Sebring 12 Hours: Mazda wins the race, Acura takes the title
Harry Tincknell, Jonathan Bomarito and Ryan Hunter-Reay delivered victory for Mazda and Multimatic in the Sebring 12 Hours, while Acura Team Penske, Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor clinched the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship title.
With 2hr40 to go, Acura Team Penske’s #6 car in the hands of Juan Pablo Montoya held a 4.7sec lead Action Express Racing’s Pipo Derani, with Olivier Pla and Hunter-Reay third and fourth in the Mazdas and the JDC-Miller Cadillacs of Loic Duval and Matheus Leist in fifth and sixth.
However, the Mazda drivers were about to get an unexpected bonus, because 10mins later Derani was on Montoya’s tail. He attempted to pass at Turn 10, but ran wide, nudged on to the grass by Montoya on corner exit. Derani retaliated at Turn 5 in a doomed attempt at a pass. He spun Montoya off and down to fourth, while incurring both a drive-through penalty and losing three laps getting damage repaired.
That left the Mazdas running 1-2, Pla gradually pulling away from the #55 car now driven by Bomarito, who with 90mins to go, was coming under intense pressure from Duval.
Then Pla pitted from the lead with 80mins to go to hand off to Oliver Jarvis, while Duval pitted the #5 JDC-Miller car and gave up his seat to Bourdais. Bomarito stopped next time by to give the #55 over to Tincknell, with Montoya giving up the #6 Acura ARX-05 to Dane Cameron. That Acura moved into a podium position.
Unfortunately, the #5 AXR Cadillac would have to return to the pits for a new rear end having been struck up the rear by the #912 Porsche, and so Bourdais fell behind teammate Scott Andrews, and two laps off the lead.
Suddenly, cruising to victory 25sec ahead of the sister car, Jarvis suffered a left-rear puncture and ran off the road at Turn 10. Then, as he drove the Mazda back to the pits, the tire let go, sending bodywork spraying down the back straight and caused the first full-course caution for almost three hours.
That left Tincknell in the lead ahead of Cameron, Jarvis, Stephen Simpson in the #85 JDC-Miller car and Bourdais. Following the final restart with 17mins to go, Cameron and Jarvis had a fantastic duel for second place, nine seconds behind Tincknell, until with two laps to go Cameron consolidated his advantage and finished second.
The bigger celebration for the team was that, seven laps down, Taylor and Castroneves – with Alexander Rossi’s adept assistance – clinched Acura Team Penske’s second straight title. It is a first championship win for Castroneves, who famously never won the IndyCar Series title despite his three Indianapolis 500 wins, since 1989!
LMP2 victory went to the PR1/Mathiasen Oreca shared by Patrick Kelly, who had already sealed the drivers' title prior to this race, Scott Huffaker and Simon Trummer.
GT Le Mans: Porsche signs off with victory
Following Porsche’s minor strife at the end of the third quarter, the #25 BMW M8 looked like it had it made, especially when Jordan Taylor’s #3 Corvette suffered left-rear suspension failure. But both Earl Bamber (back in the #912) and Fred Makowiecki in the #911 were keeping Porsche very much in play in the marque’s final IMSA GT Le Mans race. The #24 BMW had, unfortunately, suffered brake issues that cost the crew a lap, dropping them to fourth.
Nick Tandy took over the #911 for the final two stints, and after his last pit stop with 40mins to go, Connor De Phillippi was left with a nine second lead in the #25 BMW M8 that he shares with Colton Herta and Bruno Spengler.
The Mazda-caused yellow brought Tandy and Bamber back within striking distance but they didn’t need to do anything because GTD driver Lawson Aschenbach did it for them, trying to follow de Phillippi through past the GTD leader. He missed his braking point and sent the BMW off the track, so that the M8 had to pit for puncture repair.
Thus Tandy and Bamber were left running first and second, a lap ahead of Krohn, and signed off Porsche's seven-season GT Le Mans venture in perfect style. It was the third successive Sebring win for Tandy and Makowiecki.
GT Daytona: Meyer Shank Acura seals title
With around two hours to go, Matt McMurry’s Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3 ceded the lead of the class to first Alessandro Balzan’s Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488, then Pat Long’s Wright Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 R, but his margin over the fourth placed Riley Motorsports Mercedes-Benz AMG GT3 was 20sec, so MSR’s championship appeared safe.
Long stopped with 1h47m to go to hand over to Jan Heylen. The Belgian then whittled his deficit to Balzan until he was less than 1sec behind with 80mins to go. A dozen seconds back, Mario Farnbacher in the MSR Acura was trying to wrest third place away from Roman de Angelis’s Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, but in fact both were demoted by Aschenbach in the Riley Mercedes through the next stint.
Balzan had extended his lead over Heylen to 4sec by the time they both pitted with under 55mins to go – along with third-placed Aschenbach – and when they emerged, it was Jeff Westphal in the Ferrari and it was 11sec ahead of Long, who quickly gave up second to Aschenbach.
Following the final restart, however, Aschenbach tried to follow the GTLM-leading BMW past Westphal and instead hit the back of the German car and sent it into the Ferrari and off the track. Not only did Aschenbach get a drive-through penalty, he also had terminal damage on the Mercedes.
That left Pat Long to take victory in the Wright Motorsports Porsche he shares with Heylen and Ryan Hardwick, and while it wasn’t enough to prevent MSR Acura from clinching the title by taking third, it was Wright’s first win of the year. Equally impressive, Roman de Angelis drove the HoR Aston Martin into the runner-up position.
Sebring 12 Hours: Acura leads with three hours to go
Castroneves ends 21-year Team Penske career in style