Race Weekend Central

Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 02 Cadillac Wins Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring

Chip Ganassi Racing’s Earl Bamber passed JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Richard Westbrook with 45 minutes to go for the overall lead.  From there, Bamber opened up a four-second lead and was able to hold on to claim victory the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Saturday (March 19) at Sebring International Raceway for himself and teammates Neel Jani and Alex Lynn.  It is Ganassi’s second overall victory at Sebring (the first came in 2014).

Sebastien Bourdais started from the pole in Ganassi’s No. 01 Cadillac, but his chances of winning were over in the race’s first minute.  On the first lap, Bourdais’ car developed a gearbox problem.  He was unable to shift without using the clutch due to an electrical gremlin.

For garden variety manual transmission cars, this isn’t so much of a problem if you know what you’re doing.  A Cadillac DPi-V.R. is not designed to be driven like a Honda Civic Si.  It is designed to be driven by a left-foot braker.  Bourdais stated on the radio, “I can’t drive the car like this!”  A series of pit stops ultimately put the team 34 laps down before the car was finally fixed.  They would ultimately finish 44 laps down in 35th overall.

With the pole-sitting Ganassi Cadillac out of the way, the first couple of hours of the race were dominated by Action Express Racing.  Pipo Derani snatched the lead on the first lap and led early.  Later on, Jose Maria Lopez led in the Ally-sponsored No. 48.  However, even then, the No. 48 Cadillac was emitting a high amount of brake dust from the front wheels.  This was the beginning of a brake rotor issue that ultimately took the team out of the hunt in the final two hours.

In the final four hours of the race, Ganassi’s No. 02 Cadillac wit Lynn settled into a healthy rhythm.  With no cautions beyond 5:30 p.m. ET (the middle of the eighth hour), Lynn was able to build up a lead of over 30 seconds.

This lead held until there were 75 minutes to go.  Bamber made his second-t0-last pit stop and got way too aggressive on his out lap.  In turn 3, he came across Kuno Wittmer in the LMP3 entry from Andrew Wojteczko Autosport (AWA).  Bamber ran into Wittmer, spinning him out.  This was judged to be avoidable contact, triggering a drive-through penalty.

As a result, Bamber went from 31 seconds in front of JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Westbrook to six seconds behind.  Bamber re-focused himself and attempted to run Westbrook back down.  It took nearly a half-hour to do, but the ultimate pass was made very easy thanks to lapped traffic pushing Westbrook wide exiting turn 16.

During the final round of stops, Westbrook exited the Mustang Sampling-sponsored Cadillac in favor of Tristan Vautier.  Vautier tried to run down Bamber, but couldn’t make any real progress without lapped traffic.  He then lost the time that he gained once he had to deal with the traffic.  As a result, Bamber was never threatened over the final run of the race to victory.

The margin of victory was 6.471 seconds over Vautier, Westbrook and Loic Duval.  Derani, Mike Conway and Tristan Nunez were third.  Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque, Will Stevens and Ricky Taylor were fourth, while Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Stoffel Vandoorne were fifth.

In LMP2, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Ben Keating started from the pole and opened up a sizable gap early on in the race.  In the second hour, DragonSpeed entered the conversation once Sebastian Montoya got in the No. 81 ORECA 07-Gibson.  Sebastian was able to run down the No. 52, take the class lead and turn some of the fastest laps of the whole race for the class.

Late in the third hour, Juan Pablo Montoya got into the car for his first stint.  It didn’t take long before trouble erupted.  A couple of laps later, Muehlner Motorsports America’s Alec Udell spun in turn 1 on his own and partially blocked the track.  Juan Pablo had nowhere to go but into the left rear corner of Paul Miller Racing’s Erik Johansson and Udell.  The impacts broke the front end on the DragonSpeed entry and fully disabled the car, ending Juan Pablo’s day on the spot.  Johansson also went behind the wall for repairs, but later returned to the race.

Juan Pablo Montoya’s crash put Racing Team Nederland’s Giedo van der Garde in the class lead.  Van der Garde held that lead until he made a pit stop in the fourth hour.  That stop allowed Scott Huffaker to take the class lead back for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports.  No one realized it at the time, but this ended up being the pass for the class victory.

From there, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports gradually pulled away from the rest of the class due to reliability and good pace.  For much of the final few hours of the race, the Wynn’s-sponsored No. 52 was a full lap ahead of anyone else in the class.  The team of Keating, Huffaker and Mikkel Jensen were able to easily hold to take the class win.

The margin was officially a full lap at the finish over the Racing Team Nederland No. 29 of van der Garde, Frits van Eerd and Dylan Murry, but that was due to the positioning of the overall leader at the finish.  At the white flag, Jensen had a 100.22 second on van der Garde (or, van der Garde was 15 seconds ahead of Jensen).

Era Motorsport’s Ryan Dalziel, Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman were third, while the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Jonathan Bomarito, Steven Thomas and Josh Pierson were two laps down in fourth.  United Autosports’ Jim McGuire, Guy Smith and Duncan Tappy were three laps down in fifth.

The LMP3 class in endurance races is often a battle of survival.  Even with 10 teams starting the race, Saturday’s race ended up such an event.

Riley Motorsports’ Gar Robinson led from the pole early, but committed an unforced error and spun early in Sunset Bend from the lead, giving the advantage to Muehlner Motorsports America’s Harry Gottsacker.  However, it was Performance Tech Motorsports’ No. 38 with Cameron Shields, Rasmus Lindh and Dan Goldburg that was the class of the field early on, leading much of the first couple of hours.

