Derani, Honda Win 12H Sebring in Thrilling Finish

The winning No. 2 Ligier Honda
The winning No. 2 Ligier Honda

Once again, the 22-year-old driver from Brazil, Pipo Derani, passed three cars in the last 10 minutes of the race to take the victory for the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Honda HPD Ligier JS P2 – much like he did at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. But unlike Daytona, Sebring threw some extreme weather conditions at the young driver and his team, causing a lengthy delay and some brutal on-track conditions.

Before the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season kickoff at Daytona, Derani, a factory driver for Ligier, was virtually unknown, until he steered the team of Scott Sharp, Johannes van Overbeek and Patr¢n Spirits CEO Ed Brown to a win.

At Daytona, it seemed Derani could drive to the front at will. That didn't happen at Sebring until his last couple of stints, but the rough 3.740-mile track is a hard one to master. Plus, it was Derani's first time here. "It's a very difficult track to learn, with all the bumps and dips," he said.

Indeed, it looked like it would be an Action Express Corvette DP one-two finish until near the end, as a late caution period to pick up two crashed cars left just 13 minutes remaining in the race. Derani's team elected to get new tires and take fuel during the caution period, taking him from the lead to fourth place, as the Action Express cars didn't get new tires, and therefore had a quicker pit stop.

But with surgical precision, Derani moved to third, then second, then to the lead with just five minutes remaining when Dane Cameron in the No. 31 Action Express Whelen Corvette DP went too wide into Turn 7, leaving room on the inside for Derani. Cameron and co-drivers Eric Curran and Scott Pruett took second, and the team Corvette DP, the No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry with Filipe Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi was third. Derani won by 2.926 seconds over Cameron.

"It was a tough day, a long day," Cameron said. "The pit strategy got us to the front, and we just tried to run away and hide. I think we executed well on pit lane, and the team worked together really, really well."

It's some consolation that the ESM Patr¢n team isn't racing the whole season, and the No. 31 car is, "So it was a good points day for Dane and me," said Curran. Co-driver Scott Pruett signed on only for Daytona and Sebring.

The winning No. 4 GTLM Corvette
The winning No. 4 GTLM Corvette

In the GT Le Mans class, it was déjà vu, too, as the Chevrolet Corvette C7.R team, which also won Daytona, took the victory at Sebring in the No. 4 car, driven by Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner and Marcel Fassler.

The Corvette's team car, No. 3, didn't fare as well, finishing 36 laps down after a crash when driver Jan Magnussen hit the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR of Kevin Estre in Turn 1, sending both cars into the fence. It was likely the most serious wreck of the day, but both drivers walked away.

Today, said Gavin, "showed the class and strength of Corvette Racing, dealing with all the different conditions thrown at us. It doesn't get any better than to win the first two races, but it's a long championship season."

Second in GTLM was the pole-winning No. 25 BMW Team RLL M6 GTLM of Bill Auberlen, Bruno Spengler and Dirk Werner, and third was the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber, Michael Christensen and Fred Makowiecki.

In Prototype Challenge, the CORE autosport ORECA-Chevrolet of Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and Mark Wilkins won the class, followed by the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen car with Tom Kimber-Smith, Robert Alon and Jose Gutierrez and in third, the No. 8 Starworks car with Alex Popow, Renger van der Zande, and David Heinemeier Hansson.

"This race is not easy to win – every time you think a race is going to be a walk in the park, it isn't," said Braun.

[adinserter name="GOOGLE AD"]In the hotly contested GT Daytona class, the pole-sitting No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Jeff Segal, Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan finished 2.2 seconds ahead of the Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 of Ashley Freiberg, Bret Curtis and Jens Klingmann. Third was the Daytona-winning No. 44 Magnus Porsche GT3 R of Andy Lally, John Potter and Marco Seefried.

It was the first race for the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, "and to come away with a win is great in the car's debut," Segal said. It was also significant for another reason: With Nielsen's victory, it is the first class win for a woman at Sebring since 2006, when Liz Halliday won in the P2 class.

Before the halfway mark, weather was a major factor for the teams. The day started with clear skies, but weather front crossing from the west to the east hit the historic Sebring International Raceway around noon, with everything from a drizzle to a downpour, and causing IMSA to stop the race for two hours and 15 minutes due to track conditions and lightning.

The race resumed at 4:08 p.m., and intermittent rain was a factor, but it did not match the earlier storms.

The heralded Sebring debut of the two Ford GT cars, competing in the GT Le Mans class, was in the end disappointing, but far better than their showing in Daytona. The No. 67 car ran well all day and finished fifth, and even led for a while with IndyCar champion Scott Dixon driving.

