Sebring Hour 12: Bourdais drives #5 Cadillac to narrow victory

IndyCar driver Sebastien Bourdais drove the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac to win the 12 Hours of Sebring IMSA classic by 1.4 seconds over the #55 Mazda of Harry Tincknell and the #48 Cadillac of Kamui Kobayashi – the 69th running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring

Bourdais shared top honors with fellow Frenchmen Tristan Vautier and Loic Duval.

#5 Mustang Sampling / JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi, DPi: Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, Sebastien Bourdais – Winners, Victory Lane, celebration.  LAT Photo for IMSA

The No. 48 Ally-sponsored Cadillac crossed the line in third but was moved to last in class due to co-driver Simon Pagenaud exceeding the four-hour maximum drive time in a six-hour period.

It promoted the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 of Dane Cameron, Olivier Pla and Juan Pablo Montoya to a podium finish, courtesy of Cameron’s pass on the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura DPi of Alexander Rossi on the final restart.

Rossi was fourth in the Rolex 24-winning WTR entry alongside Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque.

The race started with Pipo Derani taking the green from pole in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R. Derani was soon passed by Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. Forty-minutes into the race, Derani was hungry to get the lead back and went to the inside of Turn 17 and got squeezed into the wall when the 01 was forced over by a GTD car. Derani had to pit the 31 for repairs sending them down four laps.

As the race went on the top five DPi competitors exchanged the lead. When night fell, the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac in the hands of Scott Dixon took the lead on the 3.7-mile, 17-turn central Florida circuit. The cool temperatures of the early evening favored the set-up of the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac. With just an hour left Dixon had contact while trying to make it to pit road taking them out of contention.

From the darkness arose the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R with Tristan Vautier, Loic Duval, and Sebastien Bourdais. The team found pace in the night after recovering from a slow start. The JDC-Miller Motorsports team drove to the front leading the race in the last hour. With just 36-minutes remaining the team made their last pit stop with Bourdais at the wheel. With 14-minutes left Bourdais radioed that the car was loose. The IndyCar champion and endurance veteran worked with the sway bar adjustments to make-up for the lack of downforce from a broken rear wing to bring the team their first win in IMSA DPi competition.

“At the start of my last stint everything was under control,” Bourdais said. “We were super strong at the beginning, went from P6 to P1. Our sequence of pit stops was very strong. We kept jumping people. I thought from then it was going to be easy, the Mustang Sampling Cadillac was really good. Then the rear wing fell off with 10 laps to go. That was the hardest 10 laps of my life. The balance went way forward on the car. I compensated with the bars and brake balance. Still the car was unbelievably loose in the fast corners. I can’t believe we won it. Honestly, I could have crashed the car about 10 times. Especially before I figured out there was something seriously wrong. The rear tires started to degrade really bad. I was just hanging on. To stay in front of the field like this is one of my greatest achievements.”

After the pit in incident the Chip Ganassi Racing team made quick repairs returning van der Zande to the race who would cross the line fifth.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” Dixon said. “I’m not sure how – I know I hit the BMW on entry. It was a very late call for the pits, so I was scrambling to get everything undone in time. I was trying to turn back to get to pit road and there was just a car there and so I hit them on the way in. That was definitely a tough one there. I feel bad for the team because everyone was doing a fantastic job and the car was fast. Credit to everybody at Chip Ganassi Racing. It’s definitely unfortunate, but we had a good run there.”

Pipo Derani, Felipe Nasr, and Mike Conway had an eventful race. Derani had the start from pole and was soon overtaken by the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R driven by Renger van der Zande. Forty-minutes into the race, Derani tried to retake the lead going into the inside of the entry of Turn 17 and was squeezed into the wall by van der Zande and a GTD car. The resulting damage and repairs cost the team four laps. The team had made up two laps until with just over four hours to go, Nasr had contact with the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R causing another out of sequence stop. With just under two hours remaining, Conway lost drive and stopped out on the track in Turn 7 ending the day for the team.

