Jonathan Bomarito spins, Pipo Derani leads at six-hour mark of Sebring

Jake Galstad LAT Images
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Coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring is currently on NBCSN, the NBC Sports app and NBCSports.com.

After nearly four hours of dry weather, rain returned to Sebring International Raceway. As most often is the case, it returned to part of the track first with Turns 9-13 getting wet and the remainder of the course largely dry.

As half of the the track lost grip, drivers tried to put the decision of whether to pit off as long as possible. Jonathan Bomarito went a lap too far in the No. 55 Mazda Team Joest car. He slid off course and contacted the wall. The No. 55 already had some nose damage and were hoping for a caution. While they did not want to be the car that brought out the caution, the damage was not severe and they were able to continue albeit two laps behind in eighth.

Pipo Derani and the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac maintained the lead with Renger van der Zande assuming second before the pit stops.

The incident saved Joao Barbosa, who chose to stay on slick, dry tires during his most recent pit.

The caution gave everyone chance to make a more informed decision and Barbosa left pit road in second.

Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac exited in third with Simon Trummer fourth and the only other car on the lead lap (Lap 171).

During this segment, the No. 6 Acura Team Penske entry had a long pit stop at just short of the 4-hour mark. Sitting still for nearly five minutes with electrical gremlins, they also changed the back wing. Juan Pablo Montoya turned the wheel over to Simon Pagenaud with a three-lap deficit.

The 4-hour mark was important for another reason. Points are awarded for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup; at that point, Felipe Nasr led Olivier Pla by 25 seconds.

At the halfway point, Scott Dixon exited the pits with the lead over Antonio Garcia in the GTLM class. Six of the eight teams that started GTLMs were still on the lead lap. In GTD, Rik Breukers in the No. 11 Grasser Racing Lamborghini led Zacharie Robichon in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche, with 11 of 17 entrants still on the lead lap and in contention.

At the 4-hour, 9-minute mark, Bia Figueiredo spun from second. She took the opportunity to come in and make a driver change, handing the No. 57 Meyer Shank Racing Acura (GTD) to Katherine Legge.

One of the biggest incidents of the first half of the race came in the GTD class at the 4-hour, 32-minute mark. Philip Frommenwiler in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus car got into the back of his teammate, Frankie Montecalvo, when it appeared that Montecalvo’s No. 12 entry got loose in Turn 14.

“We were running nose to tail, staying very clean,” Montecalvo told NBCSN after climbing from his car for a driver change. “I ended up pushing a little wide getting up on the wet curb. Not sure what happened or how he came into the back of me. It just was a direct hit from behind. I think the water and the wheel spin slowed down my exit speed.”

The No. 12 Lexus got to the 6-hour mark one lap off the pace and 12th in class.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
Align Media
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”