Round 2 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the 12 Hours of Sebring literally picked up where the series left off after the 24 Hours at Daytona: Racing in the rain in Central Florida.
The yellow and green flags waved over the field as the timer started at 10:42 a.m. ET with Dane Cameron on the pole. Cars circled the course while track drying was under way so that the heat from the cars would help the process.
Racing began in full force at the 40-minute mark with the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest DPI of Tristan Nunez immediately sweeping around the outside of Cameron’s No. 6 Acura Team Penske DPI to take the lead in Turn 1. As Cameron dropped back through the field, Filipe Albuquerque stalked the leader and grabbed the overall lead 45 minutes into the 12-hour endurance race.
In a foreshadowing of the first quarter of the race, Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac DPI kept pressure on as well and grabbed the lead from his teammate Albuquerque five laps later, which he held through the 1-hour mark.
Rain continued to fall as the 1-hour mark went into the books. Struggling in the wet, Helio Castroneves lost a lap to the leader before pitting for fresh rubber and a driver change in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske DPI.
Castroneves made the point that racing in the rain is often about limiting mistakes, and he was happy to turn the wheel over to Ricky Taylor in one piece. Thirty minutes later, Taylor looped the car in Turn 17 and kept it off the wall, but his seat belts came unhooked and he was forced into the pits a few laps later.
At the 3-hour mark, Taylor was still one lap off the pace in ninth.
The No. 31 held the lead at three hours with Felipe Nasr behind the wheel. Up front in LMP2 was Kyle Masson in the No. 38 entry from Performance Tech Motorsports.
Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford had the GTLM lead, and Lars Kern and the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche paced the GTD class.
The track began to dry at the 2-hour mark, and the leader Derani was the first onto pit road. Switching to dry tires three laps earlier than the field allowed him to extend his lead to nearly 18 seconds over Albuquerque and the rest of the field.
The second yellow of the race waved at the 2-hour, 19-minute mark for an electrical failure on the No. 77 Mazda Team Joest DPI.
Timo Bernhard pulled to the side and needed a tow back to the pits – another brutal setback for the team after problems during the Rolex 24 in January.