IMSA: Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Update – 3 hours in

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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The opening hours of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring have been action-packed, with the early hours highlighted by racing that we would not expect from an endurance race.

For example, Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 ARX-05, currently fourth with Graham Rahal at the wheel, has had a couple run-ins with traffic, both from the Prototype and GT classes, as shown below.

Reports on happenings in the first three hours from all three classes are below.

Prototype

Turn 1, Lap 1 proved to be a disaster for one of the contenders in Prototype. Olivier Pla, starting on the outside of the front row in the No.2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi, tried to pass polesitter Tristan Vautier, in the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Cadillac DPi-V.R, on the outside.

Vautier held his ground when Pla tried to pinch him against the inside wall, with the two making contact and sending Pla into a slide across the outside of the corner. Although he limped around back into the pits, the team ultimately uncovered a terminal gearbox issue, cause by the contact, and retired car, ending their race before it ever had a chance to get going.

The lone caution of the opening hours also came in the Prototype class. Sebastian Saavedra, in the No. 52 Ligier JS P217 Gibson for AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, spun exiting Turn 17. In trying to avoid, Frank Montecalvo, in the GT Daytona class No. 64 Ferrari 488 GT3 for Scuderia Corsa, drifted out wide, but made contact with the right-front of Saavedra, which launched Montecalvo airborne and into the tire barriers exiting the corner.

Montecalvo emerged unhurt from the spectacular incident, while Saavedra returned to the pits for a new front nose on the No. 52 Ligier, and continued on.

Vautier, meanwhile, continued on unscathed and led the opening stint.

Just over three hours in, Eric Curran leads in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac for Action Express. The No. 22 ESM Nissan sits second in the hands of Nicolas Lapierre, with Jordan Taylor third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac.

GT Le Mans (GTLM)

BMW Team RLL has dominated the opening hours of the 12 Hours of Sebring, with their No. 24 BMW M8 GTLM leading the way early on. Nicky Catsburg is currently behind the wheel.

Risi Competizion currently holds down second, with Alessandro Pier Guidi currently at the helm of their No. 62 Ferrari 488 GTE. Ford Chip Ganassi Racing holds third with Ryan Briscoe in the No. 67 Ford GT, though they had a clumsy run-in with the sister No. 66 in the pits early on, with both cars bumping each other exiting the pits.

However, no damage was done and both carried on.

GT Daytona

The polesitting No. 51 Ferrari from Spirit of Race also had a messy start to their 12 Hours of Sebring, with Daniel Serra getting together with the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3, in the hands Jack Hawksworth at the time. The contact cut the right-rear tire of Serra, forcing an early pit stop. They now sit 16th in class.

Montaplast by Land Motorsport leads in the way in the No. 29 Audi R8 LMS GT3, with 17-year-old youngster Sheldon van der Linde at the helm. Running second is Corey Lewis in the Paul Miller Racing No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3, with 3GT Racing sitting third with Kyle Marcelli in the No. 14 Lexus.

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Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.