Sebring 12 hours – the final 6

The race went back green at almost the 6 hours mark of the race, and once again there was action from the word go.

Whelen Engineering #31 and the sister car at the Action Express team, Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 made a contact with each other in Turn 9. #5 spun around and had to wait for the whole field to pass, before he could make his way back.

Only a few corners later, flames were blowing out of both exhausts on the Acura Team Penske #7, which instantly sent out the Safety Car, so they could get the car towed away. Shortly thereafter, the team announced their retirement from the race, since the problem couldn’t be fixed.

Ten minutes later the race went green again, and that went a lot better. Pipo Derani in the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 got a nice jump, while Spencer Pigot in the Mazda Team Joest #55 had to defend the second place against Juan Pablo Montoya in Acura Team Penske #6.

The engine cover sprung back up on the 3GT Racing Lexus #14, which therefore had to go back for further repairs. The team put on a lot of tape, and shortly thereafter, the problem was back. So they didn’t have any other option than to bring the spanners out instead of the tank tape.

Sebring 12 Hours 2018
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Michael L. Levitt

Toni Vilander in the Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 took the lead in the GTLM category, while Connor De Phillippi in the BMW Team RLL #25 tried to defend against both the #911 and #912 Porsches.

It was all going very well for Mazda Team Joest, with #77 putting down the fastest lap of everybody, while #55 was leading the race. Harry Tincknell in #55 had a few issues getting away from his pitstop, and fell back to 7th, but he was still within 30 seconds of the lead.

With 5 hours left of the race, Johannes van Overbeek in the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 was put under pressure by the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10, and Renger van der Zande made an impressive overtaking going into Turn 3 – The Kristensen Corner.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Porsche #911 had moved into the lead ahead of #912 in the GTLM category, with Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 in third.

Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 was leading GTD, while the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 was second ahead of the Michael Shank Racing Acura #86.

Juan Pablo Montoya in the Acura Team Penske #6 was turned around in Turn 17, when Tristan Vautier in the Spirit of Daytona Cadillac #90 put his nose up inside Montoya’s car. Vautier got awarded a drive-through penalty for doing that.

Later around the lap, Montoya came to a stop on the circuit, which resulted in another Safety Car period, to get him towed way. So both Acura Team Penske cars were out of the race within an hour of each other.

The Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 made a nose change on the car during the SC period, while BMW Team RLL #25 decided to change their brakes. The missed the pit exit light by a few seconds, and therefore had to wait for the full Safety Car train to pass, and thus losing a lap to all the other competitors in the GTLM category.

The next green flag period only lasted half a lap, because the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 and the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10 made a contact in Turn 3, resulting in van der Zande in #10 losing some of his rear bodywork due to the contact. That was lying in the middle of the track, and resulted in a SC period.

Wright Motorsports Porsche #58
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA #99 was handed a Stop & Go plus 60 seconds for exiting the pits at red light, while the SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes #75 got a drive-through for hitting some of their pit equipment during their pitstop.

After just a few minutes of green flag running, there were troubles again. The Mustang Sampling Cadillac #5 and the Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA #38 made a contact with each other at the pit entry. That gave quite a lot of damage on the steering of both cars, that the mechanics had to fix.

United Autosports #32 had sneaked up into Top-3 amongst the Prototype cars, after being a long way behind at the start of the race, including a spin.

The GTD category once again delivered some exciting close racing, with 14 cars on the lead lap, after 8 hours of running.

Magnus Racing Audi #44 was handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pit lane. They were however already two laps off the lead in the GTD category.

Gimmi Bruni in Porsche #912 lost the rear bumper and the diffuser of the car, when he ran a bit wide at Turn 13 and ripped the bottom off the race. That resulted in another Safety Car, since the whole under tray of the #912 was on the track.. Fortunately the team was able just to clip on a complete rear part of the car back on, including the diffuser and rear bumper, and then he was on his way again.

Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Mike Conway was leading in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31 with three and a half hours to go, while Richard Westbrook in the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 led GTLM, and Lawson Aschenbach in the  Michael Shank Racing Acura #93 sensationally led the GTD category. #93 had only been repaired a few hours prior to the race, after having a huge accident during the Thursday practice.

With 3 hours and 20 minutes left, we saw Nicolas Lapierre in the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 attacking his former Toyota Gazoo Racing teammate Mike Conway in #31. The two went side by side through Turn 1, but #31 was able to sneak back again. That made Tristan Vautier in the Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac #90 close right up, so it now was a three-way battle.

Jonathan Bomarito in the Mazda Team Joest #55 in 4th was also catching top 3, while Phil Hanson in fifth wasn’t able to made the United Autosports #32 keep up with the others.

