A stunning final 20-minute run saw Pipo Derani’s Extreme Speed Motorsport car pass both Action Express Corvette DPs to clinch the team’s second straight US endurance sportscar classic.
In a final shootout set up by a full-course caution caused by the demise of the DeltaWing and the #50 Riley BMW, Derani scorched past the #81 Oreca-Nissan of Nicolas Lapierre on the restart and homed in on the two AX Racing machines that had set the pace for much of the race.
A couple of gut-busting outbraking maneuvers proved the efficacy of the ESM team taking a longer final stop to grab new tires as well as more fuel. Both Filipe Albuquerque in the #5 ’Vette and his teammate Dane Cameron in the #31 had nothing for the Ligier in an outbraking contest, having chosen better track position over fresh rubber at the final stops.
Thus Derani, Ed Brown, Johannes van Overbeek and Scott Sharp have completed the Florida sweep to win both the Rolex 24 and the Sebring 12 Hours.
Behind the AX Racing duo, Lapierre brought the lone DragonSpeed Oreca-Nissan home fourth, ahead of Marc Goossens who spun the #90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette in the final hour.
Something that put a smile on the face of GM fans, despite the late loss of Prototype honors, was victory for the #4 Corvette Racing C7.R, which emulates the ESM achievement of clinching victory in both Daytona and Sebring.
Tommy Milner, Oliver Gavin and Marcel Fassler did a sterling job for throughout, and overcame Fassler’s struggles and offs mid-race. Milner crossed the line three seconds ahead of the polesitting #25 BMW M6 of Dirk Werner, Bruno Spengler and Bill Auberlen.
Werner made a late pass on Earl Bamber’s #912 Porsche to clinch that runner-up spot, but Bamber was 13sec clear of the fourth-placed Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 piloted by Davide Rigon, Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander.
Ferrari’s most remarkable achievement of the weekend at Sebring, however, was the performance of the Ferrari 488 in the GT Daytona class. Jeff Segal, Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen put the Scuderia Corsa #63 on pole and into Victory Lane in the car’s debut in this class.
The Turner Motorsport team threw all it could at the Italian car, but the Ashley Freiberg/Bret Curtis/Jens Klingman BMW M6 came up 2.2sec short, while its #97 stablemate had to make a late splash-n-dash.
That allowed Andy Lally, Marco Seefried and John Potter to snatch the last podium place for Magnus Racing with an Audi R8 LMS, while even a brilliant performance from Mario Farnbacher in the Alex Job Racing entry wasn’t enough to get Porsche on the podium for GTD.
The much-maligned Prototype Challenge class, which as usual seemed to cause the majority of the caution periods, eventually shook out to become a highly entertaining duel between two of the very best drivers and teams. On this occasion it was Colin Braun and CORE autosport that prevailed by just 1.3sec over Tom Kimber-Smith of PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport.
The Braun/Jon Bennett/Mark Wilkins and Kimber-Smith/Jose Gutierrez/Robert Alon-piloted cars crossed the line three laps ahead of the Starworks entry piloted by Renger Van der Zande, Alex Popow and David Heinemeir Hansson.