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Anatomy of a Sebring Finish Involves Guts, Heart and Pride

Nail-Biting Conclusion Leaves Top Two in DPi Relieved and Grateful

By Jeff Olson

SEBRING, Fla. – Minutes after the race, Tristan Vautier stood behind the stage hosting champagne-spraying celebrations. Helmet in hand, covered in sweat, he praised his team for an effort that fell just seconds short.

Twenty feet away, Earl Bamber talked about his unusual final stint, with its two incidents, a penalty and two surges back into the lead. The winner was self-deprecating and grateful, the runner-up reserved and grateful.

Their differing reactions neatly wrapped up a race that wasn’t neat at all. The Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts on Saturday was difficult, to put it mildly. It was rough, hot, intense and – perhaps above all – implausibly close.

“I ran out of time,” said Vautier, who was within 2 seconds of Bamber during the final laps before finishing second. “Hell of a ride. I drove my heart out.”

The Daytona Prototype international (DPi) victory went to Bamber, Alex Lynn and Neel Jani in the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. The final margin was 6.471 seconds, but only because Vautier, with his No. 5 JDC Miller-MotorSports Cadillac light on fuel, slowed during the final lap to ensure the runner-up finish.

If Vautier drove his heart out, Bamber drove his guts out. Twice he made contact in traffic – one incident leading to a drive-through penalty – and twice he charged back into the lead. Afterward, he called it “some of the best driving I’ve done and some of the worst.”

Bamber credited Lynn and Jani – the latter summoned five days before the race when Kevin Magnussen went to Formula One – for their outstanding drives leading up to the late drama.

“Awesome job to recover,” Bamber said. “You win championships when you can recover from your bad moments. If you can have a bit of a bad moment like that and still win the race, it’s looking pretty good.”

The DPi class wasn’t the only one with a tight margin of finish after 12 hours of hard racing. The No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R GTD – co-driven by Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Nicky Catsburg – won the GTD PRO class by 4.438 seconds over the No. 63 TR3 Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 co-driven by Mirko Bortolotti, Marco Mapelli and Andrea Caldarelli.

Only one of the five classes – PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ win over Racing Team Nederland in Le Mans Prototype 2 – came by a margin of more than a lap. Overall, the No. 02 Ganassi Cadillac set a DPi distance record for the race with 351 laps (1,312.74 miles).

He wasn’t sure during the podium celebration, but Vautier and his teammates are leading the DPi standings in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship heading to the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach next month. One more reason to smile.

“We’re the smallest team here,” Vautier said. “We make every dollar go a very long way, and today we drove our hearts out. The team executed everything perfectly. I’m very grateful to them. We can all be proud.”