“The best way to put it is, it just wasn’t our day today,” Nasr said. “It’s hard to believe it all. We’ve got to be realistic. We had a fantastic car all weekend and we dug our own hole. We had to pay the consequences for our mistakes. It was a big setback for the team when Pipo brushed the wall. From there on, it was playing catch up. It was a bad day. I feel sorry for the whole team. We deserve to be up front. Our sponsors deserve to be up front. And, we just didn’t give them what they deserve. That’s all of us included. I hope we can get things straight and go after the next one.”

The No. 48 Ally Cadillac DPi-V.R started by Jimmie Johnson was a factor for most of the race. Together with Simon Pagenaud and Kamui Kobayashi they were on the lead lap all race. Aside from a spin early by Johnson, the drivers kept the 48 Cadillac competitive all day. However, the team violated the drive time rule. The official drive time showed that Pagenaud exceeded his allowable drive time. IMSA rules state that one driver cannot drive more than four hours in a six-hour period. The overage was less than a minute. When this happened in the late afternoon the race turned into a test session as they were no longer being scored.

“It was so intense out there all week,” Johnson said. “I can’t put into perspective what I experienced the last two days. I made plenty of mistakes that I need to clean up. I felt like I was in a position to really get aggressive and I just over-stepped a little. A lot of lessons learned and a good run for this Ally Cadillac team. The team really responded well after my spin and got us back into contention. Simon and Kamui put in great last stints. The drive time penalty negated all of the effort today, but we are a team. We will learn and come back even stronger for Watkins Glen in June.”

PR1/Mathiasen wins LMP2

LMP2 class honors went to the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson of Mikkel Jensen, Ben Keating and Scott Huffaker, in a controlling run.

Jensen finished one-lap ahead of the Rolex 24 class-winning No. 18 Era Motorsport entry of Ryan Dalziel, Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman.

For much of the race, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA held a one-lap lead over the LMP2 field. But after the final restart, Jensen was chased by Ryan Dalziel, who finished just 2.587 seconds behind in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA he co-drove with Kyle Tilley and Dwight Merriman.

“It got more exciting than we wished it to be,” Jensen said. “We were leading by more than a lap for eight hours. I was getting a little nervous (near the end of the race). The last stint was my worst one. That’s when I had to fight. It got difficult.”

CORE takes LMP3 Class Honors

Early setbacks made the 12 Hours of Sebring an uphill battle for CORE autosport, but flawless teamwork brought the No. 54 Composite Resources / CrowdStrike Ligier JS P320 from the back of the field to the top of the podium.

Jon Bennett started the race from third on the grid and shuffled between fourth and fifth for his first stint. George Kurtz continued in a similar fashion until a sudden loss of power brought him to a standstill. Thankfully, a power cycle reset got the car going again without too much time lost.

#54: Core Autosport Ligier JS P320, LMP3: Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun, George Kurtz. LAT Photo for IMSA

Things got trickier at the two-hour mark, when Kurtz made contact with another car at the end of his first stint. The contact damaged the front splitter on the Ligier, which adversely affected the handling of the car. Worse still, Kurtz was deemed responsible for the contact and the No. 54 was ordered to serve a drive-through penalty.

When Colin Braun took over the driver seat for his first stint, CORE was seventh and two laps down. No full-course cautions occurred during Braun’s opening drive, the prime way to recover lost laps.

The tide shifted in the second half of the race, with more yellows issued at opportune times. Impeccable pit stops from the team during these caution periods enabled CORE to leapfrog others on pitlane. Smart strategy from the timing stand also assisted in getting the No. 54 back on the lead lap.

