Action Express Racing’s Jack Aitken took the lead with 19 minutes to go Saturday night (March 18) when Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque and Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Mathieu Jaminet had contact on the run to turn 3. That contact resulted in a crash that collected Albuquerque, Jaminet, and Jaminet’s teammate Felipe Nasr, the top three drivers at the time. Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Risi Competizione’s Daniel Serra were also involved.
Aitken was then able to hold off BMW M Team RLL’s Nick Yelloly to win the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring along with teammates Pipo Derani and Alexander Sims. It is Action Express’ third 12 Hours of Sebring victory.
Action Express Racing’s margin of victory was 2.94 seconds over Yelloly, Connor de Phillippi and Sheldon van der Linde. They were the only two GTP cars to finish the race. Jaminet, Dane Cameron and Nick Tandy in the Porsche No. 6 were credited with third, then the Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Acura of Albuquerque, Louis Deletraz and Ricky Taylor. The No. 7 Porsche of Nasr, Matt Campbell and Michael Christensen were credited with fifth.
Derani led the 53-car field to green and almost immediately ended up in a battle for the overall lead with Ricky Taylor. After an early yellow, Derani was able to pull out a decent advantage. Meanwhile, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais was able to get past Taylor to retake second.
The first round of stops ultimately swung the race significantly. A slow pit stop for Derani despite not taking tires allowed Bourdais to take the lead. He was able to pull away as Derani began to struggle on his worn tires.
Derani had dropped down the order significantly before Performance Tech Motorsports’ Robert Mau spun in front of him in turn 13. Derani had nowhere to go but directly into Mau.
The contact broke the nose, locked up the left front wheel and deposited Derani in the dirt. He was able to continue and keep himself on the lead lap, but ended up having to take emergency service in order to replace the nose after shedding bodywork.
Saturday ended up being quite the day for Mau. Later on, he was slow on track with a little over five hours remaining, causing a full course yellow. During the caution period, after apparently regaining power, Mau drove up through the field as if he were being waved back around and collided into the rear of Cameron’s No. 6 Porsche.
Both cars were damaged, but would continue.
Once the green came back out, the Ganassi No. 01 with Scott Dixon at the wheel began to pull away from the rest of the field, eventually amassing a 32-second lead. The advantage got up to nearly a minute before a crash for TDS Racing’s Francois Heriau just before the five-hour mark brought out a caution and ended Heriau’s day.
Ganassi’s charge came to an end in the ninth hour when a fire broke out in the No. 01 Cadillac. The team tried to make repairs, but ultimately chose to repair the car.
That issue put the Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian No. 60 Acura in the lead. Tom Blomqvist was leading the race until the left rear wheel came off of the car and left him stranded in turn 16. The team was able to make repairs and get back out once the Acura was towed back to the paddock, but they ended up finishing 21 laps down in sixth.
Blomqvist’s issues set up the duel for the win between Albuquerque and Jaminet. Unfortunately, that ended in tears. Aitken was in position to capitalize.
In LMP2, the battle early on was between PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Ben Keating and Heriau. Meanwhile, Crowdstrike Racing with APR’s George Kurtz ran well early before spinning in turn 10 and getting himself high-centered on a curb to draw a yellow.
Keating kept himself up front until he finished his driving stint at the end of third hour and handed over to Alex Quinn. Crowdstrike Racing with APR’s Nolan Siegel, thanks to a wavearound during the Derani caution took the lead at that point.
Tower Motorsport’s No. 8 ORECA 07-Gibson was quite strong on Saturday and took the place of the TDS Racing No. 35 as PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ main competition. However, trouble struck when Kyffin Simpson dropped a wheel exiting turn 1 and spun into the barriers. Luckily, the damage was simply cosmetic. They were back in the game with replacement nose and tail sections.
The race ultimately came down to pit strategy. US RaceTronics’ Loris Spinelli crashed his Lamborghini in turn 3 with 55 minutes to go. Siegel stayed out, but Tower Motorsports’ Scott McLaughlin ducked into the pits to get his final stop out of the way. When Siegel pitted during the caution, McLaughlin ended up with the lead.
