex Series GT champion with Giacomo Mattioli’s Scuderia Corsa team, shared the car with Jeff Segal and Christina Nielsen. Both of those wins were monumental; Segal’s adds a Sebring triumph to his win at Daytona in 2014 and comes after he captured the debut pole for the team on Friday, while Nielsen has her first win in the series after coming close on a number of different occasions with TRG-AMR last year. She’s also the first female driver to win at Sebring since Liz Halliday in LMP2 in 2006.
Klingmann, who co-drove the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 with Ashley Freiberg and Bret Curtis, led late but was unable to hold off Balzan’s advances. Magnus Racing, the Daytona winners, completed the podium with Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried in the team’s No. 44 Audi R8 LMS.
The No. 23 The Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R, which sought its second straight Sebring win and an 11th for Alex Job, and Job’s No. 22 WeatherTech-backed Porsche completed the top five in class. The WeatherTech car fell out of contention late when it lost a wheel; Leh Keen did well to limp the car back on three wheels.
Paul Miller Racing ended best of the six Lamborghini Huracán GT3s in sixth. Change Racing fell out of contention when it incurred a stop-and-hold plus four minutes and six second penalty for an improper pass around. It was a shame for Corey Lewis, who got dinged for it but otherwise turned in a flawless weekend, as well as co-drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Al Carter. Pumpelly remains eternally snakebit at Sebring.