IMSA: Ganassi Ford wins 12 Hours of Sebring

IMSA: Ganassi Ford wins 12 Hours of Sebring


IMSA: Ganassi Ford wins 12 Hours of Sebring

By ,

A late, extended caution period shuffled the running order at the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, and once the race resumed with 20 minutes left, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates delivered the overall win for Ford and its new EcoBoost turbo Daytona Prototype engine package.

It marked the first win the for the storied Ganassi team on the team’s Sebring debut, the first overall wins for drivers Scott Pruett, Marino Franchitti and Memo Rojas, and the first win for chassis constructor Riley Technologies since the 1996 12 Hour. With the team’s 195th victory, Ganassi Racing is now the only team to win the Indianapolis 500, Daytona 500, Brickyard 400, Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring.

Franchitti overcame a late spin while pursuing Extreme Speed Motorsports’ David Brabham, pitted for fresh tires and prospered when a caution for the stalled car of Eric Curran slowed the race with 51 minutes remaining. Full of fuel and ready to go, Franchitti stayed out as the rest of the Prototype field pitted, assuming the lead when ESM’s Ryan Dalziel made his final stop.

The return to green saw Franchitti, who shared the P2 class win last year while driving for Level 5 Motorsports, mash the throttle and build a lead that moved beyond six seconds. Dalziel drew it down to just over two seconds as the two Scots left nothing on the table. Traffic in the waning laps would see the margin stretch as the No. 01 Telcel-sponsored Riley-Ford crossed the finish line 4.682 seconds ahead of Dalziel.

RACER video interview: GTLM winners

RACER video interview: PC winners

RACER video interview: GTD winners

{igallery id=9615|cid=74|pid=5|type=category|children=0|addlinks=0|tags=|limit=0}Rolex 24 winners Action Express Racing were strong all day, but had to settle for third as Sebastien Bourdais took the position from Oak Racing’s Olivier Pla on the restart.

“We’ve come from a lot of hard work with the new rules, with the new engine and all of the development behind that,” said Franchitti. “We’ve been working so hard, especially the team in Indianapolis. I was gutted not to get to the podium [at the Rolex 24]. [This finish] was incredible. I just couldn’t believe we were in the position to go for the win. I knew it was ours to lose and I had to keep hitting my marks and getting my laps in. The car was really good in night practice and I thought it would come back just a little bit in the dark, which it did…

“I’m sort of struggling to sort of sit here and, look at our names at the top, being victorious at Sebring. I’ve finished second overall here a couple times. I won P2 last year, but to win overall, we’re now going to see the Ford banner up there on the pit when I come back next year, that’s pretty special. This was certainly the biggest day of my career and for Chip [Ganassi] to win his first Sebring 12 Hours, it’s just been amazing.”

GT Le Mans produced amazing racing from start to finish as Porsche claimed back-to-back wins, adding the 12 Hour to its recent Rolex 24 achievement. It was a different cast, however, as the No. 912 Porsche RSR driven my Jorg Bergmeister, Patrick Long and Michael Christensen took their turn in Victory Lane.

Prior to the caution, SRT Viper driver Jonathan Bomarito looked like he was in command of the GTLM class in his No 93 entry, but needed to pit for fuel while the No. 912 was able to stay out due to stopping just prior to the yellow. BMW Team RLL’s Joey Hand completed the podium in his No. 55 BMW Z4.

“I was just telling myself, ‘Don’t mess it up’ those last laps,” said Bergmeister. “At first I pushed fairly hard and the car was really good. But, when I heard there was just five minutes to go I took some pace out and just tried to control it. I didn’t want to mess it up for these guys. Patrick always says I am good at night and I am just happy that it did work out.”

PC saw only a handful of finishers find their way to the checkered flag without interruption. Numerous race-ending crashes left only two of the spec ORECA FLM09’s to come home ahead of the GTLM field. Core Autosport dominated the race as Colin Braun wheeled home the No. 54 to a 2.248-second advantage over pole-sitter Bruno Junqueira. Third went to Starworks Motorsport as Sam Bird completed their run 10 positions behind Junqueira’s RSR entry.

Fan favorite Magnus Racing scored the GT Daytona win in its No. 44 Porsche 911 GT America, edging the Rolex 24-winning No. 555 Ferrari F458 by 1.864 seconds. The No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche claimed third.

Next page: Marshall Pruett’s personal viewpoint about the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours.

