Twelve Hours of Sebring at halfway: Major trouble for DPi title contenders

IMSA
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Two of the three WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title contenders in DPi encountered major trouble through halfway of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

A mechanical disaster struck for Acura Team Penske’s No. 7 barely 40 minutes into the race when pole-sitter Ricky Taylor lost power after his first pit stop.

The team discovered a broken left intercooler and needed 25 minutes for repairs, sending Taylor back on track 11 laps down.

That seemed to put Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac, which entered the Sebring season finale trailing Penske by two points, in the catbird seat.

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But in the fifth hour of the race, the No. 10 lost five laps replacing a radiator after Scott Dixon was punted by the No. 77 Mazda being driven by Oliver Jarvis. Dixon also picked up a drive-through penalty for passing under caution (the second penalty of the race for the No. 10 after Renger van der Zande was penalized for an improper lane change on the start).

“That was two stints of hell for me,” Dixon, who had won in his previous two endurance races with the team this season in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Petit Le Mans, told NBC Sports’ Marty Snider. “Getting connected in turn 10 did a ton of damage to the car. We were having a smooth day until that happened.

“I think there was no way (Jarvis) was going to make the corner. I kind of saw him coming and tried to give him enough (room) without braking myself. I don’t think it was our fault.”

At the six-hour mark of the race, Acura Team Penske’s full-time duo of Taylor and Helio Castroneves (who are joined by Alexander Rossi this weekend) were a point ahead of the WTR tandem of Ryan Briscoe and van der Zande (who have six-time IndyCar champion Dixon as an endurance teammate).

The No. 10 was five laps down in seventh, and the No. 7 was eight laps down in eighth.

The No. 10 Cadillac DPi of Renger Van Der Zande, Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon (IMSA).

Pipo Derani of the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac was seven points behind and still could win the title with a Sebring victory.

Acura Team Penske, which had won four of the past five races, is trying to win its second consecutive championship before exiting the series as Acura moves to Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing next season.

“It’s absolutely agonizing,” Castroneves, who is trying to win his first championship with Penske in what’s likely his final start of a 20-year career at the team, told Snider. “Watching us doing everything we can to get laps back. Then seeing what happened to the 10, it was incredibly difficult, but you can never count on what’s going to happen. Still a lot of race to go. Have to keep fighting.”

In other classes:

–Nick Tandy led in GTLM with the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR-19, trying to give the core Autosport factory team a victory in Porsche Motorsport’s final race before leaving IMSA’s top GT division.

–In GTD, the No. 48 Lamborghini was leading while the championship battle remained tight between the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 and the No. 16 Porsche 911 GT3R.

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.”