In a race with extremely low attrition, it was almost ironic that a failure on the No. 96 Turner Motorsports BMW erased a second and a half lead for Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac DPI over Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI – and set up an seven-minute sprint to the checkers at the end of the 12 Hours of Sebring.
But coming to the final restart, Nasr snookered Taylor exiting the final turn. While weaving back and forth to scrub his tires, Nasr suddenly straightened his Cadillac and leapt off the corner, leaving Taylor staring out his windshield and mashing the accelerator a split second too late.
Nasr stretched his advantage in small increments during the final minutes and scored his first 12 Hours of Sebring win by 1.4 seconds.
“I’m absolutely glad about the work on the Action Express boys put on today was unbelievable,” Nasr said on NBCSN. “Every stop, every decision. Their strategy was on point, and I will call today the perfect day. In racing, it’s hard to get those.”
Co-driver Pipo Derani earned his third 12-Hour win.
“This is incredible,” Derani said. “I cannot believe someone just told me since 1962, I think, I’m the first man to win it three (times) in four years.”
With wins and podiums on the line in the final run, that meant a lot of drama. Three divisions ended with less than a 3-second margin of victory.
Racing for a position that would allow him to challenge GTLM leader Nick Tandy (No. 911 Porsche GT Team), Ryan Briscoe (No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing) spun while trying to get around Andy Lally in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini.
Lally was running second in GTD and embroiled in his own battle for a class win with Mirko Bortolotti (No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini).
Briscoe dropped to the tail end of the lead lap while Joey Hand (No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing) advanced to second in GTLM. Antonio Garcia (No. 3 Corvette Racing) took third to complete the class podium.
Bortolotti kept his advantage over Lally to win in GTD, and Toni Vilander (No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari) rounded out the top three in that class.
“It’s a special win,” said Bortolotti, whose Grasser team also earned its second consecutive Rolex 24 triumph in January. “It’s one of the most important races on the calendar for us. … We love this place; it’s just a historical, old school track. Everybody wants to win here.”
Finally, Performance Tech Motorsports scored an LMP2 class victory by 13 laps with the trio of Kyle Masson, Andrew Evans and Cameron Cassels.
The race ended with a record for the fewest retirements (two). The No. 19 Moorespeed GTD Audi and Bill Auberlein’s Turner BMW were the only two cars that failed to see the checkered flag. The No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini was off track with 3 hours remaining but got back on track later.