Results - 291 laps:

Pos  Cl    Drivers                            Team/Car                         Time/Gap
 1.  P     Pruett/Rojas/Franchitti            Ganassi Riley-Ford          12h00m09.985s
 2.  P     Sharp/Dalziel/Brabham              Extreme Speed HPD                 +4.682s
 3.  P     Barbosa/Fittipaldi/Bourdais        Action Express Corvette DP        +8.965s
 4.  P     Pla/Brundle/Yacaman                OAK Morgan-Nissan                +11.994s
 5.  P     Brown/van Overbeek/Pagenaud        Extreme Speed HPD                +17.027s
 6.  P     Dixon/Kanaan/Karam                 Ganassi Riley-Ford               +17.837s
 7.  P     Angelelli/Taylor/Taylor            Taylor Corvette DP               +34.229s
 8.  P     Frisselle/Frisselle/Fogarty        Action Express Corvette DP       +39.559s
 9.  P     Pew/Negri/Wilson                   Shank Riley-Ford                 +40.568s
10.  PC    Bennett/Braun/Gue                  CORE FLM                          +3 laps
11.  PC    Ende/Junqueira/Heinemeier Hansson  RSR FLM                           +3 laps
12.  GTLM  Long/Christensen/Bergmeister       CORE Porsche                      +5 laps
13.  GTLM  Bell/Bomarito/Wittmer              SRT Viper                         +5 laps
14.  GTLM  Auberlen/Priaulx/Hand              RLL BMW                           +5 laps
15.  GTLM  Krohn/Jonsson/Bertolini            Krohn Ferrari                     +5 laps
16.  GTLM  Henzler/Sellers/Holzer             Falken Porsche                    +6 laps
17.  GTLM  Gavin/Milner/Liddell               Corvette                          +6 laps
18.  GTLM  Farnbacher/Goossens/Hunter-Reay    SRT Viper                         +7 laps
19.  GTLM  Magnussen/Garcia/Briscoe           Corvette                          +8 laps
20.  GTLM  Tandy/Lietz/Pilet                  CORE Porsche                      +9 laps
21.  PC    van der Zande/Bird/Fuentes/Cheng   Starworks FLM                    +10 laps
22.  PC    Miller/Kraut/Simpson               JDC/Miller FLM                   +11 laps
23.  GTD   Potter/Lally/Seefried              Magnus Porsche                   +13 laps
24.  GTD   Sweedler/Bell/Mediani/Segal        AIM Ferrari                      +13 laps
25.  GTD   James/Farnbacher/Riberas           Alex Job Porsche                 +13 laps
26.  GTD   MacNeil/Keen/Frommenwiler          Alex Job Porsche                 +13 laps
27.  GTD   Neiman/von Moltke/Albuquerque      Flying Lizard Audi               +13 laps
28.  GTD   Mies/Putman/Espenlaub              Fall-Line Audi                   +13 laps
29.  P     Westbrook/Valiante/Rockenfeller    Spirit Corvette DP               +13 laps
30.  P     Tremblay/Long/Devlin               SpeedSource Mazda                +13 laps
31.  GTLM  Muller/Edwards/Werner              RLL BMW                          +14 laps
32.  GTD   Cameron/Dalla Lana/Palttala/Lewis  Turner BMW                       +14 laps
33.  GTD   Canache/Pumpelly/Latif/Winkelhock  Flying Lizard Audi               +15 laps
34.  GTD   Plumb/Snow/Heylen/Plumb            Rum Bum Porsche                  +18 laps
35.  GTD   Faulkner/Faieta/Avenatti           GB Porsche                       +19 laps
36.  GTD   Sofronas/Welch/Basseng             GMG Audi                         +20 laps
37.  PC    Kimber-Smith/Marsal/Lux/Rayhall    8Star FLM                        +20 laps
38.  GTD   Miller/Haase/Bell                  Miller Audi                      +21 laps
39.  GTD   Griffin/Cioci/Rugolo/Gerber        Spirit of Race Ferrari           +21 laps
40.  GTD   Roda/Ruberti/Venturi               Spirit of Race Ferrari           +28 laps
41.  P     Curran/Said/Cosmo                  Marsh Corvette DP                +42 laps*
42.  GTD   Dempsey/Davis/Foster/Siedler       Dempsey Porsche                  +47 laps
43.  GTD   Davis/Riddle/Wilson                TRG Aston Martin                 +49 laps
44.  GTD   Lindsey/Vess/Estre/Norman          Park Place Porsche               +56 laps
45.  GTD   Case/Marcelli/Balzan/Westphal      Corsa Ferrari                    +57 laps*
46.  PC    Bielefield/Ducote/Plowman/Drissi   BAR1 FLM                         +63 laps
47.  GTD   Block/Carter/Davison               TRG Aston Martin                 +76 laps

