Felipe Nasr, Action Express win 12 Hours of Sebring

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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.

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area.

The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full IndyCar season. The team showed improvement at Thermal, and Grosjean (who was fourth fastest on Day 1) said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”