Darkness fell with just under 3 hours to go, and the leading Prototypes #31 and #22 were bumper to bumper. They managed to shake off #90 and #55, which was about 20 seconds back.

Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

There was another lead change with 2 hours and 40 minutes to go. Nicolas Lapierre in #22 finally made it past Mike Conway in #31. The two went side by side through Turn 17, before Lapierre was able to out drag him towards Turn 1, getting into the lead.

The lead of GTD changed almost simultaneously with Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 leading Lawson Aschenbach in the Michael Shank Racing Acura #93. Aschenbach lost another spot one lap later, when his teammate Trent Hindman in #86 sneaked past as well.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #67 almost lost a lap due to a longer pitstop, because of some electrical issues on the car.

With 2 hours left of the race we had the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 leading overall, with Risi Competizione Ferrari #62 leading GTLM and Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 in GTD.

About 100 minutes before the chequered flag, the Spirit of Daytona Cadillac #90 had a big accident at the exit of Turn 17, slamming into the tires with a totally demolished car. The instantly sent the Safety Car out, but some of the tires had been thrown in to the middle of the track, which the HART Acura #69 was unlucky to hit. That gave them some heavy front end damage, but fortunately there wasn’t any more cars involved.

Mazda Team Joest #55 hit some debris which made all the light on the car cut out. Spencer Pigot was able to turn the light on again, but still entered the pits to get the fuel done at the first possible time. That send them back on the same pit strategy as everybody else. Harry Tincknell was also put in the car, so they could do the rest of the race with only one more fuel stop.

The marshals made a very swift job, and the race was resumed with 85 minutes left.

Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi #29
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Richard Dole

But after only a few minutes, the yellow flags were out again when the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing #66 had stopped on the circuit. Dirk Müller was quite a bit away from the racing line, but on a totally dark track and a car without lights, it was too risky to send somebody out to pick it up.

The race restarted with just over 70 minutes left of the race, and Harry Tincknell instantly attacked Renger van der Zande in the #10 and made it stick. Then he started to put pressure on Felipe Nasr in #31 in the fight for second. While all this happened, Pipo Derani in #22 was able to pull away at the front of the field.

Nick Tandy in the Porsche #911 could pull away from Alexander Sims in the BMW Team RLL #25 and Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Risi Competizione Ferrari #62, who were battling over the second position.

Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 had Luca Stolz in the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33 right behind him, and was put under a lot of pressure. Meanwhile, Christopher Mies was waiting for any kind of mistake from the two ahead – but on the other hand, he had 8 GTD cars waiting to steal away his podium, if not the victory.

Sellers had fallen behind Bleekemolen in #33 following their last pitstop, but Sellers in #48 made an amazing manoeuvre round the outside of the Dutchman in Turn 1, where the normally is only one line for the GTD cars.

At the very final pitstop of the day for the Mazda Team Joest #55, that only thing that wasn’t allowed to happen, did happen. They had problems getting the car going after the pitstops throughout a big part of the race, but poor Harry Tincknell simply couldn’t get it restarted again. The mechanics tried to push the car down the pits, but it wasn’t until a spare battery was attached, that they were able to start the car again. So that made a podium position turn into an unimportant 6th.

Robert Alon in the JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA #85 lost the car at the pit exit, and ended up hitting the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63. Fortunately #63 was able to continue without further problems, while #85 had to get the rear deck of the car changed.

Risi Competizione Ferrari #62
Photo Courtesy of IMSA / Jake Galstad

Christopher Mies in the Montaplast by Land Motorsport Audi #29 had a close battle with Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63, with just 20 minutes left of the race. Balzan was able to sneak by the German at Turn 17, in a very nice overtaking manoeuvre, where he dived to the inside at the very final moment.

Balzan was even able to take second place with just 5 minutes to go, when he overtook Bleekemolen in #33 in the GTD category.

After 12 hours of race, the Tequila Patron ESM Nissan #22 with Pipo Derani, Johannes van Overbeek and Nicolas Lapierre took the win, ahead of the Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac #10, and the Whelen Engineering Cadillac #31.

In the GTLM category we had Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet and Fred Makowiecki in the Porsche #911 winning, ahead of the BMW Team RLL #25, and the Porsche #912.

Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini #48 with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis won the GTD category, followed by the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari #63 and the Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports #33.

Five cars in both the Prototype and the GTLM category finished on the lead lap, while a total of 10 cars did so in the GTD.

That was the end of the 66th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours Of Sebring Presented By Advance Auto Parts.

The next round of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be on 14 April in the streets of Long Beach, California. That race is for the Prototype and GTLM cars only, while the GTD cars will skip the race due to insufficient paddock space.

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