IMSA: Here’s what drivers said after Saturday’s 12 Hours of Sebring

IMSA
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Here’s what drivers said after Saturday’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, the second race of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship:

PIPO DERANI (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R) – OVERALL WINNER: “Unbelievable job! It was tricky at the beginning of the race, with the rain, but I managed to move my way from fifth into first and open a gap. But today was just one of those days, where everything clicked and nothing went wrong. Big thanks to my team, the Whelen Engineering Cadillac is an amazing car and I’m really happy to have won three times in four years. I wouldn’t be able to do that without the job the Action Express guys have done behind the scenes, and Felipe at the end and Eric keeping the car in front. What a day!”

FELIPE NASR (No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R) – OVERALL WINNER: “Today was a super challenging day and I am so proud of the job by the entire Action Express team. They gave us an amazing car to drive today, in all the different conditions from wet to dry to drizzling, and Tim Keene was superb with the calls. Pipo had an amazing start in the rain, that was a really tricky part of the race and he nailed it. He was able to put the car into the lead and just walk away with it, and Eric [Curran] stabilized the lead and kept the car going forward. In the end, the job for me was to get to the finish line. Those last 20 minutes were super intense, trying to hold off the 10 car. They were pretty fast. I’m so happy we got the victory and nailed every hour for the endurance championship as well. A perfect day of racing!”

JORDAN TAYLOR (No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R) – finished second in DPi: “We had a third-place car all day, so to finish second was good. I think we over shot what we were capable of today. It was a good points day. We would have loved to win Sebring again, but I didn’t think it was worth a huge risk for the points to make a move there at the end. I am happy with second and we will go on to Long Beach. He [Nasr] was strong. I could have taken look in the Hairpin when he was being held up by the 54 [Colin Braun], but he was moving around a lot. Maybe I think big picture a little too much, but I think we leave here happy with second.”

BRENDON HARTLEY (No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R) – finished third in DPi: “I really enjoyed working with Felipe [Albuquerque] and Joao [Barbosa] and all the guys with the Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac team. It was tricky in the beginning, to jump into a completely different car and it definitely took one or two stints because I don’t have much experience in this car. I lost a place to Jordan early when I got caught sleeping and was not sure how much was in the tires, which was a little bit of inexperience with this car, but all in all, I felt good. I didn’t expect to end with a quadruple stint and after yesterday’s race, I was completely drained at the end of tonight. We didn’t have the pace of the other car but both sides of the garage had a flawless race and we’re both on the podium, which is amazing.”

NICK TANDY (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR) – finished first in GTLM, 10th overall: “It was a totally crazy race that one rarely experiences. We got the lot: extremely wet at the beginning, a dry track, then predicted rain, which didn’t eventuate. We started from pole, then quickly fell back, only to end up in the lead again. You only get such things at a long-distance race. And this is the precisely the kind of discipline that Porsche excels at. Never give up, always push and then pull out all stops at the right moment. That’s how it’s done.”

PATRICK PILET (No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR) – finished first in GTLM, 10th overall: “It somehow feels unreal. We started from pole position, and then we were running last, and now we celebrate our second Sebring victory in a row – unbelievable! Our team is simply something very special. We never gave up, we always believed that we had a chance and now we’re standing here as winners. It’s indescribable.” 

RYAN BRISCOE (No. 66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT) – finished sixth in GTLM, 16th overall: “What a race. Just a really disappointing result to be honest. Everything else about it was just absolutely perfect. I think we looked pretty good for about eleven hours and 55 minutes yesterday, and unfortunately at the end, we caught the yellow that we didn’t need, and then on the restart, trying to go for the win, [we] got tangled up in some GTD traffic, and it spun me around. It was a real bummer. I know those guys were also having their race and not so worried about checking their mirrors. It’s hard to put blame anywhere, but I was also going for the win and maybe I should of been thinking of settling for second but [that] didn’t even cross my mind at the time.”

KYLE MASSON (No. 38 Centinel Spine/ Orlando Health LMP2) – finished first in LMP2, 17th overall: “This race weekend went really well. We started out with a really solid qualifying. Coming off of Daytona our pace was not as good as we would have liked. To come here and be on pace and able to battle left both myself and the team feeling confident. Our gap was only 1/100 of a second to our competitor, so I’m really happy with how the car ran all weekend. The crew really deserved this; they put together a great car.”

CAMERON CASSELS (No. 38 Centinel Spine/ Orlando Health LMP2) – finished first in LMP2, 17th overall: “It’s incredible to share this win with Performance Tech. To run up front at Daytona and then walk away with a second felt like last place. To come here and pull off a win is incredible. The class was small, but this is multi-class racing, so it was not short of challenges. It really is amazing to walk away from Sebring a winner.”

MIRKO BORTOLOTTI (No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – finished first in GTD, 19th overall: “What a race! Winning Sebring, one of the toughest races on the entire calendar, is just amazing. The last two hours were the toughest of my whole career. First off, I outbraked Andy Lally in the first turn, and then after that, he stuck to my bumper for an hour and a half until we reached the finish line. The slightest mistake would have been enough to lose us the win, and what’s more, I really needed to save fuel but wanted to secure victory more than anything. Hats off to everyone in the team! I’m really proud of every one of them.”

RIK BREUKERS (No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3) – finished first in GTD, 19th overall: “It had already occurred to us during practice that we had the potential to win here. Conditions at the start were very difficult but Rolf [Ineichen] did a great job. Mirko followed him for his stint and won a couple of positions. We lost some ground after that but hit back as night fell. Mirko then did everything possible over the last two hours to try and get us back in the lead. The whole team were outstanding throughout the weekend and pulled off a masterly feat of strategy. We are delighted to have won this prestigious race.”

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”


Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”


Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).