12 Hours of Sebring Delivers on Reputation as Class Wins Defy Expectations

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By Christian Ryan

With the amount of luck and skill it takes to conquer Sebring, it’s only fitting that a green car would be sitting in victory lane on St. Patrick’s Day.

The tide turned in 12 hours for Tequila Patrón ESM, after their No. 2 entry ran off course in turn one to start the race, their No. 22 entry came out of turn 17 half a day later 12.427 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor to win the 12 Hours of Sebring in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The victory for Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek, and Nicolas Lapierre marks the first overall win at Sebring for a Nissan team since Clayton Cunningham Racing’s 1994 victory.

Defending race winners and series champions Wayne Taylor Racing came up second despite major setbacks, including an extended repair of damage sustained after the No. 10 made contact with Whelen Engineering Racing No. 31. The pair of teams would round out the podium, as defending champion Jordan Taylor and IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay bounce back from a disappointing Rolex 24 that saw the team retire with mechanical failure.

The second Taylor brother, Ricky Taylor, was well on pace to score the new Team Penske Acura DPi its first podium, when the car co-piloted by Graham Rahal and Helio Castroneves of IndyCar fame succumbed to a loss of oil pressure and finished 41st. While the second Penske car was on pace to salvage the weekend, contact sent Juan Pablo Montoya off-track and leaving Penske wondering what could have been for the second consecutive race as the entry came home 40th. Other victims of incidents were the Mazda Team Joest No. 55, sacrificing the lead after Spencer Pigot ran off-course and saw issues on victory lane, allowing the go-ahead for the No. 22 Nissan DPi. The No. 55 would finish sixth overall. Rolex 24 champions No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac saw their dream start squandered as they placed 16th overall after sustaining damage.

A hotly contested GTLM class saw the No. 911 Porsche GT Team trio of Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki, and Patrick Pilet take a 6.230-second victory over BMW Team RLL to claim their first victory in the 12 Hours of Sebring. The team fought from a class eighth to hold off the class pole sitting RLL, while the No. 912 Porsche GT Team rounded out the podium.         

Defending race winners Corvette Racing struggled throughout, with the 2017-winning No. 3 team retiring due to various mechanical issues and the No. 4 finishing sixth, a lap down from class competitors. Hot off of their 200th team victory as of the Rolex 24, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing made a late push with the No. 67 to finish fourth.

Lamborghini is boasting a perfect start to the 2018 IMSA season, as the No. 48 of Paul Miller Racing made a late push for the win to mark the manufacturers second consecutive GTD class victory and the team’s first since 2016. After a podium class finish in the Rolex 24, the team of Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers, and Corey Lewis has made an impressive return to form after the struggles of 2017. With the top seven finishers featuring seven different manufacturers, the 12 Hours of Sebring GTD class boasted one of the most diverse showings of team competition in motorsport.

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