Sebring 12H Hr3: Dixon leads in Ganassi Cadillac, BMW looking strong
Scott Dixon is leading the 71st running of the 12 Hours of Sebring in the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-Series.R, while BMW and Porsche squabble over podium positions.
After a furious battle between Cadillac and Acura in the opening hour, Ganassi jumped Sebastien Bourdais ahead of Pipo Derani out of the pits following the first round of stops, despite giving it four fresh Michelins – partly thanks to a very strong in-lap from Bourdais – but then the field was bunched by the second full course yellow just after the start of the second hour, so the Action Express Racing Cadillac V-Series.R was right behind Ganassi’s similar car for the restart.
Behind them, both Tom Blomqvist in Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura ARX-06 and Matt Campbell in the #7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 got ahead of Ricky Taylor’s Wayne Taylor Racing Acura. Under the elongated caution, both BMW M Hybrid V8s and the second Porsche of Mathieu Jaminet pitted a second time, emerging in the order Augusto Farfus (#24 BMW), Jaminet and Connor De Phillippi (#25 BMW).
Immediately Taylor got around Campbell’s Porsche to grab fourth, and within three laps, Derani who hadn’t taken on new tires lost out to both Blomqvist and Taylor. Farfus, meanwhile, had a strong restart to jump both Porsches, and on Lap 44 he passed Derani to take fourth.
At the end of the second hour, Campbell – who had not changed tires at the first round of stops – dropped to last in class. Up front, Bourdais was six seconds ahead of Blomqvist who had a similar advantage over Taylor. Some 25sec off the lead was Farfus, who had nonetheless pulled 15sec ahead of Derani, who was out of grip. He slid straight on at Turn 10, and lost out to the other BMW of Connor De Phillippi (who had passed Jaminet in traffic) and both Porsches.
As if dropping to the bottom of the class wasn’t bad enough, Derani then had the Performance Tech Motorsports LMP3 car spin in front of him at Turn 13, at the start of the third hour. Derani couldn’t avoid him and the subsequent contact pushed the Cadillac’s bodywork onto his left-front tire, so that the car was shedding bodywork around the track for two laps while the pits were closed. Derani came in for emergency service for a new nose and new left-front tire.
When the pits opened, all eight cars stopped, although the Acuras elected not to take new tires. WTR got Ricky Taylor out ahead of the Ganassi Cadillac, now piloted by Scott Dixon. In third was the MSR Acura now with Helio Castroneves at the wheel, ahead of the two BMWs of Nick Yelloly and Philipp Eng. However, under the lengthy caution, Yelloly brought the #25 back in for a new nose, and both Porsche 963s came back in too for a top ups of fuel and energy.
At the restart, Castroneves fell off the track at Turn 10, dropping to seventh in class, and Nasr lost out to Eng, while at the sharp end of the field, Dixon went down the inside of Taylor at Turn 17 to take the lead and within a lap extended his lead to 2.5sec. In fact, Taylor had to fight off the attention of Eng’s third-placed BMW, but the pair were still edging away from the Porsches and the second BMW. Alexander Sims had to serve a stop-and-hold-for-10sec stop for an improperly served emergency stop.
By the end of the third hour, Dixon’s lead was out to 13sec, as Taylor struggled on his tires but maintained second ahead of the very closely following BMW-Porsche-Porsche-BMW train of Eng, Nasr, Tandy and Yelloly, with Tandy then deposing teammate Nasr for fourth. However, Tandy’s joy was shortlived as he had to duck into the pits with a left-rear puncture, after making contact with a GTD car.
Right afterwards, Eng, Nasr and Yelloly all got around Taylor, dropping him to fifth.
Ben Keating of PR1 Mathiasen MotorSports had been passed by TDS Racing’s Francois Heriau toward the end of Hour 1, but TDS drivers had some ball-dropping incidents – one got pinged for speeding on pitlane, the other for leaving pitlane with equipment still attached. But before the end of the second hour, the #11 TDS car of Steven Thomas was filling Keating’s mirrors trying to get the lead. The other TDS car had dropped to sixth in class with a Turn 17 spin, leaving Eric Lux of Rick Ware Racing in third ahead of John Farano of Tower Motorsports.
Following their second scheduled stops, Thomas passed Keating, but Thomas would be called in again for failing to adhere to minimum refueling time.
Following the restart just past the 2hr20min mark, Dennis Andersen led for High Class Racing ahead of John Farano of Tower Motorsports and Lux’s RWR machine. Keating lay fourth ahead of Nolan Siegel’s Crowdstrike car, with Thomas and Josh Pierson sixth and seventh in the TDS cars. However, toward the end of the third hour, Siegel was up front, chased by Andersen and Farano, with Keating in fourth ahead of Lux. Then Andersen spun out of second, so Keating and Lux, who had passed Farano, moved into second and third.
A clash between Riley Motorsports’ Gar Robinson and Jarett Andretti of Andretti Autosport at the head of the class sent Robinson to the pits for fresh tires after 2h30m, leaving Andretti up front, 7.6s ahead of Till Bechtolsheimer of JDC Miller MotorSports, Ari Balogh (Jr III Racing) and the recovered Performance Tech Motorsports car, now with Tristan Nunez at the wheel.
However, Matt Bell of AWA was flying
GTD Pro / GTD
Corvette Racing’s C8.R and the Vasser Sullivan’s GTD Pro Lexus RC F (#14) had been hosed by the second yellow when they had to make an emergency pitstop for fuel so therefore had to serve a drive-through. But some brilliant driving from Garcia in the second hour had seen the Corvette surge forward through GTD Pro and GTD cars to move up to second. Following the next round of stops during the long third caution, Garcia handed off to Jordan Taylor and the Corvette Racing team got him out in front, ahead of Maro Engel’s WeatherTech Racing’s Mercedes AMG GT3.
The similar Benz of Kenton Koch led GTD in the Team Korthoff car, ahead of Corey Lewis in the Paul Miller Racing BMW M4, Russell Ward’s Winward Racing Mercedes (GTD), Davide Rigon’s Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 (GTD Pro), Laurens Vanthoor’s Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (GTD Pro), and Danny Formal in the pole-starting Acura NSX of Racers Edge.
Fifth in GTD (ninth overall of the GT3 cars) was Ryan Hardwick’s Wright Motorsports Porsche. This car had suffered misfortune in the first hour when starting driver Jan Heylen had suffered a right-rear puncture at the half-hour mark and handed off to his bronze-rated teammate.
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