#54 Core Autosport Ligier JS P320, LMP3: George Kurtz, Colin Braun, Jonathan Bennett
Victory Lane, Winners. LAT Photo for IMSA

In the final two hours of the race, with Braun behind the wheel, CORE went from fourth to first. Braun was also pulling out a sizable lead over second place when one last full-course caution was issued, eliminating the cushion Braun had built.

A perfect restart from Braun meant the second-place car never had a chance and Braun crossed the finish line 2.685 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

The win is the fourth 12 Hours of Sebring victory for CORE autosport and the third for Bennett and Braun as co-drivers. CORE now leads the LMP3 Championship by 32 points.

WeatherTech Racing Wins GTLM

Cooper MacNeil (Hindsdale, Ill.), Matt Campbell (Australia), and Mathieu Jaminet (France) won the IMSA WeatherTech Championship GTLM Class in today’s running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

MacNeil started the WeatherTech Racing Porsche RSR for the once around the clock event in central Florida. As teammates Jaminet and Campbell cycled through the Proton Competition prepared Porsche RSR the trio kept it very competitive in the top four all race. As night fell over the 3.74-mile, 17-turn historic circuit the race really began. The team was locked in a battle with the factory Corvette and BMW teams.

#79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR – 19, GTLM: Cooper MacNeil, Mathieu Jaminet, Matt Campbell.  LAT Photo for IMSA

Campbell had the 79 Porsche in the lead as darkness fell. With three hours remaining the Australian was in a battle for the lead with the two BMW’s less than a second behind. With 48 minutes left, Jaminet brought the red-white-and-blue Porsche to the pits for its final fuel and tire stop. Then with 33 minutes remaining a full course yellow flew bunching the field. On the restart Jaminet was third, then with just eight minutes to go the leading Corvette and BMW got into each other into Turn 7. The Frenchman was able to avoid the spinning Corvette take the lead and bring the privateer Porsche home for the win.

“Second ever GTLM race for me and our first win,” MacNeil said. “It is special to do it here at the twelve hours of Sebring. I couldn’t have done it without WeatherTech, Proton Competition, and Porsche. A big thanks to those three for the great support. Matt and Mathieu drove hard all race. Last year we were leading and got taken out at the end of the race with one lap to go. Here we are GTLM winners with luck going our way this time. I am thrilled with the win! It is that much more special when you beat factory Corvette and factory BMW. Big thanks to Porsche for an amazing race car.”

#79: WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR – 19, GTLM: Cooper MacNeil, Mathieu Jaminet, Matt Campbell, leads the 2nd place #25 BMW.   LAT Photo for IMSA

“IMSA and the GTLM is always crazy here in America,” Jaminet said. “Today I was in the right place at the right time. In previous GTLM races I was in the wrong place. Today was a great win. I am happy for Cooper, Proton Competition and Porsche for a great day here at Sebring.”

“Crazy is the word for today,” Campbell said. “We kept a clean car all race and we were always up there fighting in the top three. We wanted to run for a podium finish and then luck came our way. The guys in front started fighting and we were able to get through. I am happy for Cooper and David and the Proton Competition team. They put so much into this effort and after what happened at the Rolex it is great to comeback for the win.”

Left to right, Matt Campbell, Cooper MacNeil, and Mathieu Jaminet celebrate

De Philippi’s No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GTE was forced to serve a drive-through penalty for the incident with Garcia in the final ten minutes but was credited with 2nd place while Garcia pitted but returned to limp across the line in 3rd.

The two cars made contact in the Hairpin, giving Jaminet a chance to challenge De Phillippi, who had bodywork damage from the incident.

The No. 4 Corvette of Nick Tandy, Tommy Milner and Alexander Sims finished four laps down in fifth after a misfire and trip behind the wall for engine-related repairs.

“I don’t know what to say. I’m definitely disappointed in the whole situation,” said Garcia. “It was a very hard race for all of us. We managed to be up there, and with two stints to go we were both going flat-out. It definitely was between them (the No. 25) and us.