* Not running at finish

     P     Graf/Luhr/Mardenborough            Pickett ORECA-Nissan             204 laps
     P     Pace/DeFoor/Hinton                 Highway Riley-Dinan              200 laps
     P     Meyrick/Legge/Chaves               DeltaWing                        185 laps
     GTD   Bamber/Gimple/Melgrati             Muhlner Porsche                  154 laps*
     PC    Cumming/Tagliani/Mitchell          RSR FLM                          125 laps
     GTD   Engelhart/Ineichen/Konrad          Dempsey Porsche                  113 laps
     PC    Kearby/Hamilton/Kasemets           BAR1 FLM                         112 laps
     P     Miller/Nunez/Vautier               SpeedSource Mazda                104 laps
     PC    Guasch/Montecalvo/Jeannette        PR1/Mathiasen FLM                 89 laps
     PC    Shears/Matos/Ostella               Performance Tech FLM              88 laps
     GTLM  Bruni/Malucelli/Fisichella         Risi Ferrari                      62 laps
     GTD   Cisneros/Nielsen/Giermaziak        NGT Porsche                       61 laps
     GTD   Lindsey/Vess/Estre/Norman          Park Place Porsche                34 laps
     P     Mayer/Kaffer/Saavedra/Popow        Starworks Riley-Honda             26 laps
     GTD   Bleekemolen/Bleekemolen/Keating    Riley SRT Viper                   13 laps
     GTD   Bamber/Verdonck                    Muhlner Porsche                    0 laps

* Running again at finish

Depending on which half of the 62nd Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring you caught, two radically different impressions were made. The six-hour run to the finish was, for the most part, a demonstration of excellence by the competitors as relentless battles in Prototype and GT Le Mans showcased everything that’s good about sports car racing.

If you were among those who witnessed the first six hours, you might be at a loss for words at how one of the world’s most prestigious endurance races took on the look of a quarter-distance 24 Hours of LeMons event. Plagued by endless caution periods and a series of frightening accidents, this writer began to wonder if it would be in everyone’s best interest for the series to halt the race and let everyone start over.

Pro-Am drivers found new and inventive ways to crash — often to the detriment of those who were following them, and even some of the pros struggled to stay on track or make wise decisions. No less than three examples of drivers pulling onto the track in front of a pack of cars or driving in the wrong direction on course led to crashes. Wheels and brakes fell off. A crash took place behind pit wall between motorized carts. A car was hit on pit lane prior to the parade laps…

Following the officiating error that concluded the Rolex 24 by errantly stripping the GTD race win from one team (only to reverse the decision hours later), officiating was in the spotlight once again as the No. 22 Alex Job Racing Porsche was penalized for contact it did not make with a GTD Ferrari. Despite the team’s protests, the No. 22, which was misidentified by the series through a review of its in-car footage, was given a stop-and-go penalty, dropping AJR from a possible win to an eventual fourth-place finish. The series acknowledged its mistake, said it confused the No. 22 Porsche with the offending car — the GTLM winning No. 912 — and said it would make improvements going forward.

Had the stop-and-go been awarded to the No. 912, it’s possible the GTLM category would have had a different winner.

Caution periods and even a red flag contributed to more than five of the race’s 12 hours being run behind the pace car or with the field stopped on track. Just over three hours of yellow/red took place during those first six hours. A disturbing fire in the No. 33 GTD SRT Viper — one that kept rei-gniting as fuel from a severed fuel line continued to flow — took more than an hour out of the green flag running.

A crash exiting Turn 17 by David Ostella in the No. 38 Performance Tech PC car driven sent his chassis and tires bales across the front straight. Unable to avoid the Canadian’s car, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen PC car piloted by Frankie Montecalvo hit the No. 38 and veered right into the cement barriers that form pit lane entry. A red flag ensued as the cleanup took place, and another wild PC crash followed.

Bar1 driver Gaston Kirby spun in Turn 16, attempted to flick the car around to continue but executed a second spin that placed him directly in the path of Alex Tagliani’s RSR PC car. All four PC chassis were heavily damaged, and other than an injured wrist for Tagliani, all four drivers escaped mostly unhurt.

Matteo Malucelli, who was struck from behind by Memo Gidley at Daytona when his Risi Competizione Ferrari slowed, crashed in Turn 1, then pulled back onto the track into the path of the No. 30 NGT/Momo GTD Porsche, causing a major crash that ended their days.

Add the other spins, crashes and off-course adventures to the tally, not to mention a late-race yellow with 51 minutes remaining for a stalled car that robbed everyone of 30 minutes of action, and it’s hard to leave Sebring feeling anything other than sad for so many of those who watched or participated in the event.