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(Credit: Phil Allaway)

Tequila Patron ESM Wins Sebring Thanks to Derani’s Charge

Saturday’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway seemingly had everything.  It had close racing, some incidents, and bad weather.  A severe thunderstorm ripped through Sebring in the third hour, resulting in a red flag that lasted for over two hours.

Once the race resumed, the mad dash did as well.  Into the final hour, the top 8 Prototypes were all still on the lead lap, waiting to do battle.  A crash into the tires for Fifty-Plus Racing‘s David Hinton set up a 12-minute dash to the finish.  With the exception of qualifying, Action Express Racing‘s Chevrolet Corvette DP’s had dominated the weekend, leading all five practice sessions.

Behind the two DP’s were Nicolas Lapierre in the lone ORECA 05-Nissan in the field for the debutante DragonSpeed team and Pipo Derani, the darling of Daytona, in the No. 2 Ligier JS P2-HPD for Tequila Patron ESM.  Derani showed that his pace in Daytona was no fluke.  The 22-year old phenom blasted past Lapierre on the restart to take third, then set up the Daytona Prototypes.  Three laps later, Derani decisively out-braked Action Express’ Filipe Albuquerque going into the hairpin to take second.  Leader Dane Cameron knew that he had to get defensive in order to hold on to the lead.  Even that didn’t work.  One lap after passing Albuquerque, Derani made the same exact move on Cameron.  Cameron tried to take the line away, but Derani took it anyway.

From there, the talented Brazilian pulled away to take his second straight overall victory.  The victory was made sweeter by the fact that IMSA had actually slowed the P2 entries after Daytona.  In addition, Derani was given a pass-through penalty for spinning out a slower GT-Daytona class car.

Afterwards, Derani thanked the team for providing him with a car good enough to slice through the pack.

“We had to change tires [on the final stop], and suddenly, we see ourselves in fourth or fifth-place, then I thought maybe we could get two or three more positions in the end,” Derani said after the race.  “But, I had a really good car, so I made all of my moves.  These guys raced really hard, and they raced really fair.  We were able to push there at the end and make up all the positions, and the other drivers made [the challenge] really good.”

Action Express Racing’s No. 31 for Cameron, Eric Curran and Scott Pruett was second, while the No. 5 for Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi was third.  DragonSpeed’s No. 81 for Lapierre, Henrik Hedman and Nicolas Minassian was fourth, while VisitFlorida.com Racing‘s Ryan Dalziel, Marc Goossens and Ryan Hunter-Reay were fifth.

In Prototype Challenge, CORE autosport dominated the weekend.  However, the race ended up being much closer for the PC veterans.  PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports kept CORE autosport on their toes for much of the 12 hour distance, leading laps and stretching the core Autosport team to their limits.  However, the team of Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Mark Wilkins prevented PR1/Mathiasen from repeating 2015’s victory by taking the class victory by just a few seconds.

In GT-Le Mans, the race was turned on its head early in the eighth hour when Porsche North America‘s Kevin Estre and Corvette Racing‘s Jan Magnussen collided entering turn 1 while battling for the class lead.  It appeared that Estre came down on Magnussen, but regardless of the reasoning, both cars ended up in the tire barriers.  Estre’s No. 911 was out on the spot, but Magnussen’s No. 3 returned after significant repairs in the garage.

The crash gave the lead to Michael Christensen in the No. 912 Porsche RSR from Porsche North America, but he had to deal with the charging Corvette Racing No. 4 and the BMW Team RLL No. 25.  Ford Chip Ganassi Racing‘s No. 67 was right in the hunt late as well on the strength of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook.

Corvette Racing’s Tommy Milner took the No. 4 Corvette C7.R to the lead with 2.5 hours of racing remaining. Aside from rounds of pit stops that shuffled the order, Milner was not challenged on his way to the class victory shared with Marcel Fässler and Oliver Gavin.

BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM shred by Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner and Bruno Spengler was second, followed by Christensen’s No. 912 Porsche, which he shared with Earl Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki.  Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No.67 had an off-course excursion in turn 3 in the final laps, dropping the Ford GT to fifth behind Risi Competizione‘s No. 62 Ferrari.

In GT-Daytona, the race came to a duel between the top 3 teams.  Jens Klingmann led in the No. 96 BMW M6 GT3 from Turner Motorsport, but Scuderia Corsa‘s Alessandro Balzan passed Klingmann with nine minutes remaining.  Balzan then pulled away to take the class victory, the first-ever win for the new Ferrari 488 GT3.

Turner Motorsport’s No. 96 shared by Klingmann, Bret Curtis and Ashley Freiberg finished second, a massive improvement over the nightmare that was Daytona, where they were never in the hunt, then got excluded for a drive time violation.  Daytona winners Magnus Racing were third in their No. 44 Audi R8 LMS GT3, which still appears to be down on speed.  The two Alex Job Racing entries were fourth and fifth with the Team Seattle No. 23 in fourth, followed by the No. 22.

The next race for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is a 100-minute race as part of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend for the Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT-Le Mans classes.  The race will air live on FOX Sports 2 at 7 p.m. EDT.

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About Phil Allaway

Phil Allaway
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor. Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as Tony Stewart's Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions.

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