“Up to that point, it was fair. The whole thing was good. He was pushing hard, and I was pushing as hard as I could. I think we put on a good show but I’m disappointed with the way it ended. I’m sure we would have been super happy to bring home a real result. It’s a tough break, especially after such a long race.

“I’m disappointed for the guys, for Corvette, for Team Chevy and the fans. We all deserved a little bit better. We will just move on. My next stop is Spa and I’m looking forward to that and the rest of the season. Thank you to Jordan and Nicky… it’s just a tough break.”

GTD goes to the #9 Porsche

For the second straight year, the German manufacturer powered the winning entries in both the GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes. The No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR-19 was victorious in GTLM, having the door to victory lane opened Saturday night when the two cars ahead collided with minutes remaining in the 12-hour endurance marathon. Meanwhile in GTD, the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R paced a 1-2 Porsche finish.

It also pushed Porsche’s total of class wins in the Twelve Hours of Sebring to 100.

The Canadian squad’s driver lineup of Laurens Vanthoor, Lars Kern, and Zacharie started the race at the back but steadily moved forward

Vanthoor moved the No. 9 Porsche 911 GT3 R to the lead in the eleventh hour when the race leading Lexus RC F GT3 of Zach Veach was forced to pit lane with a cut tire following contact with the Pfaff Porsche on the next to last restart.

GTD winners – #9 PFAFF Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, GTD: Zacharie Robichon, Laurens Vanthoor, Lars Kern.   LAT Photo for IMSA

In his first season of GTD competition after collecting five WeatherTech Championship GTLM wins and the 2019 championship with the Porsche GT Team, Vanthoor took over for the final race stints. The 29-year-old Belgian bumped his way past the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus and into the lead with 90 minutes remaining and wasn’t seriously challenged after that.

The No. 9 Pfaff Porsche won by 2.112 seconds over the No. 16 Wright Porsche, with the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 placing third.

“It went really, really smooth,” Vanthoor said. “We had a really good car. We had it in Daytona as well, but we made mistakes. We did a flawless job (at Sebring) and everything went perfect. That’s the way you win races.”

Robichon felt a sense of redemption since the Canada-based Pfaff team was limited to two races last year due to COVID travel restrictions. The win was a welcome reward for everyone on the team.

“It’s pretty special, especially after last year,” Robichon said. “It was a difficult year for the team. Obviously, we didn’t race very much, so to come back here in only our second race back, so to speak, we end up in victory lane – at Sebring, no less – is pretty special.

“The race was almost going too well at one point. It felt like something had to go wrong and, luckily, I was wrong. Nothing went wrong.”

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season resumes May 14-16 with the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio.

Race Results (Class winners shown shaded)