From there, McLaughlin held on to take the class victory for himself, Simpson and John Farano. Given the chaos in GTP, the trio ended up finishing third overall.
Tower Motorsports’ margin of victory was .834 seconds over TDS Racing’s No. 11 for Scott Huffaker, Mikkel Jensen and Steven Thomas. Era Motorsport’s Ryan Dalziel, Dwight Merriman and Christian Rasmussen were third, then Keating, Quinn and Paul-Loup Chatin. Kurtz, Siegel and Ben Hanley settled for fifth.
LMP3 started off with a bang when Sean Creech Motorsports’ Dr. Lance Willsey spun out entering turn 1 on the first lap and came to rest in the middle of the track to draw the yellow. All 28 GT cars were able to avoid him and Willsey was able to continue.
Andretti Autosport’s Glenn van Berlo blitzed the field in qualifying to take the pole, but lost his advantage to JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Dan Goldburg. While Goldburg was able to hold the lead during the first hour, Jarett Andretti was able to get the Andretti Autosport team back to the front shortly afterwards.
In the second half of the race, Jr III Racing, likely using setup lessons learned from the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge events last weekend, was dominant. Dakota Dickerson and Garret Grist were able to keep the No. 30 up front until mechanical issues struck in the final hour.
The margin of victory was a lap over Andrew Wojteczko Autosport’s No. 13 shared by Matt Bell, Orey Fidani and Lars Kern. JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Goldburg, Till Bechtolsheimer and Tijmen van der Helm were third, while AWA’s No. 17 for Wayne Boyd, Anthony Mantella and Nico Varrone were fourth. Ave Motorsports’ Trenton Estep, Tonis Kasemets and Seth Lucas were fifth.
In GTD Pro, Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor started from the class pole and ran well early. For the entire first half of the race, Corvette Racing’s main competition was the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes shared by Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella. The two teams swapped the lead back and forth multiple times and were never particularly far away from each other.
Unfortunately, Sebring is well-renowned for bumps and the bumps eventually undid Corvette Racing’s day. A broken damper forced the crew to make a stop under caution that cost the team a lap.
The stop sequence put the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche of Laurens Vanthoor into the class lead. The team had put significant work into their new 911 GT3 R after Klaus Bachler crashed the car in qualifying Friday.
Over the final couple of hours, Vanthoor and Patrick Pilet were able to hold charges from Risi Competizione and VasserSullivan to take the victory. It is the first-ever for the 992-based Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Pfaff Motorsports’ margin of victory was 2.706 seconds over VasserSullivan’s No. 14 Lexus for Ben Barnicoat, Jack Hawksworth and Kyle Kirkwood. WeatherTech Racing was third, followed by Iron Lynx’s Romain Grosjean, Jordan Pepper and Franck Perera. Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner ended up fifth.
In GTD, contact changed the complexion of the class. In the eighth hour, Wright Motorsports’ Zacharie Robichon and Winward Racing’s Philip Ellis collided while fighting for the lead in turn 1. Robichon spun into the tire barrier while Ellis spun himself in turn 3.
The contact with Robichon broke the steering on Ellis’ car. He tried to make it back to the pits, but could not do so. He ultimately retired from the event.
The race came down to a duel between Paul Miller Racing’s BMW, Team Korthoff Motorsports and The Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin. When Roman DeAngelis had mechanical issues, Madison Snow took the lead in the BMW and held on to take the class win for himself, Bryan Sellers and Corey Lewis.
Paul Miller Racing’s margin of victory was 1.532 seconds over Turner Motorsport’s Michael Dinan, Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher. Kelly-Moss Road & Race’s No. 92 Porsche for Julian Andlauer, David Brule and Alec Udell were third, then the Inception Racing McLaren of Brendan Iribe, Ollie Millroy and Frederic Schandorff. VasserSullivan’s No. 12 Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo, Aaron Telitz and Parker Thompson were fifth.
From here, there is a split schedule going forward. The GTP class and both GTD classes will compete in the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 15. LMP2 teams race next at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on May 14, while LMP3 teams are off until Watkins Glen in June.
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