As the race went on, the attrition.  AWA’s No. 13 spent time in the garage, as did FASTMD Racing’s Duqueine M30-D08-Nissan.  The Riley Motorsports No. 74 with Kay van Berlo at the wheel had contact that broke a radiator.  This resulted in a bunch of water draining out of the team’s Ligier JS P320-Nissan.  Van Berlo took the car to the garage relatively quickly, but the damage had been done.  The Muehlner Motorsports America entry was retired after Gottsacker slid off and crashed into the tire curtain in Sunset Bend.

Ultimately, the race came down to two cars.  These were the Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier of Joao Barbosa, Malthe Jakobsen and Dr. Lance Willsey and the JrIII Racing No. 30 of Ari Balogh, series debutant Dakota Dickerson and Garret Grist.  Jakobsen ultimately took the class lead late in the eighth hour from van Berlo.  From this point on, the Sean Creech No. 33 was not threatened en route to their first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship class victory.

The margin of victory was 48.586 seconds over Balogh, Dickerson and Grist.  The Performance Tech Motorsports No. 38 ended up eight laps down in third after Goldburg slid off-course in turn 3, forcing the team to make significant repairs.  AWA’s Wittmer, Orey Fidani and Lars Kern were 12 laps down in fourth, while CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and George Kurtz ended up 23 laps down in fifth after the car stalled leaving the pits.  This resulted in a stint in the paddock for repairs.

The GTD Pro class early on was a battle between Risi Competizione’s Daniel Serra and TR3 Racing’s Mirko Bortolotti.  The two drivers fought hard for the class lead while Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia gave chase.  During the first round of pit stops, Garcia was able to jump both Bortolotti and Serra to put the Chevrolet Corvette C8.R into the class lead.  Risi Competizione was competitive for much of the race, but a trip behind the wall for repairs cost them five laps that they were unable to get back.

For much of the race, the primary competition for Corvette Racing was BMW M Team RLL’s No. 24 BMW M4 GT3, shared by Philipp Eng, Marco Wittmann and Nick Yelloly.  The two teams swapped the lead back and forth multiple times before Corvette Racing’s Nicky Catsburg took control late in the seventh hour.   From there, the team only relinquished the lead during rounds of pit stops en route to victory for Garcia, Catsburg and Jordan Taylor.

Corvette Racing’s margin of victory was 4.438 seconds over the TR3 Racing Lamborghini of Bortolotti, Andrea Caldarelli and Marco Mapelli.  WeatherTech Racing’s No. 97 Mercedes for Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Cooper MacNeil were a lap down in third, followed by Eng, Wittmann and Yelloly after a late fade.  PFAFF Motorsports’ Porsche for Matt Campbell, Felipe Nasr and Mathieu Jaminet were fifth.  Vasser Sullivan’s No. 14 Lexus for Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and Aaron Telitz was in position for a podium before they ran into mechanical woes in the final two laps that put them out.

The GTD class started out a lot like the DPi class.  Wright Motorsports’ Zacharie Robichon led from pole, but immediately ran into issues.  The Porsche 911 GT3 R was suffering from intermittent rev surging.  Eventually, the team determined that the car had a differential issue and had to go to the paddock to get it fixed.  After a few laps back there, they emerged multiple laps down.  They would eventually finish 10th, 16 laps down.

Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley took the lead on the first lap and ran very well.  Teammates Bill Auberlen and Michael Dinan were able to keep the BMW M4 GT3 at the front of the class for much of the race.  Paul Miller Racing’s BMW was up front as well in the early hours, but the aforementioned crash with Juan Pablo Montoya and Udell ended any chances for a good finish.

Meanwhile, Cetilar Racing didn’t have the cleanest race out there.  Early on, the car was involved in two separate incidents.  One was a somewhat harmless spin exiting turn 3.  The other saw Giorgio Sernagiotto spin exiting turn 1 and hit the tire barrier.  The hit sheared off part of the left front fender and bent the rear wing (although it bent back into the proper position after getting out of the tires).  In addition, the hit required the drivers’ side door to be replaced.  That door had not been painted or wrapped to match the rest of the car, so they had a red door on a blue Ferrari 488 GT3.

Later on, Auberlen was spun out of the class lead by Antonio Fuoco in turn 3 early in the eighth hour.  This incident resulted in a drive-through penalty for Fuoco.

Over the next couple of hours, the team was able to make up the 35-second deficit to the Turner BMW.  With the help of slightly fresher tires, Fuoco was able to run down the No. 96 and take the class lead with 77 minutes remaining.  From there, Fuoco ran away and hid.  The Cetilar Racing team of Fuoco, Sernagiotto and Roberto Lacorte were not threatened for the remainder of the race on the way to their first IMSA victory.

Cetilar Racing’s margin of victory was 49.348 seconds over the Gilbert/Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes of Daniel Juncadella, Stevan McAleer and Mike Skeen.  Much like at Daytona, the second-place finish is the team’s best-ever finish in IMSA.

AF Corse’s No. 21 Ferrari for Simon Mann, Luis Perez Companc and Toni Vilander was third, while Auberlen, Dinan and Foley fell back to fourth.  Inception Racing’s McLaren 720S GT3 for Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Jordan Pepper ended up a lap down in fifth.


IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams have a split-schedule going forward.  The next race on the schedule is the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, a 100-minute sprint race on the streets of Long Beach on April 9 for the DPi, GTD Pro and GTD classes.  The next race for the LMP2 class is the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championships at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on May 1.  The next LMP3 race is at Mid-Ohio on May 16.

About the author

Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.

Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.

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