Pos No. Class Team Car Driver 1 Driver 2 Driver 3 Laps Behind Gap
1 5 DPi Mustang Sampling / JDC-Miller MotorSports Cadillac DPi Tristan Vautier Loic Duval Sebastien Bourdais 349 +0.000s +0.000s
2 55 DPi Mazda Motorsports Mazda DPi Oliver Jarvis Harry Tincknell Jonathan Bomarito 349 +1.435 +1.435
3 48 DPi Ally Cadillac Racing Cadillac DPi Jimmie Johnson Kamui Kobayashi Simon Pagenaud 349 +1.641 +0.206
4 60 DPi Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura DPi Dane Cameron Olivier Pla Juan Pablo Montoya 349 +2.614 +0.973
5 10 DPi Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 Acura DPi Ricky Taylor Filipe Albuquerque Alexander Rossi 349 +5.318 +2.704
6 01 DPi Cadillac Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi Renger van der Zande Kevin Magnussen Scott Dixon 347 2 Laps 2 Laps
7 52 LMP2 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07 Ben Keating Mikkel Jensen Scott Huffaker 344 5 Laps 3 Laps
8 18 LMP2 Era Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 Dwight Merriman Kyle Tilley Ryan Dalziel 344 5 Laps +2.587
9 79 GTLM WeatherTech Racing Porsche 911 RSR – 19 Cooper MacNeil Mathieu Jaminet Matt Campbell 334 15 Laps 10 Laps
10 25 GTLM BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE Connor De Phillippi Philipp Eng Bruno Spengler 333 16 Laps 1 Lap
11 22 LMP2 United Autosports ORECA LMP2 07 James McGuire Wayne Boyd Guy Smith 333 16 Laps +56.436
12 24 GTLM BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE John Edwards Jesse Krohn Augusto Farfus 333 16 Laps +28.184
13 3 GTLM Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Antonio Garcia Jordan Taylor Nicky Catsburg 333 16 Laps +8.551
14 4 GTLM Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R Tommy Milner Nick Tandy Alexander Sims 330 19 Laps 3 Laps
15 54 LMP3 Core Autosport Ligier JS P320 Jonathan Bennett George Kurtz Colin Braun 329 20 Laps 1 Lap
16 91 LMP3 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Jim Cox Dylan Murry Jeroen Bleekemolen 329 20 Laps +2.685
17 74 LMP3 Riley Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Gar Robinson Spencer Pigot Scott Andrews 329 20 Laps +0.516
18 7 LMP3 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine D08 Stevan McAleer Oliver Askew Austin McCusker 328 21 Laps 1 Lap
19 33 LMP3 Sean Creech Motorsport Ligier JS P320 Joao Barbosa Yann Clairay Lance Willsey 328 21 Laps +1:09.670
20 9 GTD Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R Zacharie Robichon Laurens Vanthoor Lars Kern 320 29 Laps 8 Laps
21 16 GTD Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R Patrick Long Trent Hindman Jan Heylen 320 29 Laps +2.112
22 23 GTD Heart Of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 Ian James Roman De Angelis Ross Gunn 320 29 Laps +21.279
23 44 GTD Magnus with Archangel Acura NSX GT3 John Potter Andy Lally Spencer Pumpelly 320 29 Laps +19.260
24 88 GTD Team Hardpoint EBM Porsche 911 GT3R Christina Nielsen Katherine Legge Bia Figueiredo 320 29 Laps +10.293
25 12 GTD Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 Frankie Montecalvo Zach Veach Robert Megennis 319 30 Laps 1 Lap
26 14 GTD Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 Aaron Telitz Jack Hawksworth Kyle Kirkwood 313 36 Laps 6 Laps
27 96 GTD Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 Bill Auberlen Robby Foley Aidan Read 313 36 Laps +4.580
28 75 GTD Sun Energy 1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 Kenny Habul Maro Engel Mikael Grenier 304 45 Laps 9 Laps
29 31 DPi Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi Felipe Nasr Mike Conway Pipo Derani 292 57 Laps 12 Laps
30 99 GTD Team Hardpoints EBM Porsche 911 GT3R Rob Ferriol Earl Bamber Trenton Estep 280 69 Laps 12 Laps
31 8 LMP2 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 John Farano Gabriel Aubry Tim Buret 266 83 Laps 14 Laps
32 83 LMP3 WIN Autosport Duqueine D08 Matthew Bell Rodrigo Sales Niklas Kruetten 265 84 Laps 1 Lap
33 1 GTD Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Bryan Sellers Madison Snow Corey Lewis 255 94 Laps 10 Laps
34 38 LMP3 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320 Rasmus Lindh Dan Goldburg Mateo LLarena 177 172 Laps 78 Laps
35 28 GTD Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3 Daniel Morad Michael de Quesada Billy Johnson 91 258 Laps 86 Laps
36 19 GTD GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3 Stephen Simpson Franck Perera Tim Zimmermann 91 258 Laps +0.261
37 11 LMP2 WIN Autosport ORECA LMP2 07 Steven Thomas Tristan Nunez Thomas Merrill 90 259 Laps 1 Lap