Five Takeaways: Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts
Monday, March 18, 2019

It was another grueling Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts last Saturday, made even more challenging by morning rain showers.

But a strong field of 38 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams and many of the world’s best sports car racers put on a show that won’t soon be forgotten. In the end, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R shared by Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran won in the closest finish ever at Sebring – as Nasr crossed the stripe just 1.030 seconds ahead of Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi.

The GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) races were also close. The No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki won at Sebring for the second straight year by just 1.951 seconds over the No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais in GTLM. In GTD, just 2.724 seconds separated the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers from the second-place No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini of Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly.

Let’s take a closer look at the action with our five takeaways from Sebring:

 

1. Clean and Green for the Most Part

If the over/under on full-course yellows going into the race was set at five, most people definitely would have taken the over, especially with mornings rains that caused the race to start behind the safety car. But if you would have bet the over, you’d have lost.

The track was still plenty damp when the green flag flew for the first time 40 minutes into the race, but aside from a spin or two – and an epic save by Tom Blomqvist after getting all kinds of squirrely when he blasted through a puddle on the frontstretch – everybody got through the rainy period relatively unscathed.

In fact, the first full-course caution after the initial green flag didn’t come out until two hours and 21 minutes into the race and it was for a mechanical issue on the No. 77 Mazda DPi. The next one after that didn’t come until three and a half hours later, when Jonathan Bomarito slipped off course into the Turn 14 tire barrier in the No. 55 Mazda. It was the only FCY of the day involving contact, and the team was able to repair the No. 55 relatively quickly and get it back on track for the duration.

The final two – one in the 10th hour for the No. 9 Starworks Motorsport Audi and the other with less than 15 minutes left in the race for the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW – both were for mechanical issues.

Sebring is a tough track under any circumstances and it was a tremendous job by the whole field to keep it clean and green for the most part.

 

2. Lamborghini’s 72 Hours of Florida Sweep

Since its victory in the 2018 Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Lamborghini Huracán GT3 has been the car to have in Florida endurance races. In three of those races – both Rolex 24s and last Saturday’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts – it was the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team entry taking the honors, while the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini won last year at Sebring.

The Italian manufacturer went a step further last Saturday in Sebring, sweeping the top two positions on the GTD podium, with the No. 44 Magnus Racing Huracán coming home just behind the No. 11 Grasser Lamborghini.

Which Lamborghini would win was very much in question for the final hour of the race, though. Lally kept the pressure on Bortolotti and pulled out almost all the stops to get what would have been his and Potter’s second Sebring win for Magnus.

“Man, when you’ve won Sebring already, the only other thing to do is win it again,” Lally said. “So, a second stings a little bit, especially being that close. It’s not like we made a pass from third to second on the last lap. We were right there for the last two hours. We were just pace for pace and we’d get separated a little bit and go back and separated and go back.

“Probably if he wasn’t a Lamborghini, I’m going to be totally honest, I would’ve nerfed him in (Turn) 5 and just moved him off the groove a little bit. But I know that wouldn’t be good manufacturer relations for only our second race with Lamborghini. I’ve got to applaud them for helping us build a really good car, and obviously a 1-2 finish.”

 

3. Five Straight Sebring Podiums for Scuderia Corsa

While Lamborghinis may have won back-to-back years at Sebring, there’s no GTD team that has performed better over the last half decade than the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari program. On Saturday, Cooper MacNeil, Toni Vilander and Jeff Westphal brought the WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 home in third place, marking the team’s fifth consecutive podium at Sebring.

“To take our fifth consecutive podium at Sebring felt great and is a testament to the talent of our team,” said Scuderia Corsa Team Owner Giacomo Mattioli. “I am very pleased with the performance of everyone, from the drivers to the crew, who gave this race their all. Our car was strong when it mattered the most, at the end of the race. I’m really happy for Cooper and Jeff, and Toni handled a very high-pressure end to the race, but delivered the car clean and on the podium.”

 

4. Close But No Cigar – Again – for No. 67 Ford GT Squad

Under different circumstances, the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Ford GT and its trio of drivers – Richard Westbrook, Ryan Briscoe and Scott Dixon – would be 2019 Rolex 24 At Daytona and/or Twelve Hours of Sebring winners.

At Daytona, a late pit stop just two laps from what ended up being the finish of the rain-shortened race took them from the lead to fourth in the final race standings. At Sebring, the No. 67 dominated most of the race, leading 270 of the 330 laps GT Le Mans (GTLM) laps completed.

Late-race yellows played right into the hands of the GTLM-winning No. 911 Porsche, enabling them to get into the lead on strategy. But the No. 67 was fast and Briscoe was charging on the race’s final restart with under 10 minutes remaining until he spun while trying to overtake Lally – who was between him and Tandy and was trying to win his own race in GTD.

With that, the No. 67 fell back to sixth in the final race standings.

“You always end up having a fight on your hands until the very end,” Westbrook said. “Ryan and Scott did an amazing job. It looked like it was going to come down to fuel mileage at the end until about 15 minutes to go. Ryan was trying to hang on and get around lapped traffic, fighting all the way to the end. I’m proud of the team and the effort overall and look forward to Long Beach.”

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing still managed a podium result despite the late spin, as the No. 66 Ford GT came home second with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais.

“(After) that last yellow it got fun, man,” Hand said. “It was like the old days. We were racing through GTDs, I think I passed, like, eight cars in five corners. We were just talking about it. It’s all about the show, right? As long as the fans had a good show, that’s what I come here for. I love for people to come to the fence and cheer.”

 

5. No. 7 Acura DPi Squad Salvages Fourth After Early Struggles

After Dane Cameron scored the Motul Pole Award in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi and Helio Castroneves put the No. 7 Acura third on the starting grid in Friday qualifying, the two-car squad had high hopes for a strong run in Saturday’s race.

But the wet conditions early on proved diabolical for both cars. Cameron fell back in the field as soon as the green flag was displayed and the No. 6 trio of Cameron, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud battled electrical issues throughout the race – leaving them ninth at the checkered flag.

The No. 7 of Castroneves, Ricky Taylor and Alexander Rossi also had their hands full with the wet setup, culminating in a spin by Taylor in Turn 17 in which Taylor’s belts came unfastened and forcing an unscheduled pit stop. The No. 7 Acura ended up losing two laps early on, but gamely stayed in the battle and eventually found their way back to the lead lap.

In the end, the No. 7 came home fourth on a day that could have been much worse. That performance coupled with their third-place showing in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona has Taylor and Castroneves just nine points out of the two-way tie for first in the DPi point standings between the Daytona-winning No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R team and season-long co-drivers Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande, and the Sebring-winning No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi of Nasr and Derani.

“We really got behind the 8-ball right from the beginning in the wet,” said Rossi. “The entire Acura Team Penske organization rallied after that to make up a two-lap deficit without any yellow flags to help us out as much as we would have liked. To bring the No. 7 Acura home in fourth, kind of a ‘best of the rest’ situation, is a positive, but we come here wanting to win.”

Salvaging a fourth-place result on a day like that, though, may go a long way in the DPi championship battle later on.

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