Acura Team Penske, Wayne Taylor Racing keep trading punches at Sebring

Sebring 12 Hours qualifying

The top two contenders in the premier division of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship were 1-2 in the same order for Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring qualifying Friday, setting up a fierce 12-hour battle for the DPi title at Sebring International Raceway.

Ricky Taylor captured the pole position for Acura Team Penske with a 1-minute, 46.874-second lap around the 17-turn, 3.74-mile road course, beating Renger van der Zande of Wayne Taylor Racing (1:47.125).

Penske’s No. 7 Acura, which is being driven at Sebring by Taylor, Helio Castroneves and Alexander Rossi, will enter Saturday’s season finale leading the championship by two points over the No. 10 Cadillac that is bring piloted by van der Zande, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon.

The championship contenders have spent the past two days at Sebring trading best times with van der Zande setting the quick time Thursday while Castroneves and Rossi also paced morning and afternoon practices.

QUALIFYING RESULTS: Full field rundown l Breakdown by class

SEBRING DETAILS: How to watch the 12-hour season in finale on NBCSN, NBC

With Sebring’s annual endurance classic being held in November instead of its traditional mid-March date, the race will feature more laps under darkness than ever in its 68-year history, and Taylor was relieved after pacing Thursday night practice over the Cadillacs, whose track record and pace at Sebring is formidable.

Ricky Taylor celebrates his pole position with teammate Helio Castroneves (IMSA).

“On these bumpy tracks, the Cadillacs are very strong, and having driven the 10 car before at Sebring, I know it’s always good at night,” said Taylor, who raced for his father’s No. 10 team before joining Penske in 2018. “This year, we’re going to have a lot of night time (racing), and so I just don’t think we can rest. I think we showed a lot of pace in night practice yesterday.

“I think the track changes so much, you’re just going to have to adapt on the fly, whether it’s changes inside the car, tire pressure, whether it’s nose changes or whatever the team can do, you’re just going to have to make sure you keep up with it all the way through and have that track position with a couple hours to go.

“The way the practice went, we definitely haven’t looked so great. We came to the track thinking we were pretty refined after being here already once this year (for a July 18 race). But yeah, this time of the year with the wind and all that’s going on, it’s thrown a bit of a curveball at everybody. So I think it’s forced everyone to adapt. I think difficult is good. I think difficult is going to make everybody work harder.”

In a team release, van der Zande was optimistic. “That’s a great start, being on the front row,” he said. “It’s going to be a long race. Qualifying isn’t that important for a long race, but it shows where you are in terms of the speed of the car compared to the others.”

The wildly different conditions are just one of many storylines to follow. Of the full-time drivers in the top two cars in DPi, only Castroneves has announced his 2021 plans. Briscoe and van der Zande are out of full-time rides as WTR moves next season to Acura, the manufacturer it’s trying to beat for its swan song with Cadillac. Ricky Taylor is believed to be a strong candidate to return to his father’s team in the switch next year.

Also in the mix for the title is the No. 31 Cadillac of Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr and Gabby Chaves that is nine points out of the lead and also could claim the crown with a victory and some help. Taylor, who was involved in a memorable fight for the lead with Derani at the Petit Le Mans, said that “as dramatic as it is between the top two, you just throw the 31 in there, and it is a 12 hour at the most difficult track in the world as far as reliability. I think anything can happen.”

“It’s just such an amazing way to end a championship,” Ricky Taylor said. “If you’re a fan, you want it to come down to the last race and whoever wins the race, wins the championship, and I don’t think you could have scripted it any better, and to be racing against the 10 car of all teams, it’s really weird. But it’s fun, I wouldn’t rather be racing against anyone else.

“To start a 12 hour literally next to the championship contender is pretty intense. I think it’s going to be a case of not relaxing and not taking the pressure off and full focus for the whole race. We have to manage our race and control it as best we can.”

In qualifying for other divisions

GTD: Entering the finale seven points out of the lead, the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R of Wright Motorsports qualified first with driver Jan Heylen, seven spots ahead of the No. 86 Acura of Meyer Shank Racing with Cub-Agajanian that leads the championship.

GTLM: Already having clinched the championship, Antonio Garcia won the pole position for Corvette Racing’s No. 3 C8.R with a track-record 1:55.456 lap that bested the field by over a half-second.

“It was a perfect lap,” Garcia said. “We gambled on something different, and it seems to be working. … I’ve always enjoyed this race. Since we found out about the date change, I knew that finishing at Sebring would have been very tough. Fighting for a championship at such a hard event would have been difficult. I’m glad we got it out of the way.”

LMP2: Patrick Kelly put the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 on top with a lap of 1:51.373.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.