Leading Driver Conway Paying Tribute to Late Father by Racing
By Jeff Olson
SEBRING, Fla. – Mike Conway paid tribute to his father by leading the field a third of the way through the 70th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts.
Four hours into Saturday’s race, Conway had the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) class lead in the historic endurance race at Sebring International Raceway.
Conway, who co-drives the Action Express Racing car with Pipo Derani and Tristan Nunez, honored his dad, Michael Conway, who passed away on Friday, with an Instagram post and message.
“Today we lost a great man who will be sorely missed by many but more so by me and my family,” Conway wrote. “Really is a tough day for everyone who knew him, but I’ll always remember all the racing we did together and all the hours in the garage tinkering with cars. Mostly dad fixing all the things I broke but I learned a lot from this man, and I miss you so much, Pops. Rest in peace, love you.”
Live streaming of the race continues on Peacock through the conclusion shortly after 10 p.m. ET. USA Network opens its TV coverage at 3:30 p.m. and will continue through the finish.
At the four-hour mark, none of the pole winners was leading in any of the five IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes, including the No. 1 overall and DPi starter. On the first lap of the race, Motul Pole Award winner Sebastien Bourdais brought the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R into the pits with a problem in the car’s gearbox.
Persistent issues sent the No. 01 car – co-driven by Bourdais, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Renger van der Zande – back to the pits and paddock several times. At the four-hour mark, it was on track but 34 laps behind.
“We took the No. 01 to the garage and changed the gearbox after having downshifting problems,” team manager Steve Eriksen said. “We tried a number of counter measures in the pits to correct but later realized we needed to change the whole gearbox to eliminate the issue.”
The class leaders four hours into the race were Conway in DPi, Giedo van der Garde in the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA LMP2 07 in Le Mans Prototype (LMP2), Dakota Dickerson in the No. 30 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 in Le Mans Prototype 3 (LMP3), Jordan Taylor in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD in GTD PRO and Michael de Quesada in the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 in GT Daytona (GTD).
Just 10 minutes into the race, Zacharie Robichon pulled the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R – the pole sitter in GTD and class winner in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January – into the pits. It soon went to the garage to repair the differential and fell laps off the pace. Little more than two hours into the race the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3, the pole winner in GTD PRO, needed repairs for a power steering issue.
At the 2:43 mark, Alec Udell’s No. 6 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 LMP3 spun on the exit of Turn 1, taking out Juan Pablo Montoya, who had just gotten into the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA that was leading in LMP2. Montoya was caught between the No. 6 and the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 driven by Erik Johansson.
“I saw everyone slowing down going into Turn 1, so I really backed off,” Montoya said. “I lifted really early and downshifted and rolled through the corner actually pretty slow. I saw the car spinning in front of me. And when the guy spun he got off the brakes. I had nowhere to go. They all checked up and I backed off, but they all just stopped.”
Montoya had inherited the lead from his son, Sebastian, the 16-year-old making his WeatherTech Championship debut who stormed from more than a minute back to take the lead in his stint at the wheel.
“My dad had nothing to do with that,” Sebastian Bourdais said of the incident that ended the day for the No. 81. “My dad has a lot of experience and what he did, honestly, I think is what everybody would have done, so it’s really disappointing.”
The Twelve Hours of Sebring also serves as the second of four races included in the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup, with separate points being awarded at designated junctures in the race. At Sebring, points are awarded at the four- and eight-hour marks and the race finish. The leader in each class earns five points at each juncture, four points for second place, third points for third and two points for all other competitors.
With Michelin Endurance Cup points from the Sebring four-hour mark added to those earned at the Rolex 24, the class leaders were: the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-05 in DPi; the No. 29 Racing Team Nederland ORECA in LMP2; the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 in LMP3; the No. 2 KCMG Mercedes AMG-GT3 in GTD PRO; and the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in GTD.