Three hours into the 12 Hours of Sebring, the No. 31 continues to lead with Felipe Nasr now driving, followed by Tristan Vautier in the No. 85 and Brendan Hartley in the No. 5, as Cadillac DPi’s held the top five positions.
Cameron Cassels enjoyed a 15-lap lead in LMP2; Fords were 1-2 in GTLM (Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 pacing Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 66); and Lars Kern led GTD in the No. 9 Porsche.
However, contenders in three of the classes fell out of contention during the hour. The string of dramas began at 1 p.m. when Timo Bernhard pulled off course in the sixth-place No. 77 Mazda with an electrical fire traced to a battery issue.
The race then went full-course caution (the first since the delayed start) and the leading Action Express pair took advantage to change drivers. Nasr took over for Pipo Derani in the lead No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac, while Hartley jumped into the No. 5 Mustang Sampling entry.
The race went back to green on lap 62 after a seven-minute caution, even as the LMP2-class-leading No. 52 ORECA of Anders Fjorback began smoking due to a broken suspension part on lap 60. Fjorback lost the class lead to Cameron Cassels in the No. 38 ORECA on the following lap, and the No. 52 spent the remainder of the hour in the pits.
The next contender to experience problems was Tommy Milner, who lost several laps in the pits while the team worked feverishly on the rear end of the No. 4 Corvette C7.R. At the three-hour mark, the car had yet to return to the fray.
At the end of the second hour, Derani had been the first competitor to switch to slicks. Others quickly followed, but the No. 31 Whelan Engineering Cadillac had the advantage.
“To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure [if I should go to slicks] then,” Derani said. “The track was still wet, but at the same time, I could feel the [wet] tires were starting to go away. It was a really great job by the team to put me on slicks. I couldn’t give them an answer, but they made the right call.”