WTRAndretti claims Sebring crown, as Era Motorsport backs up Daytona LMP2 victory

A caution with 1h20m left in the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Cadillac turned strategy on its head and put all the GTP contenders back on equal footing, turning it into a contest of fuel conversation balanced by pace…until a pair of yellows for debris negated the fuel-saving aspect.

The No. 01 Cadillac Racing V-Series.R of Sebastien Bourdais, Renger van der Zande and Scott Dixon, along with the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports 963 of Felipe Nasr, Dane Cameron and Matt Campbell, were in the situation of requiring one more stop than the other contenders to make it to the end. But with everyone pitting under the yellow, and the Cadillac and Porsche both having stopped minutes before the caution, they needed less energy and left the pits ahead of the others, Bourdais followed by Nasr. The best of the others was Louis Deletraz in the No. 40 Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Acura ARX-06.

In a contest of pace, it was Deletraz and the Acura — on fresher tires, because the Acura took tires on the final stop and the Cadillac didn’t — that had it. On the first restart, he easily got past Nasr. It took after the next two cautions, though, before the final battle would commence. Bourdais pulled out a bit of a lead on the final restart, but Deletraz, who had set the race’s fastest lap on lap 187, came charging back. A move alongside in 17 didn’t get the job done, but a couple of laps later, as Bourdais took the middle of the track in defense into Turn 7, Deletraz dove even further inside, taking away the line into the Hairpin. A few turns and several bumps between the Cadillac and the Acura later, and Deletraz had the lead.

“I saw I was strong on braking, especially the low speed like T7, T10,” related Deletraz. “But every time I was close he was defending very well on the inside and I was on the outside and he squeezed me off. So I realized quickly I was never going to make it on the on the outside, which, fair enough … IMSA racing is tough and that’s the way, so I thought about it.


“I saw a gap in [Turn 7] and I just just went for it — bleed off the brake, go in and try to avoid him crossing back. Then I think there was some more contact on the straight, which again, hard racing, but I think fair and in the end we both made it to the flag, which is also down to two drivers. I could not have done it by myself; if he didn’t respect me, we’d both be in the wall too, so I’m really thankful for that.”

Wayne Taylor Racing had its first Twelve Hours of Sebring victory since 2017, and Acura its first (although the second win for Honda Racing Corporation, which won in 2016 with ESM). The No. 01 Cadillac was second, and the No. 7 Porsche third. The No. 25 BMW M Team RLL M Hybrid V8 of Connor De Phillippi, Nick Yelloly and Maxime Martin finished fourth to make it four different manufacturers in the top four. The No. 10 WTRAndretti Acura had shown winning pace, but a fluid leak in the late stages that took some time to repair left them salvaging a fifth place to go with the team’s victory, its first in the new GTP era.

“It’s a huge win for the team,” said Jordan Taylor. “It’s their first win in the GTP class for Acura. So it’s a big win for the team, first time as a two-car team as well. I think our plan was we stayed at a triple all day, didn’t have any big issues. The 10 car was extremely quick, drove to the lead at one point, but had their little issue that they recovered from and recovered to a top five. Overall, Louis’s closing stint was what made a difference today. I think the team did a good job keeping us in the fight, but he really fought for that win and got it for us.”

Both Cadillacs had dominated the early going, but the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac Racing car went out in a big crash, and the No. 01 had to battle through some electrical gremlins.

“We had ABS failure, like time and time and time again, we had to do some defaults and stuff and it seemed to come back every time we cleared it,” said Bourdais. “But then the motor stopped coming out of [Turn 7]; that’s where lost the two spots to the two Acuras and the BMW. We got going again. And we never heard that anymore. So it was kind of weird. I don’t remember when it was but it was during my second stint. I had no regen for a while so the rear brakes start to get on fire and the real tire pressures take off and it didn’t look pretty for a minute, but the guys did a great job — they debugged the problem and found the solution and and we got going and we were there at the end, so it’s all you can ask for.”

Era Motorsport’s ORECA once again had the legs on the LMP2 field when it counted. Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

LMP2 boiled down to a battle between Connor Zilisch in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA and Felipe Fraga in the No. 74 Riley Motorsports ORECA. Colin Braun and the No. 01 CrowdStrike Racing by APR entry would have been a part of the final battle, but in making a move on Fraga, he made contact and spun, dropping out of contention.

The No. 74 would later suffer a problem and drop down the order, leaving Zilisch to fend off a late charge by Mikkel Jensen in the No. 11 TDS Racing ORECA. He did so and thus claimed the second consecutive victory for Era Motorsports and teammates Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel after the Rolex 24 at Daytona victory in January.

“It was really tough to pass out there,” said Zilisch. “It was kind of just whoever could get track position and get to the lead was gonna end up winning. So there with about an hour to go, we were all running in a train. I think I was seventh, and I knew I wasn’t going to pass them. So I just started saving fuel and was going to wait for the last pit stop. I saved enough to get back and I took the lead when I came back out.”

It was far from an easy day for the team, as they had to go from the back to the front three times due to a variety of maladies, including a puncture and blocked radiators.

“Every time we got to the front we ended up in the back and think when I got in the car — the plan is double me, double Connor — I get in the car, we were in the lead,” explained Dalziel. “Then we had one of the GTPs went off and threw up some carbon and so in the space of one lap, we had overheating and then we got a puncture, so that’s when we pitted off sequence. That was only four or five laps after the restart. Honestly, I thought that was it. Without a yellow I knew we were going to be struggling to make time back.

“We still knew we had the pace in the car. We definitely didn’t give up. We were already a little bit offset with the fuel time and Connor just started saving a little bit of fuel. There was a whole conversation for a few minutes on the intercom which is, this call is going to be the hero or zero call for the team.”

It was the first Sebring victory for the team and the drivers, although Dalziel has won at Sebring in a WEC race. It was a relief for Merriman after a bunch of podiums at Sebring.

“I’m super happy because every time I’ve been here before we podium, but never won,” said the emotional Merriman. “So, first time I was really excited. The third time, it was like, ‘Are we ever gonna win this race or not?’ The team did a great job, including these guys, but also engineering and the whole crew. These these off-sequence stops, either the one for debris or the one that was just off sequence by strategy, they were fast. Mistakes were not made.”

Jensen, Steven Thomas and Hunter McElrea finished second by only 1.127s, ahead of the No. 22 United Autosports ORECA of Dan Goldburg, Paul Di Resta and Bijoy Garg. In an impressive turnaround after a rough Rolex 24 At Daytona, the Sean Creech Motorsports squad of Lance Willssey, Joao Barbosa and Jonny Edgar finished fourth in the No. 33 Ligier.


Story originally appeared on Racer