ANSA Motorsports’ Roman DeAngelis and Kyle Kirkwood claimed overall victory in the IMSA Michelin SportsCar Encore Sunday (Nov. 11) at Sebring International Raceway. For DeAngelis, it is his second win of the year in LMP3 equipment after winning the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda season opener at Daytona in January. For Kirkwood, it is a win on debut in an LMP3 car. It is his 28th win of 2018 after blitzing both the F3 Americas series and Cooper Tires USF2000.
“That race, everything about it was impeccable,” Kirkwood said after the race. “I’d never driven the LMP3 car before Friday. It was incredible.”
Early on, things didn’t seem all that incredible for ANSA Motorsports. European Le Mans Series regular Kay van Berlo won the pole Sunday morning and proceeded to run away with the race early on. Van Berlo ran off to a 25-second lead over the rest of the field led by DeAngelis.
What put DeAngelis back in the hunt was proper timing of his first pit stop. DeAngelis pitted on Lap 27 for his first stop of the race. Shortly afterwards, Dean Baker in ANSA Motorsports’ No. 4 Ligier spun exiting Turn 3 and high-centered his car on a curb. That brought out the race’s first full course caution.
Due to DeAngelis stopping before the caution, the No. 13 Ligier was able to vault into the overall lead. Once there, DeAngelis was able to stay ahead of Guy Cosmo with ease. Van Berlo had exited the No. 26 K2R Motorsports entry in favor of Jim McGuire, who had dropped back as far as sixth.
Pit strategy once again ultimately decided the race. Right before halfway, DeAngelis made his second pit stop and got out of the car in favor of Kirkwood. That gave the led to Cosmo, but once again, the full course caution came out before Cosmo could pit. This time, Dakota Dickerson in the No. 2 Ligier from ANSA Motorsports slid off into the tires at Turn 9.
Kirkwood ended up with the lead, while P1 Motorsports’ Kenton Koch, who was two laps down due to earlier wavearound penalty, gave chase. Koch pushed Kirkwood to drive as fast as possible, which allowed him to open up a big gap on the rest of the field. Matt Bell, who was now in the No. 26, could equal Kirkwood’s pace, but couldn’t do anything with the 10+ seconds that he had spotted Kirkwood.
Koch never did get a lap back from Kirkwood. He later crashed out in Turn 2 to bring out the race’s fourth and final full course yellow with 37 minutes to go. That set up a sprint to the finish. Kirkwood was able to get a good restart and opened up a small gap over Bell. He then held that all the way to the finish.
The margin of victory was 2.278 seconds over the K2R Motorsports No. 26 of Bell, McGuire and van Berlo. Third went to Polestar Motor Racing Inc.’s lineup of David and Keith Grant, along with Katherine Legge. Simraceway Motorsports’ Nico Rondet, Maurice Smith and John Schauerman were fourth after Rondet spun late while trying to pass Legge for third. K2R Motorsports’ Alex Barron and Naveen Rao were fifth.
The GT4 class was dominated for most of the distance by KohR Motorsports’ No. 60 Ford Mustang GT4. The trio of team owner Dean Martin, Kyle Marcelli and Nate Stacy combined to lead 88 of the 99 laps completed. Late in the race, GMG Racing’s No. 22 Audi R8 with Andy Lally at the wheel began to encroach on Marcelli. However, a late pit stop ended any chance of victory as the No. 60 team claimed the class victory and finished seventh overall.
Martin, Marcelli and Stacy’s margin of victory was 16.255 seconds over the GMG Audi of Lally, Jason Bell and James Sofronas. KohR Motorsports’ No. 59 Ford Mustang GT4 of DJ and Rod Randall along with Kenny Wilden were a lap down in third.
The TCR class saw Mark Motors Racing’s Audi RS 3 Club Sport of Marco Cirone and Remo Ruscitti dominate much of the race. However, JDC-Miller MotorSports’ Audi for Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson was able to get past during the last round of stops. With less than two laps to go, Ruscitti was able to run Simpson down and make the pass for the lead. From there, Ruscitti pulled away to take the class victory. Simpson’s car faltered on the final lap and officially did not reach the finish line. They were still classified second in class.