Final Sebring stint catapults Deletraz to IMSA stardom

A little more than a year ago, Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti sent the new guy to buy a vacuum cleaner for the team motor home. On Saturday night, they were crediting him with winning the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring — the team’s first victory in the modern GTP era, its first Sebring victory since 2017 and the first Twelve Hours win for Acura brand.

“Louis’ closing stint is what made the difference today. The team did a good job to keep us in the fight. He really fought for that win and got it for us,” said Jordan Taylor, describing teammate Louis Deletraz’s role in capturing a Sebring victory for the trio driving the No. 40 WTRAndretti Acura ARX-06 – himself, Deletraz and Colton Herta.

Deletraz had already made a mark on sports car racing with a pair of European Le Mans Series LMP2 titles and several IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship wins when he was tabbed as the endurance addition for Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Acura for 2023. The Swiss driver captured his first WEC LMP2 title last year as well. Now the former Haas F1 test driver is the full-timer alongside Jordan in the second ARX-06 the team added this year.


As the race entered its closing stages, Deletraz was third as the green waved for a restart. He dispatched Felipe Nasr in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963 rather quickly. But then he had a bigger obstacle in front of him — Sebastien Bourdais in Cadillac V-Series.R that had been strong all race. Deletraz had one advantage — fresher tires by a few laps thanks to different pit sequences. The Cadillac had pitted a few laps before the yellow that would produce everyone’s last stop, and went for a short fill and no tires to gain track position, as did the PPM squad with the No. 7.

It took a couple of extra cautions for debris before the battle truly began, but once it did, it was on in earnest. Deletraz attempted a bold move on the outside of Turn 17, but couldn’t make it stick. Jordan Taylor would later note that they had studied other drivers and teams, and Bourdais was one of the strongest in Turn 17, so for Deletraz to nearly pull off a pass there was impressive.

Bourdais was on the defense, especially in some of the slower corners. But Deletraz was observing. When Bourdais once again took the middle of the track in defense on the approach to the Hairpin, Deletraz went all the way to the right, took away Bourdais’ apex, and a couple of turns and several bumps later, had the lead that would deliver a victory.

“The car was really strong in the end,” Deletraz said. “I knew we were in a position to win, which, to be fair, was a lot of pressure. I’ve never really done that. Daytona was my first time. That’s my second time finishing a race. I just obviously wanted to win and bring points for the championship. I saw I had the opportunity. Seb was tough, but fair, so thanks to him. Yeah, in the end I saw the gap, I went for it. I had more pace and we won. That’s fantastic. I think I’ll remember this one for a long time.”

The manner of the victory made it all the sweeter for Deletraz. Jake Galstad/Lumen

Bourdais made it known that he thought there was a bit too much contact in the battle, but in the end both cars made it to the finish without trouble. Up to the point of that fight, Deletraz’s teammates had done their part, as had Deletraz, in keeping the No. 40 in contention. Still, they had great praise for the finishing driver, especially since the victory put them in a tie for the points lead for the season championship after a third-place finish in the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I can’t say enough about what Louis did in the last stint to bring it home, what type of pressure he was under, able to perform through it and put a pretty spicy move on Seb,” said Herta.

Deletraz seemed slightly embarrassed by the praise, yet his smile revealed he was also proud of the remarks from his accomplished teammates.

“It means a lot,” he said of the comments. “I think winning this coming here was an objective, but for sure was going to be hard work. To do it this way means really a lot. I got the car in a very good position. It’s thanks to these two – Jordan and Colton didn’t do any mistakes, gave me the car up there, then I could fight. Obviously with them having won so much in their career, having them by my side, I can learn from different categories and keep improving. That’s always the goal in the end.”

Story originally appeared on Racer