Even after being targeted by the dreaded Balance of Performance the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing/Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi V.R was the class of the field at the 65th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring taking the overall victory followed by the No.5 Action Express Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi V.R of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque finishing second.
Ricky Taylor crossed the finish line after 12 hours of racing with a healthy 13.614-second lead over the No.5. and was never seriously challenged. The win marks the first Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring for all three drivers, Jordan and Ricky Taylor and Alex Lynn. It also marks the second consecutive year overall Rolex 24 At Daytona winners also won at Sebring (No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Honda-Ligier won last year) and this year's Daytona-Sebring sweep for Taylor brothers comes 21 years after father Wayne Taylor accomplished the same feat in 1996.
“I really wanted this race win to be conventional,” said Ricky Taylor. “This was a dominant win, so nobody can question it.”
Added Lynn, “Obviously it was a real dream come true to be honest. I had a lot of fun working with Ricky and Jordan over the last few weeks at the test and now on race weekend. I got on the plane coming here dreaming it’d be cool if we won, but never thinking it could happen. Obviously this exceeded my expectations. It's been just a dream start. (adjustment to this type of environment?) I think the first adjustment came about 30 seconds into my first restart to quickly realize what this is all about. It’s a big change for me and a big challenge. But Ricky and Jordan gave me a chance to do well today, they gave me a lot of advice so thanks to them. They drove fantastic today.”
Unlike the controversy hanging over the late race contact between Ricky Taylor and Christian Fittipaldi the No.10 ran away with the race.
“They ran a flawless race, they did an excellent job,” said Fittipaldi of the No. 10 team. “They were very strong when it counted. We pretty much got beat fair and square.”
The No.5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi of Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi, Filipe Albuquerque finished second followed by the the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Cadillac DPi V.R of Dane Cameron, Eric Curran and Mike Conway in third, making it a Cadillac sweep of the Sebring podium.
Finishing fourth was the No. 85 JDC-Miller ORECA LM P2 entry, driven by Chris Miller, Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg. That team moved up from the Prototype Challenge class this year and the leader of the non-Cadillac class.
The No.55 Mazda DPi finished fifth though the team's No. 70, brought out the first of the six full-course caution flags early on as driver Joel Miller lost the car’s brakes and drove hard into the tire wall in turn 17. That car finished eighth.
The No. 13 Rebellion Racing ORECA LM P2 of Sebastien Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Neel Jani started from the pole but ended up ninth in the race after battling a variety of mechanical problems all day.
In Prototype Challenge, it was another repeat winner from Daytona as the No.38 Performance Tech ORECA FLM09 of James French, Kyle Masson and Patricio O’Ward took class honors two laps over the No.8 Starworks ORECA FLM09 of Garrett Grist, Max Hanratty and Sean Rayhall.
“Of course it feels so good to start the season like this. Two concrete victories." said French "It’s just awesome. We did Daytona with no mistakes. Both of these kids drove beyond their years! Coming here, we can actually just enjoy the race. I can watch; I don’t doubt their abilities or anyone on the team. It’s 100 percent enjoyment. Full confidence in everyone. And get the best result possible. What a start to the season; can’t thank everyone in the Performance Tech Motorsports team. (so far has led every TPNAEC segment in two races) I think it’s a combination of everything boiled down to good chemistry. It’s a very stress-free environment. We have fun. Good chemistry, good
people, very talented guys.”
In GTLM the No. 3 Corvette of Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia and Mike Rockenfeller out ran the the Ford Chip Ganassi team's three car effort to complete their string of crown jewel endurance race wins, the 2016 24 Hours of Le Mans, the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona, and now the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.
The Ford GTs did post faster lap times than the Corvette, as did one of the two new Porsche 911 RSRs, but races aren’t just won with speed on the track as sometimes speed in the pits can make up for a lot. The No. 4 Corvette’s last pit stop was exceptional, putting the car out in front of the rest of the field, and driver Antonio Garcia drove a very fast final stint.
“Winning is always everything, especially after last year." said Garcia "We couldn’t contend in the race and it was very sad. Not winning Daytona, and then a crushing last year here was a downside for the 3 car. We were looking forward for this race. Even if we saw it coming, even if we didn’t have the car to win, we put our heads down. It was perfection, I would say. We only got caught once with one safety car for a touch of fuel. Other than that, not a single mistake. If you want to win races in GTLM where everything is close, that’s what you need to do. This was a perfect race and I just kept my head down, passed those guys when I knew I had to do it, and just went for it. When I was in the lead, I kept my head down. I don’t know if that Porsche would have caught me. He was flying; I’m not sure I would have kept him behind, but I know I would have made it hard for him to pass. I think today was my day and this team did an awesome job."
The margin of victory was 4.43 seconds over the second-place No.66 Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and guest driver Sebastien Bourdais. Third was the No.62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella and James Calado. Fourth and fifth were the other two Ford GTs, the No.67, followed by the No.68. Sixth was the No.25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM, seventh was the No.911 Porsche 911 RSR. All seven cars were on the lead lap.
In GT Daytona (GTD) the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes AMG GT3 took the win, the first for Mercedes at Sebring in 60 years. Ben Keating shared the car with Jeroen Bleekemolen and Mario Farnbacher. It was the first win at Sebring for Keating and his team, and it was sweet.
“We won the 2015 11 Hours and 56 Minutes of Sebring in 2015,” Keating said, “But our engine didn’t make it to the end.” Even worse was 2014, when Keating was driving his Viper early in the race and it caught fire, and practically burned to the ground. “We were third at Daytona, and first here, so we’re batting a thousand on podium finishes so far,” he said.
Second in the GTD class was the team that won Sebring last year, the No.63 Scuderia Corse Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Matteo Cressoni. Third was another Mercedes, the class pole sitting No.75 SunEnergy1 Racing car of Kenny Habul, Boris Said and Tristan Vautier.
That third place almost went to the No.16 Change Racing/Monster Energy Lamborghini Huracán GT3, but it ran out of gas on the very last lap and ended up 11th in class. The No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R that won the Rolex 24 finished 10th in class, and was never a factor.
The race was fast and surprisingly clean, though in the first half of the race, there were numerous mechanical problems, which one team manager suggested were due to drivers running over the curbs in the corners too hard. After the sun went down, the attrition slowed, and the drivers seem to settle into a rhythm.
For those three classes, the next race on this year’s schedule is on the tight street course at the Long Beach Grand Prix April 7-8, with the Prototype Challenge class taking the weekend off.
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