The No. 66 didn't fare was well after losing laps while fixing crash damage, and it finished eighth in class. Daytona and Sebring were the only two endurance races the team has for practice before they ship out to France, hoping to win the class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, on the 50th anniversary of Ford's overall victory there.

Next up for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship: The Bubba Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach on April 16.

Derani runs hard
Derani runs hard

Scott Sharp
It's just an amazing day. Honestly, this day was so tumultuous, so up and down with all the weather. It caused havoc for all of us. We all persevered through it all. The team made some great strategy calls. We rolled the dice. I have to take my hat off to the Oak guys. At the end, both Ed and I didn't think we had a car that could win. I knew it was a top three car, but I didn't think we were going to be able to do it. Coming out 4th, I thought 3rd was probably the best we were going to get here. Pipo showed us we had more pace in the car than we thought we did.

Ed Brown
Man, what a day. The weather was crazy and we were really unsure of our car. But the team really pushed. It was crazy how the day changed. We went up and down and we sorted back. At that last yellow, I thought we'd get third, and that's a good day's work. Pipo drove the wheels off the car for the last 20 minutes. He's amazing. The team was great, and so was the strategy that Oak called. We rolled the ball. Pipo was out there for an hour and a half on slicks when everybody else was on rains. He was running better laps than those guys. It's pretty crazy. What a great way to start the year. It kind of spoils you because you win the first two biggest races in the US.

Johannes van Overbeek
Wow. The 36 Hours of Florida. ESM Patron has successfully won overall at both Daytona and Sebring. It was certainly our objective coming here, but so many things can happen. We had the red flag, crazy weather, but everything ran flawlessly. Thanks to Patron for allowing us to be here, and hats off to Pipo for driving one hell of a last stint.

Pipo Derani
What a tough race this was. Starting on the dry with a lot of sun, and suddenly a red flag because of a lot of rain. It was just too complicated and hard to believe we did it. We had some contact, some spins, and moving our way back to the front was just unbelievable. In the end, I knew we had a great car, and new tires. But with only 10 to 15 minutes to go and still be in 4th was difficult to believe that we were going to make it. God had an eye on me and everything I executed was perfect. I can't believe it all. It happened like that. I was so focused to bring the car home. The adrenaline was so high I couldn't think about anything else.

