Forty 7 Motorsports’ Joel Janco, Jonatan Jorge and Tristan Nunez scored a thrilling victory in the IMSA Michelin SportsCar Encore Sunday (Nov. 10) at Sebring International Raceway. Despite that, the race was overshadowed by the passing of Dr. Tim George, who was part of the driving team of the No. 2 Ligier JS P3-Nissan for ANSA Motorsports.
On lap 47, George pulled his car onto the pit lane and suddenly stopped in the middle of the lane due to an undisclosed medical issue. IMSA threw a full course caution in order to close the pit lane and allow medical personnel to tend to him. No updates were given on George’s condition during the race.
After the race ended, Sebring International Raceway released this statement.
George made 10 starts in a combination of IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda and it’s predecessor, IMSA Prototype Lites. Sunday was only his second career race in LMP3 equipment. He had raced at Sebring in the season opener back in March with ANSA Motorsports, finishing 23rd.
After George was extricated from the No. 2 Ligier, the team did continue in the race. Jon Brownson later crashed the car in Sunset Bend to bring out another yellow. After that incident, the car was retired.
The race itself started with Performance Tech Motorsports’ Blake Mount on the overall pole with teammate Cameron Cassels alongside. Mount was able to beat Cassels to turn 1 and opened up a gap. Meanwhile, the GT3 cars made a quick move towards the front. Wright Motorsports’ Maxwell Root quickly moved up from 13th on the grid to fourth within the first couple of laps.
For Lance Willsey, his race was over before it really got going. On lap 2, Willsey spun in Sunset Bend and backed into the tires. Replays were inconclusive, but Willsey’s teammate Oliver Askew (racing in the event in order to get experience racing with something similar to the new Aeroscreen in INDYCAR) indicated that Willsey was likely hit by Root. No penalty was assessed.
Mount led for the first few laps before his pace slowly dropped off. That allowed Cassels to run him back down and take the lead on lap 7. Once out front, Cassels sl0wly began to pull away.
All of the amateur drivers started in the LMP3 entries. That allowed the GT3 cars to pass everyone except the Performance Tech teammates. Root moved up to third overall with Madison Snow, Marc Miller and Gar Robinson in tow.
After the first round of stops were complete, Cassels had a 42-second lead over Stevan McAleer in the No. 43 Norma M30-Nissan. Over the next 18 laps, McAleer took multiple seconds a lap out of Cassels’ lead. He eventually ran down Cassels right when the aforementioned yellow came out on lap 48.
The yellow for Brownson’s crash threw the race upside down. A number of teams were caught out and ended up getting lapped. Jorge had stayed out prior to the yellow and maintained the advantage.
Following the yellow, Jorge was effectively on a lap of his own in LMP3, while all four GT3 cars were second through fifth, led by Snow. Jorge’s third pit stop allowed Snow to assume the overall lead.
During the final stops for GT3 cars, Riley Motorsports took a gamble. A two-tire pit stop allowed Lawson Aschenbach to take the overall lead in his Mercedes-AMG GT3 with a small gap to the rest of the class.
A few laps after the stops, Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley stalled on the Ulmann Straight with a fuel pickup issue to bring out the final caution of the race. Per IMSA rules, all LMP3 cars were allowed to line up in front of GT3 cars.
That gave the lead to Nunez, who had gotten in the car on lap 81. Boyd was right behind, along with McAleer. Over the final 16 laps of the race, the three drivers traded quick laps as they ran away from the field to settle the race among themselves. At one point, McAleer and Nunez tied for the fastest lap of the entire race on the same lap.
With three evenly matched cars, Boyd was able to keep pace with Nunez, but he was unable to make a move in the closing laps. Nunez, driving the car that won the IMSA Prototype Challenge presented by Mazda championship earlier this year, held on to take the win.
The margin of victory was just seven-eighths of a second over Boyd and Husain. McAleer and Joe Robillard were third after starting from the rear. K2R Motorsports’ Matt Bell, Jim McGuire and Kay van Berlo were fourth.
Much like in LMP3, the GT3 race was a duel right to the end. All four cars in the class were right in the battle. The last caution took Aschenbach’s lead away, but he still had very good pace. Over the final 16 laps of the race, the four GT3 teams ran nose-to-tail with Wright Motorsports’ Jan Heylen right on the tail of the Mercedes.
Aschenbach was able to hold on to take the win for himself and Robinson. The margin of victory was eight-tenths of a second over Heylen, Root and Ryan Hardwick. Black Swan Racing’s Miller, Tim Pappas and Spencer Pumpelly were third, while Paul Miller Racing’s Snow and Bryan Sellers were fourth.
In GT4, PF Racing’s Jade Buford started from the pole and led early. However, Buford made a mistake and slid off-course in turn 5 on lap 9. That allowed Riley Motorsports’ James Cox to take the class lead in his Mercedes-AMG GT4. From there, the Riley Motorsports team had an error-free race while everyone else struggled with penalties and mechanical issues.
As a result, it ended up being an easy class victory for Cox and Dylan Murry in 12th overall and a double victory for Riley Motorsports. They ended up four laps ahead of CarBahn Motorsports’ Tom Dyer and Sameer Gandhi. Buford, James Pesek and Shane Lewis ended up third, but 15 laps down after spending time in the garage.