This year’s 12 Hours of Sebring didn’t disappoint, the race in all three classes proving to be hotly contested, with lead battles going down to the final hour. It threw up a lot of surprises and has set up what looks set to be an intriguing 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season ahead.
ESM’s #22 crew took the win, scoring its second victory at the race in three years and first Sebring win with its Nissan DPi. Pipo Derani, Nicolas Lapierre and Johannes van Overbeek also bounced back from a tough Daytona 24 Hours in the process, the crew now firmly in the points battle heading into the third round of the season at Long Beach.
“Just unbelievable,” said a jubilant Derani after the race. “It’s the second victory in three attempts. 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.”
Lapierre was also both ecstatic and shocked by the result, explaining that everything was perfect during the race for the #22 crew.
“What an amazing day at one of the toughest races in the world. It was a really special day. It was a really great job from everyone on the team: the strategy, the setup of the car, the team in the pit stops, and my teammates on the track.
“Everything was perfect today, and we made no mistakes. I’m really proud of everyone. We weren’t lucky in Daytona, but we fought back hard to be here. I’m really proud of everyone.”
Further down the order in the Prototype class though, United Autosports boss Richard Dean, despite his team having a quiet, near trouble-free run to fifth place with its Ligier JS P217, came away disappointed in the difference in performance levels between the DPi and LMP2 cars in the field.
“To finish fifth and on the lead lap on the team’s Sebring début is incredible especially considering the handicap that we are having to cope with concerning the pace of the DPi cars,” Dean said.
“All three drivers drove fantastically well: Phil (Hanson) was magnificent in his maiden Sebring race which was only his eighth race in an LMP2, Paul was also having his first race at Sebring, only his second sportscar race, but looks like a seasoned endurance driver, while Alex (Brundle) ‘subbed’ superbly for the team.
“Like the drivers, the team made no mistakes in the pits, every stop was perfect. I’m proud of everyone in the team but very, very disappointed in the DPi-LMP2 discrepancies in terms of performance.”
The GTLM class winners in the #911 Porsche North American 911 RSR hailed the team’s strategy for their big win, only the second ever for the current 911 globally.
“This win was missing from my collection,” said Patrick Pilet.
“It was a great team effort. The pit crew didn’t make one mistake and our strategy was perfect. To celebrate this achievement with my friends Nick and Fred is incredible. After the qualifying, victory seemed a long way off.
“But when you’re determined to achieve something and you go for it, you can do it. This race is proof of that.”
Nick Tandy added that the tyre strategy at the end was the difference in the battle for the GTLM lead.
“They say that the best victories come from the toughest races,” he said. “Today was such a race. We didn’t have the slightest problem over the entire distance and that was the key to our success.
“My last two stints were incredibly intense, especially the duels with the Ferrari and the BMW. We switched to new tyres during the last pit stop – after that, nothing could hold us back.”
And in GTD, Paul Miller Racing scored Lamborghini’s second GTD win in a row to start the season, Madison Snow admitting that a perfect run complimented the team’s hard work to adapt the Huracan to the circuit, during race week.
“That was a great race,” he said. “At the beginning of this weekend, we didn’t start near the top of charts because the track changed so much from our last test here. It took a lot of hard work to get the pace that we needed to have in order to compete at the top.
“You never really know what you have until the race starts, and with each stint the car was perfect. From the pit stand, to the garage, to my co-drivers, all of the guys did an amazing job.
“Sebring is truly an event like no other, and it’s amazing we got to celebrate this win tonight.”
Porsche image courtesy of Porsche, featured image courtesy of ESM