Results

POS CL CAR DRIVERS CAR TYPE LAPS BEHIND GAP
1 P 2 SHARP BROWN VAN OVERBEEK DERANI HONDA HPD LIGIER JS P2 238 –.— –.—
2 P 31 CAMERON CURRAN PRUETT CHEVROLET CORVETTE DP 238 2.926 2.926
3 P 5 FITTIPALDI BARBOSA ALBUQUERQUE PRUETT CHEVROLET CORVETTE DP 238 3.940 1.014
4 P 81 HEDMAN LAPIERRE MINASSIAN NISSAN ORECA 05 238 4.339 0.399
5 P 90 DALZIEL GOOSSENS HUNTER REAY CHEVROLET CORVETTE DP 238 18.078 13.739
6 P 55 NUNEZ BOMARITO PIGOT MAZDA PROTOTYPE 238 29.735 11.657
7 P 60 PEW NEGRI PLA HONDA HPD LIGIER JS P2 237 1 LAP 1 LAP
8 P 70 LONG MILLER DELVIN IHARA MAZDA PROTOTYPE 237 1 LAP 1:29.122
9 PC 54 BENNETT BRAUN WILKINS ORECA FLM09 236 2 LAPS 1 LAP
10 PC 52 ALON KIMBER SMITH GUTIERREZ ORECA FLM09 236 2 LAPS 1.282
11 GTLM 4 GAVIN MILNER FASSLER CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R 235 3 LAPS 1 LAP
12 GTLM 25 AUBERLEN SPENGLER WERNER BMW M6 GTLM 235 3 LAPS 2.882
13 GTLM 912 BAMBER MAKOWIECKI CHRISTENSEN PORSCHE 911 RSR 235 3 LAPS 2.233
14 GTLM 62 RIGON VILANDER FISICHELLA FERRARI 488 GTE 235 3 LAPS 12.957
15 GTLM 67 BRISCOE WESTBROOK DIXON FORD GT ECO BOOST 235 3 LAPS 14.490
16 GTLM 100 LUHR J EDWARDS WITTMER BMW M6 GTLM 235 3 LAPS 7.286
17 PC 8 POPOW VAN DER ZANDE HANSSON ORECA FLM09 233 5 LAPS 2 LAPS
18 GTLM 68 PIERGUIDI SERRA BERTOLINI FERRARI 488 GTE 233 5 LAPS 27.450
19 PC 85 MILLER GOIKHBERG SIMPSON KOCH ORECA FLM09 232 6 LAPS 1 LAP
20 PC 38 FRENCH JO NORMAN MARCELLI ORECA FLM09 231 7 LAPS 1 LAP
21 P 0 LEGGE MEYRICK RAYHALL DELTAWING DWC13 229 9 LAPS 2 LAPS
22 GTD 63 NIELSEN BALZAN SEGAL FERRARI 488 GT3 229 9 LAPS 22:00.592
23 GTD 96 CURTIS KLINGMANN FREIBERG BMW M6 GT3 229 9 LAPS 2.280
24 GTD 44 POTTER LALLY SEEFRIED AUDI R8 LMS GT3 229 9 LAPS 0.580
25 GTD 23 JAMES M FARNBACHER RIBERAS PORSCHE 991 GT3 R 229 9 LAPS 0.154
26 GTLM 66 HAND MUELLER BOURDAIS FORD GT ECO BOOST 229 9 LAPS 0.777
27 GTD 22 C MACNEIL L KEEN JEANNETTE PORSCHE 911 GT3 R 229 9 LAPS 2.958
28 GTD 48 B MILLER SELLERS MA SNOW LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 229 9 LAPS 1.695
29 GTD 97 MARSAL PALTTALA KROHN BMW M6 GT3 229 9 LAPS 3.004
30 GTD 6 DAVIS LIDDELL DE PHILLIPPI AUDI R8 LMS GT3 229 9 LAPS 0.908
31 GTD 51 MANN GIAMMARIA CRESSONI FERRARI 458 229 9 LAPS 0.464
32 GTD 98 DALLA LANA LAMY LAUDA STANAWAY ASTON MARTIN VANTAGE GT3 229 9 LAPS 4.660
33 PC 20 DRUMWRIGHT MOWLEM DRISSI YOUNT ORECA FLM09 228 10 LAPS 1 LAP
34 GTD 16 PUMPELLY C LEWIS CARTER LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 227 11 LAPS 1 LAP
35 GTD 33 KEATING J BLEEKEMOLEN MILLER DODGE VIPER GT3-R 227 11 LAPS 1:12.418
36 GTD 540 PAPPAS CATSBURG PILGRIM LONG PORSCHE 991 GT3 R 226 12 LAPS 1 LAP
37 GTD 28 F KONRAD BRUCK BORCHELLER WEBSTER LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 226 12 LAPS 11.294
38 GTD 45 JONSSON KAFFER KROHN AUDI R8 220 18 LAPS 6 LAPS
39 P 50 DEFOOR SCHROEDER HINTON PACE BMW POWER RILEY DP 212 26 LAPS 8 LAPS
40 PC 88 JOHNSTON ENGEL LYONS ORECA FLM09 209 29 LAPS 3 LAPS
41 GTLM 3 MAGNUSSEN GARCIA ROCKENFELLER CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R 202 36 LAPS 7 LAPS
42 P 24 DEQUESADA MORAD LAWRENCE FARNBACHER BMW POWER RILEY DP 195 43 LAPS 7 LAPS
43 P 10 R TAYLOR J TAYLOR ANGELELLI BARRICHELLO CHEVROLET CORVETTE DP 169 69 LAPS 26 LAPS
44 GTD 9 ASCHENBACH M BELL VON MOLTKE AUDI R8 LMS GT3 165 73 LAPS 4 LAPS
45 GTD 73 LINDSEY MCMURRY BERGMEISTER PORSCHE 911 GT3 R 145 93 LAPS 20 LAPS
46 GTLM 911 PILET TANDY ESTRE PORSCHE 911 RSR 116 122 LAPS 29 LAPS
47 GTD 11 T BELL SWEEDLER ANTINUCCI LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 29 209 LAPS 87 LAPS
48 GTD 27 RUBERTI SBIRRAZZUOLI BABINI LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 27 211 LAPS 2 LAPS
50 GTD 21 CHRISTOPHER ZOCHLING LAMBORGHINI HURACAN GT3 0 –.— –.—

RACE STATISTICS

Time of race: 12:00:59.881

Margin of victory: 2.926 seconds

Race Distance: 890.120 miles

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Class Winner Interviews

Hear from the four class winners (Prototype, Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona) at the 12 Hours of Sebring

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