It was another arduous Twelve Hours of Sebring last Saturday, made challenging by morning rain showers that also flooded the sports car racing earlier this month during the season opener at Daytona. (Daytona 24 Hours Discounted 50% as Rain Marks Down Race, Sebring This Weekend – Endurance Test for Sports Cars, Fans).
Nonetheless, Porsche demonstrated its Sebring dominance by taking its 96th win at the bumpy track/party grounds. A headliner field of 38 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship teams and many of the world’s best sports car racers put a race worth watching.
When the flag dropped, the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R shared by Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran won in the closest finish ever at Sebring. Nasr crossed the rubber scuffed stripe just 1.030 seconds ahead of Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi. The GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) races were also close.
The No. 911 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR of Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Frederic Makowiecki won at Sebring for the second straight year by just 1.951 seconds over the hard-luck No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais in GTLM.
In GTD, just 2.724 seconds separated the No. 11 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracán GT3 of Mirko Bortolotti, Rolf Ineichen and Rik Breukers from the second-place No. 44 Magnus Racing Lamborghini of Andy Lally, John Potter and Spencer Pumpelly.
Most were betting on multiple full-course yellows especially with morning rains that caused the race to start behind the safety car. The track was dappled dripping to damp when the green flag flew for the first time 40 minutes into the race, but aside from a spin or two – and an entertaining save (unless you owned the car) by Tom Blomqvist after wildly tracking freehand after he hydroplaned through a puddle on the front stretch. (Who said a BMW M8 doesn’t float?) Other than that high-speed meandering mishap, racers got through the rainy period relatively unscathed.
The first full-course caution after the initial green flag didn’t come out until two hours and 21 minutes into the race and it was for a mechanical issue on the No. 77 Mazda DPi as TV fans headed for the kitchen or that other room with running water.
The next yellow didn’t come until three and a half hours later, when Jonathan Bomarito slipped off course into the Turn 14 tire barrier in the No. 55 Mazda. It was the only FCY of the day involving contact, and the team was able to repair the No. 55 relatively quickly and get it back on track for the duration.
The final two yellows – one in the 10th hour for the No. 9 Starworks Motorsport Audi, and the other with less than 15 minutes left in the race for the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW – both were for mechanical issues.