IMSA Sebring 12 Hours: AXR Cadillac wins after wild, late-race GTP pile-up
Action Express Racing won the 2023 12 Hours of Sebring for Cadillac, after a late-race, multi-car crash took out all three leaders in the new GTP class in the closing minutes.
Apart from a pitlane speeding penalty, the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura of Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Louis Deletraz had a seemingly comfortable race until a series of late restarts embroiled them in a battle with the #6 Porsche Penske Motorsport car of Mathieu Jaminet, Nick Tandy and Dane Cameron.
Albuquerque and Jaminet were battling for the win in the darkness when they came across GTD traffic in the closing minutes, and they took each other out – with the second Penske Porsche of Felipe Nasr piling into the accident and removing the top three cars in an instant.
That left the door open for the #31 AXR Cadillac of Pipo Derani, Alexander Sims and Jack Aitken to steal the victory, Derani taking his fourth overall win at Sebring.
In a race of fluctuating fortunes, the lead had ebbed and flowed in the early stages between the Cadillacs of Action Express Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing, and the Acura of WTR with Andretti Autosport for much of the event – with all striking some form of drama.
The #31 AXR car had to bounce back from an early collision with an LMP3 car, which required multiple pitstops to fix the nose section and left-side mirror. The #01 CGR entry suffered two spins, which handed the advantage to the WTR Acura.
Taylor got a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane with just over four hours to go, which meant all three of the fastest cars were sent to the tail of the field at some point.
With three hours to go, Sebastien Bourdais pitted from the lead with his CGR Cadillac on fire. Another frontrunner, the Rolex 24 Hours-winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura, was in the mix going into the last couple of hours until a left-rear wheel parted company when Tom Blomqvist was aboard.
With 75 minutes to go, the biggest challenger to WTR suddenly became the pair of Porsche 963s of Nasr and Jaminet, the latter passing the AXR Caddy of Aitken, which had been suffering from a refuelling issue, soon after a restart for third.
The #7 Porsche enjoyed the cleanest race of all the GTP cars until it was struck by a late penalty for the team working on the car outside of its pit box, while the #6 car bounced back from hitting a GTD car, getting smashed by an LMP3 car under yellow and another bizarre issue early on that caused steam to fill the cockpit.
At a restart with under an hour to go, Jaminet passed Nasr for second and then attacked Albuquerque for the lead. Jaminet passed him with a wild move that saw them rub wheels, only for Albuquerque to lunge and barge him off the track a few corners later to reclaim the top spot.
Aitken stayed out to pick up the lead with 32 minutes to go, ahead of Jaminet – who beat Albuquerque out of the pits. Jaminet repeated his move from earlier, this time to take the lead from Aitken, while Albuquerque biffed Aitken wide. Albuquerque, Nasr and Aitken ran three-wide to Turn 1, with Albuquerque forcing his way into second.
Jaminet leapt ahead by 1.2 seconds but as the leaders hit a knot of traffic, the delayed Jaminet and Albuquerque collided, with the WTR car slamming into the barrier on the inside and rejoining the track, out of control, at Turn 3, ramming Jaminet who was simultaneously colliding with a GTD car. Nasr then arrived and slammed into Albuquerque and Jaminet, flying over the top of his team-mate. All drivers were unhurt.
Aitken picked his way through the chaos, taking the lead ahead of the #25 BMW of Nick Yelloly, Sheldon van der Linde and Connor de Phillippi – the sole remaining GTP car.
The race restarted with four minutes to go, with Aitken cruising home ahead of Yelloly.
#8 Tower Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07: John Farano, Scott McLaughlin, Kyffin Simpson
Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images
Ben Keating (PR1 Mathiasen ORECA) starred in the opening stages, but his #52 car fell back as the #04 Crowdstrike by APR machine surged to the front. After its heartache over losing a Rolex 24 win in the final yards, things looked grim for that car when George Kurtz caused the second yellow of the race with a spin, and Ben Hanley suffered a further scare when he spun at Sunset Bend a few hours later.
One of its chief rivals, the #8 Tower Motorsports car of Scott McLaughlin, John Farano and Kyffin Simpson suffered a blow when the latter shunted at the exit of Turn 1. Simpson was able to drag it back to the pits, keeping it in the hunt for victory.
IndyCar star McLaughlin then tore his way to the front at the final restart, beating Jensen home by just 0.834s, ahead of the #18 Era Motorsport car of Christian Rasmussen, Ryan Dalziel and Dwight Merriman, the #52 brought home by Paul-Loup Chatain, while the #04 Crowdstrike car slumped to fifth for yet more late-race disappointment.
This class started with a bang as Lance Willsey spun his #33 LMP3 Ligier at Turn 1 and had 28 GTD cars avoid him as he sat stranded in the middle of the track. Glenn van Barlo (#36 Andretti Autosport) led initially, before the #85 JDC Miller Motorsport of Dan Goldburg took over.
As the race wore on, the #30 JR III Ligier of Dakota Dickerson, Ari Balough and Garett Grist took command of the class, ahead of the #74 Riley car of Gar Robinson, Felipe Fraga and Josh Burdon. But the #30 was agonizingly taken out by a wheel that flew off Pietro Fittipaldi’s P2 car with just 75 minutes to go.
That allowed the #74 car free passage to the victory, and it won by a lap.
#9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R: Klaus Bachler, Patrick Pilet, Laurens Vanthoor
Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images
GTD / GTD Pro
After the chaos of Turn 1, where the pack found Willsey’s car stranded in the middle of the circuit on the racing line, GTD Pro began as a duel between the factory driver-stacked #3 Corvette Racing C8.R of Antonio Garcia, Jordan Taylor and Tommy Milner, and #79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes of Daniel Juncadella, Jules Gounon and Maro Engel.
But with just under four hours remaining, the Corvette suffered a left-rear damper issue which took it out of the lead and put it a lap down.
That opened the door for the Pfaff Motorsports Porsche team, whose 911 was shunted in qualifying by Sebring novice Klaus Bachler. After an all-nighter, and a near-miss with the spinning LMP3 car which almost ended its race at the first corner, Bachler and Laurens Vanthoor and Patrick Pilet stormed through the field to get in front of the Mercedes.
The #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus was always in the mix, and thanks to the series of late cautions, Garcia was suddenly back in contention having got his lap back – until he was taken out in the chaotic GTP crash near the finish.
Pilet pulled away in the closing stages, finishing ahead of Jack Hawksworth’s Lexus by 2.7s and Juncadella in the Merc.
The non-Pro GTD class was won by the #1 Paul Miller Racing BMW of Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow and Corey Lewis, which was chased home by the #96 version of Patrick Gallagher, Robby Foley and Michael Dinan.
IMSA Sebring 12 Hours - Race results
|Pos||Nº||Driver||Car / Engine||Laps||Time|
S.van der Linde
T.van der Helm
|27||92||David Brule Sr.
Kay van Berlo
|42||27||Roman De Angelis
R.van der Zande
Glenn van Berlo
G.van der Garde
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