On Saturday (March 17), Tequila Patrón ESM’s Pipo Derani, Nicolas Lapierre and Johannes van Overbeek claimed overall victory in the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts. For all three drivers, it is their second overall wins at Sebring. Derani and van Overbeek won in 2016 with Tequila Patrón ESM, while Lapierre won in 2011 for ORECA Team Matmut in a Peugeot 908 Hybrid.
“Just Unbelievable. It’s the second victory in three attempts,” Derani said after the race. “It’s amazing. From 2016, to having a problem last year, and coming back to win is just amazing. This victory goes to my dad who is watching us back in Brazil and is fighting for his health. I’m just so happy to be able to win and know that he’s watching my race. I just have to thank the entire team for giving me this opportunity to win again and win in front of him.”
“We needed this so badly,” said team owner Scott Sharp. “We were really heartbroken after Daytona. We needed this as a team, and we needed this for Tequila Patrón. These guys just did a great job and with flawless moves. The pit stops were great, the car performed, and Nissan did a fabulous job. I’m so proud of the entire team.”
The race certainly didn’t start off well for Tequila Patrón ESM. Olivier Pla started second alongside Spirit of Daytona Racing’s Tristan Vautier. Going into turn 1 on the first lap, the two cars collided. Pla slid off the road, but was able to keep his Nissan DPi out of the wall. Unfortunately, the contact broke internal parts on the No. 2 Nissan. The car went behind the wall and eventually out of the race without completing a single lap.
One of the scariest moments of the race occurred less than a half-hour in when Sebastian Saavedra spun exiting Sunset Bend. Frankie Montecalvo tried to avoid Saavedra’s Prototype, but clipped him. Montecalvo’s Ferrari was launched roof-first into the tires and came to rest upside-down.
Montecalvo walked away from the crash, while Saavedra continued and eventually finished 11th in the Prototype class, 31st overall. The Scuderia Corsa crew attempted briefly to repair the car, but ultimately retired the car. Had they repaired the car, it would have had to go through technical inspection again before it would have been allowed to go back out.
For much of the first half of the race, the lead swapped back and forth between the Action Express Racing No. 31 Cadillac, the No. 55 Mazda and the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05. With Ricky Taylor driving, the No. 7 blew an engine just after the halfway point. Vautier had a big crash in the 11th hour that put him out of the race.
The second half of the race was dominated by the No. 22 for Tequila Patrón ESM and Mazda Team Joest’s No. 55. However, issues with the clutch and battery on the Mazda RT24-P dropped Harry Tincknell and the rest of the No. 55 crew out of contention after an excellent day. They would ultimately finish sixth, one lap down. With the No. 55 out of the way, Derani was able to drive to victory unmolested.
The margin of victory was 12.427 seconds over Wayne Taylor Racing’s No. 10 Cadillac for Ryan Hunter-Reay, Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. The second-place finish came despite overheating woes. Action Express Racing’s No. 31 for Mike Conway, Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr was third, followed by CORE autosport’s No. 54 ORECA 07-Gibson for Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and Romain Dumas. United Autosports’ Alex Brundle, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson were fifth despite stopping on course and drawing a caution at one point.
In GT Le Mans, the BMW M8 GTEs led early on, but James Calado put the Risi Competizione Ferrari up front for a long stint. The race was ultimately a back and forth affair as all five manufacturers put themselves at the head of the class at some point during the race.
However, the Porsches took control in the final couple of hours. The No. 911 Porsche of Frédéric Makowiecki, Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy took control of the race during the final full course caution for Vautier’s crash and did not look back. Tandy was able to open a small gap and held that to the finish to take the class victory.
Tandy’s margin of victory was six seconds over BMW Team RLL’s No. 25 for Bill Auberlen, Connor De Phillippi and Alexander Sims. Porsche GT Team’s No. 912 for Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni and Laurens Vanthoor was third, followed by Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 67 Ford for Ryan Briscoe, Scott Dixon and Richard Westbrook. Calado, Alessandro Pier Guidi and Toni Vilander had to settle for fifth in the Ferrari.
In GT Daytona, a number of the same teams that contended in Daytona came to the forefront. Jack Hawksworth, who is generally the fastest driver in the class, once again put his No. 15 Lexus in contention. Montaplast by Land-Motorsport was there with their Audi, along with Paul Miller Racing’s Lamborghini.
Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s No. 93 Acura that Justin Marks nearly destroyed in a huge crash on Thursday was actually a contender early on in the race. The team ultimately finished seventh in class, 35 seconds back.
In the 10th hour, Paul Miller Racing took control of the race for good. While they were never more than about 10 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack, Bryan Sellers brought the lone Lamborghini in the field home to a convincing class victory. For Sellers and his teammates Corey Lewis and Madison Snow, it is their first class victory at Sebring.
The margin of victory was eight seconds over Scuderia Corsa’s No. 63 Ferrari of Alessandro Balzan, Gunnar Jeannette and Cooper MacNeil. The WeatherTech Racing team benefited from Balzan’s stout form. Riley Motorsports’ No. 33 Mercedes of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Ben Keating and Luca Stolz was third, followed by the Montaplast by Land-Motorsports Audi of Christopher Mies, Alessio Picariello and Sheldon van der Linde. 3GT Racing’s No. 15 for Hawksworth, David Heinemeier Hansson and Sean Rayhall were fifth.
Teams will now take four weeks off before the first non-full field race of the season. The Prototype and GT Le Mans classes will travel to Long Beach for the BUBBA Burger Sportscar Grand Prix at Long Beach on Apr. 14.