Sebring 2024

Race winning WTR Andretti Acura. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Race winning WTR Andretti Acura. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Eddie LePine and Jack Webster

The 2024 running of the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring is now in the record books, and as has been the usual case with IMSA racing since the debut of the new era of GTP racing, the race was outstanding and had drama, excitement and a close finish at the end.

Held in picture perfect Florida weather in warm but comfortable conditions, the 72nd running of the Florida endurance classic saw all four of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship take part.

58 cars total made up the starting grid, with 11 GTP prototypes leading the way.
LMP2 featured 13 entries, while GTD-PRO and GTD combined for an additional 34 cars.

Always quick, Pipo Derani put the #31 Whelen Cadillac on pole and led for much of the race into the afternoon. Unfortunately, it all came for naught as Derani and his Cadillac were a DNF after a high-speed accident at Turn 9, when Pipo caught the #21 Ferrari 296 GT3 and made slight contact as he was passing. The Cadillac shot straight into the tire wall and ended upside down, with an uninjured Pipo Derani trapped for a few minutes until the IMSA safety crew and corner workers were able to upright the car so Pipo could escape. The #21 AF Corse Ferrari was also a DNF, too damaged to continue.

At the end, it was Louis Deletraz in the #40 Acura ARX 06, co-driven by Jordan Taylor and Colton Herta, taking a .891 second victory over the #01 Cadillac driven by Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon. The #7 Porsche Penske 963 piloted by Dane Cameron, Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr completed the GTP and overall podium.

The win was a triumph for WTR Andretti Racing and Acura, who now sit tied at the top of the GTP standings with the #7 Porsche Penske (which won the Rolex 24 at Daytona). Team owners Wayne Taylor and Michael Andretti looked pretty pleased on the podium.

Louis Deletraz on his winning pass on Sebastien Bourdais at the end of the race: “Every time I got close, there was a yellow pretty much, which is not helping me. I saw I was strong on braking, especially the low speed, T7, T10. He was close, defending well on the inside. I was on the outside, he squeezed me off. I realized quickly I was never going to make it on the outside, which is fair enough. It’s IMSA racing, it’s tough. I thought I saw a gap in seven. I went for it. Bleed off the brake, try to avoid him crossing back. I think we had more contact on the straight. Again, hard racing, but I think fair. We both made it to the flag. I couldn’t have done it by myself. If he didn’t respect me, we’d both be in the wall. Really thankful for that.”

The race marked the debut run for the new Lamborghini SG63 GTP car, entered by Iron Lynx and piloted by Matteo Cairoli, Andrea Caldarelli and Romain Grosjean. The car was turned out beautifully, looked good on the track and finished 7th overall and in GTP, on the same lap as the race winners. Look for great results upcoming for the Lamborghini. It handled the bumps quite well at its Sebring debut.

In LMP2 it was a back-to-back victory for the ERA Motorsport ORECA, as they finished on top at the Rolex 24 as well. Drivers Dwight Merriman, Ryan Daizel and Connor Zillsch finished first in class, with just over a one second margin of victory. In the super competitive LMP2 class, 9 LMP2 cars finished on the lead lap, separated by less than 25 seconds. With wins at both Daytona and Sebring, ERA Motorsports and its drivers have a very comfortable points lead in the championship.

Young driver Connor Zilisch (only 17 years old!), who also drove the car to the win at Daytona: “There about an hour to go, we were all running in a train. I think I was seventh. I knew I wasn’t going to pass them, so I just started saving fuel was going to wait for the last pit stop. I saved enough to get back. I took the lead when I came back out. Pretty unreal to get two wins in my first two WeatherTech starts.”

In GTD-PRO, it was Lexus on top, with Vasser Sullivan Racing and drivers Jack Hawksworth, Ben Barnicoat and Kyle Kirkwood sharing the driving duties. They scored a .121 second victory over the Daytona winning Risi Competizione Ferrari 296 GT3. With the win at Daytona and the second place at Sebring, the Risi team and drivers lead the championship by a large margin.

Lexus pilot Ben Barnicoat: “First year we got Atlanta, Petit Le Mans win, which was incredibly huge. Last year we won Watkins Glen and the championship. Just got Daytona left to go. We had a real rough start to this season, but that performance today showed why we are champions last year.”

In GTD, it was Mercedes on top, with Winward Racing’s Mercedes AMG GT3 EVO, piloted by Russell Ward, Philip Ellis and Indy Dontje taking the top spot, with the Cetilar Racing Ferrari 296 GT3 finishing second. For Winward Racing it was also back-to-back wins at Daytona and Sebring, so they lead the championship by a wide margin as well.

Russell Ward: “I think now we’re with the car with the most to lose. We have such a big points lead on especially all of the full-season competitors. I mean, it’s just kind of in our hands to make sure we come out clean every race, capitalize on the most points we can.”

The 36 Hours of Florida now behind us, it is on to Long Beach for the beginning of the IMSA sprint races April 19-20.

See you at the races.

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